Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Breast Conservation

Back in the dark ages of breast cancer treatment, a woman would go to sleep on an operating table and wake up without her breast. Or her chest wall muscles. And some male doctor would shrug his shoulders and say, "at least you're still alive."

Thankfully, medicine has come a long way. Breast conservaton is all the rage. A lumpectomy (as in taking out the tumor and some surrounding tissue) plus radiation has a similar survival rate to a mastectomy. Recurrance rates may change, but it's comparable. Many women feel lucky to even have the choice. In turn, many doctors, especially women doctors, have been educated on the huge effect losing your boobs can have. They are eager to encourage breast conservation.

If you have been reading this little tale from the beginning, you would recall that I labored over this very decision. In fact, it is the one element to my treatment that I still debate with myself in my head. My very well respected, head of a major breast center, female doctor felt a lumpectomy was the way to go. Unless I wanted a mastectomy, that is. My tumor was small, it would have the least cosmetic downsides, etc. Finally I decided to do the lumpectomy, figuring I could cut them off later if I needed to.

Problem is, no one really tells you that a lumpectomy does NOT mean your breast will be conserved. Not in the way you thought, that is. My tumor ended up being larger than they thought. And it was in an odd position. It was at 6 o'clock. Most tumors are in the upper half. And no one told me that this is the worse place for a good cosmetic outcome. In conserving my breast, I now have 2 lopsided ones. One nice and normal and one with a huge dent on the underside. The plus side- it doesn't droop. Not enough tissue. And from the front, it's not too obvious. But from the side....

The first time I really noticed the dent, I was looking at the mirror in our bedroom. I was admiring the little half moon of my scar, thinking it was healing nicely. Thinking my boob made a cute little face... a one eyed smile, if you will. Then I turned to the side. And my face fell. There was a huge hunk gone. It was like a canyon, or a plateau, or a butte... whatever those abrupt drop offs are. I turned to Alan. "Did you notice this?" His look told me yes. Thankfully, put those girls in a bra and no one knows the difference. No one but me.

Then I had radiation. And the skin tightened. And lost some senstation. And if I ever do get pregnant, my regular boob will become ginormous while my radatied, "conserved" boob will remain the same. And when those pregant boobs shrink, they will be all sorts of messed up. That may be the time to just cut them off and start again.

I tell this story for the women who may read this. Do I wish I did a mastectomy? Got a matched pair? Gt a tummy tuck while I was at it? I'm not sure. It is what it is. But ask questions. Ask for pictures. And for the people who think that someone "just got a lumpectomy" so it can't be that bad, I would argue it sucks no matter what.

However, I revel in the fact that I got breast cancer, thus gaining a bunch of weight, thus getting HUGE BOOBS. Serously, these girls are out of control. Under a shirt or with a v-neck, they look great. Just don't take off my shirt.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A mutual friend (Christina H) passed along your blog info to me, and I'm so impressed with your story and your writing!

I don't know if you've thought about compiling your blog into a book, but if so, Wilkins Publishing would love to be involved in the project.

I mean, you have me laughing at one paragraph and crying at the next. Practical advice, humor, and pure human drama... You have a book here, Courtney, and a really good one too.

All the best,