Let’s Talk About Nipples

Let’s Talk About Nipples
Excuse me a minute, but can I say “nipple?” It’s a word we don’t say much, especially in mixed company, but, well, it’s kind of important. In all the conversations I’ve had with girlfriends about breast cancer, this little word has never been mentioned. Ever. Let’s talk about nipples. The fact is that many breast cancer patients lose their nipples when they undergo lumpectomies as part of their treatment. It almost happened to me. When I got diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer, my small rural hospital sent me to talk with a surgeon even though I hadn’t yet seen an oncologist. I’ve networked with many patients, and from what I understand, that’s common practice. “You need surgery,” the doctor said. “Tomorrow morning.” I sat there in a daze, taking in the information but not really comprehending what she was saying. It didn’t help that this well-meaning surgeon talked faster than an auctioneer and used a lot of words I had never heard. While she talked, I did my best to refocus. “You’ll probably lose your breast,” I heard her say. “I won’t know until I get in there, but we can build you another one. And either way, we’ll give you a tattoo that looks just like a nipple. They’re very realistic.” My husband thanked her and led me out of the room. “You’re not having a mastectomy tomorrow,” Gary said in the parking lot. “We need more information.” I am thankful for his clear thinking. Because of Gary’s level-headedness, I was able to see an oncologist who took an entirely different approach. The oncologist recommended chemotherapy first to shrink my tumor. Then, my new surgeon performed a nipple-saving lumpectomy. While I was blissfully anesthetized, this surgeon made a t
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