Defending My Life
Then in August 2006, I went in for my mammo. More of those microcalcifications—a lot this time, and in a suspicious constellation. Another biopsy. Three long days of calling the doctor every few hours. Ultimately, same diagnosis: No cancer.
Not that I wished for cancer; that's plain stupid. But not having it meant going back to square one. Only I didn't want to go back there. I was tired. Tired of the anxiety each year leading up to the mammogram, tired of long-faced radiologists, tired of being cut on...tired, tired, tired.
After the last biopsy, I had to go in once a week to have fluid drained from my left breast. Three weeks later, when the swelling subsided, I stood in the mirror, horrified by what remained: The breast was about a half-cup size smaller than the other with a huge scar running under it. The nipple was misshapen and the area where they had cored out the breast tissue had basically shriveled up and collapsed in on itself. I sat on a stool in the closet and cried.
When I asked my doctor, Virgilio Sacchini, what we could do to fix the breast, he said we would have to use an implant, but then I could never have the less invasive biopsy again; I would be limited to the surgical kind, like the one I just had.
In that moment, the futility of it all hit me: At 43, I had to get off the merry-go-round. Instead of asking, "Is this the year I get breast cancer?" I had to say, "I will not get breast cancer this year. Or ever." That's when I decided to have the bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. It wasn't an easy decision. December 27
Mom went home today. I love her, but now I can really relax. Been thinking a lot about my breasts and what they mean to me. Will I feel differently when I don't have them? Will the new ones move like real breasts? I hear women talk about having these phantom pains postsurgery, or an itch way down deep that they can't scratch. Ugh, not looking forward to that.
Seven days until surgery. My 10-year-old daughter asked me for a bra, even though our dining room table has more bumps than she does. How ironic that she's starting to think about breasts and I'm about to lose mine.
It's down to the short strokes now—that's what Buff likes to say: a golf term for the swing you use when the ball is close to the hole.
I went to see Dr. Sacchini. He took a final look at my breasts, and we had one more detailed conversation about the operation. The next time I see him, we'll both be in surgical gowns and one of us will be getting ready for a four-hour nap.
Dr. Sacchini again promised to take good care of me. And just to make sure I wasn't going to change my mind, he ran over my nonsurgical options, including tamoxifen and watchful waiting. Again we came to the conclusion that surgery is the way to go for me.
I then went on to Dr. Joseph Disa, the plastic surgeon. He's a young guy, and terribly good-looking. He went into more depth about what he'll actually do: Dr. S. will remove the breast tissue first. Then Dr. D. will take over, using a temporary implant partially filled with saline. Every couple of weeks after the surgery, I'll come in for a filling (like pumping a tire with air) until I get to the size I want to be. I think I'm going to stay roughly the way I am, even a bit smaller.
The interesting thing about today was how sure I feel about this decision now.
Nighttime. Just got home. All the positive glow gone because Casey threw a frozen blueberry at Cole. He dodged it, fell, and hit his mouth on a metal table, chipping two teeth. Didn't look serious to me, but the dentist says, "Guess what? It is." He'll need the teeth filed down and bonded.
That's why I'm doing the surgery, so I can be around to break up fights and pick up the pieces for a long, long time.