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