Nothing about getting diagnosed with breast cancer is easy breezy although it is something you hear a lot.
There are so many decisions you have to make in such a short time and at a time you are in the worse shape possible. Not only do you have a physical ailment but you are going through so many emotions. Single mastectomy, double mastectomy, lumpectomy, what treatments, what stage, am I BRCA positive, what doctor to see, reconstruction or no reconstruction. How can you make any rational decision?
I opted for a double mastectomy because of my circumstances. Everyone has different options but we all have one thing in common and that is breast cancer. There was no doubt in my mind that a double mastectomy was the best thing for me. Easy breezy decision. I didn't really know how traumatic it is to lose your breasts even though it is the right choice.
In the past when I heard about women getting breast cancer and having mastectomies, it always seemed so simple. Have surgery and get reconstruction. Easy breezy right? After all, you get perky new breasts and insurance pays for it!!!! People have no idea. The ones saying that are the ones that haven't gone through it. It has nothing to do with perky new breasts.
I was really on the fence about reconstruction and I searched for a breast reconstruction group and they were all so excited about it and ready to have new breasts. So, at the last minute, I decided to do reconstruction. The surgeon really only offered two options which were Tram flap (where they do a tummy tuck and transplant the tissue to create new breasts) and implants. The Tram Flap surgery is an actual transplant surgery that takes 12 to 14 hours and it has a long recovery and many potential problems later. I had the impression that my surgeon really wanted to perform this type but I said no way, so implants were chosen. No problem, easy breezy right?
I had the double mastectomy and placement of tissue expanders to slowly expand the muscle for placement of the implants in a few months. Each week I had to go to the plastic surgeon's office for "fills" where they inject 50 to 100 cc of fluid. Fortunately, I did not have any issues with this procedure but I have heard from many women that they had a lot of pain with the fills. Any woman with tissue expanders will tell you that they feel like hard rocks sitting on your chest. I went several months not being able to sleep in my own bed because they were so uncomfortable. Not easy breezy!!! Again, I was on the fence about whether to go ahead and have the implants put in but other women with reconstruction talked about getting their "squishies" and how much better the implants were, so I thought Well, I have come this far and everyone says the implants feel so much better, so why not?
I had the exchange surgery to implants on December 13, 2013. It is now November 23rd and I am scheduled to have them removed on December 5, 2014 - not quite a year later. Doing reconstruction was the worst decision I ever made, although my husband says that if I didn't try it, I might have always wondered if I should have gone through with it. I guess that makes sense. On the other hand, if I hadn't always thought it would be easy breezy I could have made a more logical decision in the first place.
Here is a little about my reality with implants. They have been uncomfortable since day one. Some women say it is like wearing a bra twenty four hours a day but the implants were much more uncomfortable than that for me. I have felt sleep deprived the entire time which in turn has caused so much stress that I stepped down from my supervisor role at my job. Every day I looked in the mirror and tried to find some part of me in those reconstructed breasts. I even did the nipple reconstruction which was also painful and not easy breezy. A month later, they tattooed the aerola which was also painful (I had to have them numb the area). The reconstructed nipple and tattooed aerola were the only things that looked good. I tried some fat grafting to fill in some of the gaps or rippling of the implants - they talk about that process as if it is no big deal, but your stomach is very sore for a few weeks.
After all of that, I hated them even more. What had I been thinking? Why was I subjecting myself to surgery after surgery? It is all part of the plan. You fix this and if that doesn't work, you try that, and if that doesn't work, let's put in different implants. It is never ending and they make it all sound easy breezy. This is the reality of reconstruction. I wasted almost an entire year of enduring so much discomfort and pain, harming my body with procedure after procedure. I have come to a point where I want to cut the implants out myself. When I look at them in the mirror, it is a stranger's chest. My breasts are gone and nothing can make up for that.
I have never been able to move on with my life because of all the problems with the implants over this last year. I know when I have them out on December 5th, I will feel liberated. I will feel whole again, even without breasts, and can finally move on with my life. I know it will be another adjustment emotionally, but I already grieved the loss of my real breasts, so losing pretend ones will be much easier.
If you are facing breast cancer and having to make decisions on lumpectomy, singe mastectomy or double mastectomy, please do your research. Seek out help from those that have dealt with the same things. Reconstruction is not easy breezy. Give yourself time. You do not have to make that decision when you are at your lowest, and please do not let someone pressure you into a decision you are not comfortable with. It is your body and your decision.