women warriors

April 6, 2007 § 9 Comments

I have lovely breasts. I am not flat, I am not voluptuous, I am something
in between. I am attached to them regardless of their size. They’re
cushy perky mounds that tell me when it’s cold out.

Some women hold on to abusive husbands. I have a body part that’s turned on
me and still I’m not ready to let go. I know it doesn’t make sense.

My surgeon recommended a mastectomy due to the large size of my presenting
tumor and concerns about getting a negative margin. Still, she was willing
to attempt a lumpectomy with a single caveat. I might need a second
operation.

“The likelihood that you will need a re-excision or mastectomy is quite
high”

Two surgeries, I couldn’t stomach one. We scheduled the mastectomy for April
20th. I broached the subject of a hospital stay with Frannie while driving.
Easy, relaxed and happy, I ask her if she would want to spend a few days in
Maine with her cousin or be closer to home when I went in.

“Are they going to remove the lump?” she asked.

“They may have to take the entire breast off”. Was I suppose to be this
candid?

“What will be left?” she asked.

“Nothing, I will be flat on one side.”

“Will it grow back?”

I wish. I offered solace in the legend of the Amazons, women warriors who
cut off their breasts so as to be better able to shoot with a bow and arrow.
I would be a warrior. She thought this was a funny and knew the warrior part
was make believe.

Did I have to do this? Hadn’t the chemo dissolved the bugger? What was the
stench in my urine all those months if it wasn’t cancer carcasses?

I wanted a second opinion. What I really wanted was a different diagnosis.
Instead I got a reunion with an old beau. A former amour was a prominent
breast surgeon at the other major hospital in town. I was glad I knew
someone in the biz. I could ask him anything and he would be accessible.

“Good to see you” he said, then added “well, not really under these
circumstances. I’m sorry.”
“How are things going” I ask cheerful like we’d just bumped into each other
on Newbury Street.
“Very good, we’re very busy here”

It would be nice if breast surgeons and oncologists weren’t so busy.

We shared headlines and then dove into the reason I was there.

“How hard do you want to work to keep your breast?” He asked putting a fine
point on it.

I didn’t know the answer. I could be happy with the cosmetic results but the
margins could be dirty. The margins could be clean, but I could hate the way
I look. Or, I could do the mastectomy be done with it.

He gave me a hug and wished me luck. Before I left I asked him what he would
do. He paused and said he might try the lumpectomy first.

I am not vain beyond common sense. Lumpectomy with radiation offers the same
prognosis as mastectomy.

Sensing my mounting anxiety, my surgeon called requesting we meet face to
face the following day. Two surgeons in as many days, you start to see what
my days are made of. We discussed my presenting conditions, my responses to
chemo, my options, my tumor, my daughter and a handful of other things more
private than breasts.

She suggested removing the mass and nodes first, then seeing what came back
from pathology. I radiated relief. Even as I sensed a story in two parts.

This just in, my surgery is postponed to 4/27. I have three weeks to
ruminate, exercise, doubt myself, eat well, hope for a cure and prepare to be a
warrior in some form or another.

xoxo Momo

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§ 9 Responses to women warriors

  • Judy Korin says:

    Marilyn,
    Ah, that decision. On surface it seems to be vanity versus survival. But so much of this is what FEELS right. My gut says to go for the lumpectomy first and see what’s there. Although don’t expect black and white answers from pathology because that is also an interpretive science. I had a re-excision because my 2nd opinion hospital didn’t agree that the margins were clear. My experience was that re-excision for clear margins was an absolute piece of cake. And if you’re faced with mastectomy at that point you deal with it. But at least you go in knowing that you gave it every chance you could. Sending you love and light as always… Judy

  • Kelly says:

    Have you read the book Why I wore Lipstick to my Mastectomy? By Geralyn Lucas? It is about a 27 year old woman with breast cancer who has to decide between a Lumpectomy or Mastectomy. Ive only just started reading it, but she does a good job of showing all sides of her decision w/ a fabulous amount of humor to take the edge off. 🙂

    I am slotted for a Mastectomy @ the end of 2007. The way I see it, I just feel lucky to have cancer in a part of my body they CAN remove. So many others suffer with cancers in areas they cannot live without. I can live without a breast, and I will. 🙂

    Best of luck

    Kelly

  • Wynelle says:

    Today I took the time to read not only Marilyn’s posting, but also every comment, going all the way back to the first posting, with its shocking, completely unanticipated announcement. No way to be ready for that, and yet…Marilyn has stepped up, her family and friends have stepped up, people linked only by a shared diagnosis have stepped up. Each comment is a straight-to-the-heart reminder of the deep reservoir of love and support that surrounds us. Thank you, Marilyn, for drawing back the cover so that we can see it, and laugh and cry and learn.

  • Karen Waer says:

    I love you 🙂 Karen

  • David & Claire says:

    If the first virtue of any warrior — be it Amazonian archer or friend battling cancer — is courage, then you’re in the ranks with the best of them. We continue to be inspired by your grace under fire.

  • Lynda Brown says:

    Only you can know…only you can decide…
    such important concepts come up. Vanity, mortality, gambling, guessing,…

    How are we supposed to care about ourselves, our healthy, making stronger, keeping our weight down, taking our calcium, bodies, and not be attached?
    Surely the Buddha is watching.
    Attached and unattached simultaneously.

  • Karen Cote says:

    Hi Marilyn,
    I’m one of those women who had “dirty” margins after my lumpectomy so had to have a mastectomy with a TRAM/FLAP reconstruction on 2/21. If you need a mastectomy, I would highly recommend reconstruction at the same time. The recovery period is longer, but having a “new” breast lessens the shock!
    I keep referring back to your chemo stories for my own use. I started chemo last Tues.
    I’m sorry I missed your call! I would love to talk with you! H-978-443-0355 cell-508-314-9000
    I continue to be inspired by your eloquence…I LOVED the pictures of you in PR!
    Karen (Sue’s sister)

  • Philippa Woolley says:

    Dear Marilyn,

    I am a friend of Jonas’ and Sarah’s. We met at their wedding in Oct. 2005.

    I am thinking of you today and I hope that surgery went as well as surgery can go. No!I hope that the surgery was successful beyond all you hoped for and that you continue speedily on the path to health and healing. Let,s claim what we really want for you, Marilyn!! Health and healing is a life process and it is very hard for you that cancer is part of that process for you right now. But healing is coming and will come because you are living consciously and with awareness. Healing may come in ways you do not expect but it will come.

    Sarah sent me your Blog url in Dec. and it has been great to read you writing. Your courage inspires me. I love your sister Faye, too and she told me how wonderful you were to look after your mum. I live in Montreal now rather than NYC and look after my mum. I am also a Mum, of Shakuntala and Revati, same ages as Aliya and Celia. I think Frannie and SHakuntala had fun dancing at the wedding. If you haven’t had a chance to dance lately, put on your favourite tune and go for it!! When you feel strong enough that is. Frannie is a great dance partner I am sure!! Keep on keeping on and all belssing from us in the great white north. Love Philippa Nandu Shakuntala and Revati

  • staitaHoodima says:

    He put his eye to the hole. He just managed to spy some people sitting in deckchairs chanting, before a finger came out of nowhere and poked him in the eye. As he staggered back, the people started chanting, “Fourteen, fourteen, fourteen…”

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