After the visit with my oncologist, informing me that he recommended a mastectomy, we walked toward the elevator. Luckily, I had an amazing support team: my mom, sister, and husband. In the elevator, my sister started to cry and I comforted her. I think the rollercoaster of emotions affected everyone.
The oncologist said that I didn’t need to rush into deciding between a singular or double mastectomy. He said I should make a decision in about a month or so. The worst thing that could happen is that the DCIS cancer turns into something much worse. With that said, we all went out to lunch and I contemplated my next move.
To me, the thought of a mastectomy was overpowering. I felt scared about the pain and the effects on my appearance. I dreaded the recovery and possible lack of independence. But do you know what I feared the most? I feared what I would see when I woke up in the recovery room and looked toward my chest. I honestly couldn’t even imagine what would be in the place of my own natural body, or how I might feel.
I also felt angry toward my disability of cerebral palsy. If I didn’t have cerebral palsy, I could get radiation and be done with cancer. However, my involuntary spasms make radiation treatments impossible.
Sometimes making sense of life isn’t possible, and you just need to do the best you can with the information you have. I try to be a positive person, but in the case of breast cancer, I allowed myself to feel all of the emotions. I never dwelled in self pity, but I gave myself permission to feel it.
Test for cancer gene
My next step was to go see a genetic counselor. The purpose was to see if I carried the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene that carries cancer cells. If you’re positive, then cancer is more likely to return, plus your siblings and family might also be a carrier. What this meant for me was that if I tested positive for BRCA1 and BRCA2 then I definitely should get a double mastectomy. Also, my daughter would need mammograms at an earlier age, and we need frequent tests to rule out cervical and ovarian cancer. A lot was riding on this test! The test is a simple blood draw, but beforehand they inform you of everything you ever needed to know about genetics. They told me it would take about two weeks to receive the results.
I started to wonder about my options. Was the hospital I’ve been going to the best for me? What if there are alternatives to a mastectomy that they could try? I began researching other cancer facilities and specialists. It’s funny, because when I told people that I was looking into a second opinion, people seemed relieved, but no one wanted to suggest it. When you have cancer, sometimes people fear upsetting you more than necessary. I always told people if you have another solution, please speak up! My life could depend on your thoughts and idea.
I decided to try Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. It’s only about a 45-minute commute from my house. Before you meet for a second opinion, you need to send them all the scans, tests, and information about your case. They review it, then meet with you. So, I had about a week and a half to wait for my appointment.
During that time, I had some other projects to work on. I also had my beloved, 15-year-old dog’s failing health to worry about. I took a little break from cancer. My husband was finishing up nursing school and spring break was quickly arriving. I admit it felt nice that cancer wasn’t a top priority.
Looking back, I’m grateful that I had a little space. It gave me time to focus on my family and other priorities. The weeks ahead were about to be life-changing, to say the least.
Note: Breast Cancer News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Breast Cancer News, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to breast cancer.