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Okay, perhaps "chopped" isn't quite the right word. "Prophylactic mastectomy" certainly has a more elegant ring to it. But whatever you call it, I had decided to make such a radical move months before I found out about being fired, and the surgery had already been scheduled for January 9, 2007.

I reached the conclusion that such a drastic procedure was right for me after four years of worrying coupled with multiple biopsies that left me disfigured and scarred. Ever since I was diagnosed with the hyperplasia with atypia in September 2004, I've had to have a mammogram every year, followed by increasingly painful biopsies, which are then followed by three anxious days of wondering whether I have breast cancer.

It sucks, to put it mildly!

I had really been thinking about this prophylactic surgery as they took me in for my biopsy in September 2006 and put me on the table. "Don't cut my nipple," was the last thing I managed to mumble to my surgeon just before finally slipping into blissful drug-induced sleep. I knew my surgeon had successfully performed what's called a nipple-sparing mastectomy, and I thought, Well, you never know.

In no way could I have anticipated just how disfiguring and excruciatingly painful my recovery from this biopsy would be. (Note to the squeamish: You might want to skip the rest of this paragraph!) First off, needles are used to place guide wires, so the technicians and surgeon can figure out where the suspicious area is located. Oh, and by the way, before you go under, these needles that carry the guide wires are inserted into your breast without an anesthetic! And then afterward, because this was an invasive surgical procedure, there was fluid in the breast that had to be drained once a week. For three dreadful weeks. This meant a long, long needle had to be inserted deep into the breast to aspirate the fluid, and it hurt like hell.

I remember crying like a baby while the technicians inserted the needles. Then after they all left the room, I cried some more. In fact, the morning of that biopsy I couldn't stop crying. I cried when they asked me my name as I was checking in. I cried when the nurse gave me my gown. I cried when they inserted the needles. I cried when they walked me into the operating room. The tears continued to flow as I lay on the table, while my surgeon promised to take good care of me.

After enduring all those needles, I thought, I've had it! This is it! I cannot and will not live my life this way and go through this again. But then, much like with childbirth, that terrible, searing pain goes away and you say to yourself, Oh, come on. It wasn't really that bad, now, was it?

At least when you go through the pain of childbirth, the result makes all the suffering worthwhile.
FROM: Why I Cut Off My Breasts
Published on March 15, 2007

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