“You don’t amputate a healthy body part,” he said matter of factly.
I couldn’t argue with the plastic surgeon’s logic.
He continued, “This is a discussion between you and your breast surgeon. If the two of you look at the data and together you determine your risk is greater than that of the average population, then it makes sense to consider a double mastectomy.”
In the end, I opted only for the cancerous breast to be removed, which happened to be on my right side. It was only recently that I read about how breast cancer most often occurs in the left breast.
Even in light of that fact, I don’t regret my decision to have a single mastectomy.
If God forbid breast cancer should develop in my left breast, I will consider it spectacularly bad luck, and I won’t self-recriminate for the decision I made in August 2020.
Even three years later, I know I would reach the same conclusion I did then, and this is why.
In my case, there is nothing in my genetic testing results (no BRCA1 or BRCA2) or family history (other than my 2020 diagnosis) to indicate that I am at greater risk of developing breast cancer than the average population.
That diagnosis alone did not provide sufficient evidence to support a double mastectomy.
Furthermore, in my right breast, the tumor size, stage, grade and the fact that I had no lymph node involvement made this decision a clear one.
I only know what it’s like to have a single mastectomy, but I can imagine the double is just as awful, if not worse. Speaking for myself, it was a physically and emotionally devastating procedure.
I knew that going in, and still felt woefully ill-prepared for just how difficult recovery would be from the combined right mastectomy and DIEP flap reconstruction.
God bless my husband for mastering how to care for the surgical drains – it’s kind of funny in retrospect how they expect you, the patient, to fully understand the hospital discharge instructions about that.
In that moment, you are focusing all your strength on not coughing or sneezing (your abdomen is so tight, one cough or sneeze and you’re certain you’ll open your eyes to find your organs splayed all over the floor – it is exactly that painful).
You are wishing/hoping/praying the pathology report comes back with positive news, while your abdomen throbs from being sliced hip to hip. You’re not exactly sure what’s happening with that mound of flesh on the right side of your chest, but you know it feels new and foreign.
You are woozy and all you want is a hot shower and a decent meal while you’re bound by stitches so tight it’s physically impossible to stand fully erect. In that moment, instructions about how to empty surgical drains and record the amounts simply doesn’t register.
Again, God bless the caregivers!
Whatever decision you made, or you ultimately make if you are reading this at at time when you are weighing options, you will have nothing but respect and support from me.
It’s a deeply personal decision.
My only advice would be to consider the data points related to your individual situation.
It’s impossible to remove all emotion from the decision-making process. Just balance that with what the science is telling you, and then move forward in peace.