I kind of felt from before I was even diagnosed at each screening mammo that I would not reconstruct. I always felt just the idea of boobs and dealing with the screening was work enough and often thought we should all just get the boobs removed because what is the point of carrying around things that so obviously is unclear as to what causes them to get diseased. As I mentioned, I have no history of the disease and no known risk factors and yet here I am someone with dealing with breast cancer.
I am lucky though - lucky that I had screening mammos that began at 34 and not the new ruling of 40 and up because I was diagnosed literally on the eve of my 40th birthday after some inflamed ducts at my screening at 38 put me on the 6 month squeeze plan. From my previous scan at 38 that showed minor inflammation in the duct of my right breast, which is common to breast feeding and too small to biopsy oh and had a 99% chance of staying benign was within 6 months a tumor and definitely malignant.
It would ultimately turn out to be 5.6cm of cancer with 5 of 25 lymph nodes infections - otherwise knows as Stage 3 Cancer. From diagnosis to surgery, I had only 17 days. 17 days to figure out what exactly was going on in my body - all of which was truly not known until I was operated on but more on that journey in another post.
For now, the perks of breast cancer is getting that appointment with the surgeon to pick out your new boobs. I was first told about this new process by which they take fat from other parts of your body to reconstruct your breast and when the surgeon asked to see me disrobed, her first words were "You are obviously not a candidate for the fat shifting procedure." And I said, "Why because I am too skinny??" Note: I have never been too skinny for anything. She stared at me and said, "No - it is just too risky for you with xyz condition."
On that note, I was shown before and after pictures of her work and although impressive, I did not see me in those pictures. As someone who since puberty did enjoy having boobs and wearing low cut tops now as a mom of 2 and someone whose decollete was trying to kill me, I was really in the flat camp for boobs.
I did not think it through as clearly as I could have as I was going to still have a boob - and be uneven in an extreme way. I always had one boob that was bigger than the other but I did not really process how I would now just have one boob. Period.
The nurse in the office did try to get me to see the error of my ways - she said the normal about how I was so young and would want to have the appearance of two breasts and even the office acknowledges that the surgery does not give you a normal breast - just the appearance in clothes of having normal breasts.
It seems all selfish of me to put myself under for a longer amount of time, to delay my chemotherapy and to go in for additional surgeries just to have the appearance of breasts. I was ultimately at peace with refusing the reconstruction of the diseased boob and makeover of the other.
Now, I will not say I regret it but having to do these extra steps to be people-ready is very annoying. I would often run out without wearing a bra even though my boobs were not perky and camera ready and one thing I really do lament is not getting a picture of my boobs when I had the pair I was born with but you do not get to where I have been in life without learning the issues of leaked nude photos so I just have the pics of cleavage that I often showed and no real idea of what the missing boob really looked like besides a faint memory.
Over all, I am happy with my one boob and my prosthetic but I do see maybe down the road going for the reconstruction (one other perk is you can do it at a later date, if you so choose so the window on my reconstructing is not yet closed).
The key is beating the disease, of course, but sometimes, you really want to look hot doing it and it can be hard to look hot when you are lopsided because your prosthetic won't sit right in its pocket. Just something else to manage in the time between.
Lisa Vento Nielsen, MBA, PMP is a speaker, author, career expert and cancer survivor. She has expertise and first hand experience in how to get back to “normal” after illness. Her blogs and writings are read by over 2000 people per week. She created a nonprofit foundation focused on educating cancer survivors on getting their balance after cancer. Lisa is also a volunteer and ambassador of NYCRA (NY Cancer Resource Alliance), a contributing writer in the 911Cancer Resource website and has recently been elected to co-manage the Awareness for a Cure's post- cancer educational program.
Disclaimer & Copyright Notice: The materials provided on this website/web-based article are copyrighted and the intellectual property of the publishers/producers (The NY Cancer Resource Alliance/IntermediaWorx inc. and Bard Diagnostic Research & Educational Programs). It is provided publicly strictly for informational purposes within non-commercial use and not for purposes of resale, distribution, public display or performance. Unless otherwise indicated on this web based page, sharing, re-posting, re-publishing of this work is strictly prohibited without due permission from the publishers. Also, certain content may be licensed from third-parties. The licenses for some of this Content may contain additional terms. When such Content licenses contain additional terms, we will make these terms available to you on those pages (which his incorporated herein by reference).The publishers/producers of this site and its contents such as videos, graphics, text, and other materials published are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, please always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified health provider. Do not postpone or disregard any professional medical advice over something you may have seen or read on this website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 9-1-1 immediately. This website does not support, endorse or recommend any specific products, tests, physicians, procedures, treatment opinions or other information that may be mentioned on this site. Referencing any content or information seen or published in this website or shared by other visitors of this website is solely at your own risk. The publishers/producers of this Internet web site reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to modify, disable access to, or discontinue, temporarily or permanently, all or any part of this Internet web site or any information contained thereon without liability or notice to you.