My reasons for not adding some flesh into my “crater” are equal, in 3 parts. By the way, I refer to it as the crater because when I look at it, especially when I see it in the mammogram or MRI images on my oncologist’s computer, that is exactly how it appears. Ever see one of those dormant volcanoes, the ones that look like mountains, but instead of going up to a peak that is a point, there is this little hollowed out well-type space at the top? Yeah, that is what I look like. I hate it. I wish my breast looked the way it did before; my breasts were pretty symmetrical, which pleased my OCD mind. Not beautiful, but they were the same as each other, and that was nice.
But I have elected to post-pone, perhaps indefinitely, reconstruction for three equally big reasons.
I’ve read some Canadian or English bloggers sort of “warn” us Americans that it takes a long time with “government health care” to get your reconstruction, when these women wanted it sooner. Let this be a gentle reminder that waiting a few months or a year for it is better than delaying it for several years, or maybe never getting it because of lack of money. That is a huge factor in my situation. I left my 9 to 5 right after my treatment ended because I hated it, and yes, I begrudgingly admit I got a lesson from cancer: life is too short to be miserable. If my cancer comes back and I face death, at least I will not have wasted my post-treatment life doing a job I hated and being around people I disliked intensely. So, I am starting my own business which is good, but I’m not going to get rich or anything. And what little money I get depends on me NOT being incapacitated due to surgery. So, if the other two reasons for not diving into reconstruction evaporated, it still just is not an option for the foreseeable future.
Fear Of Anesthesia
One of the worst cancer memories for me is that week recovering from the lumpectomy. It hit me harder than expected. I’d done so well with chemo, so little sickness, no low white counts, that the medical team thought I’d breeze through surgery. But I am just one of those people who cannot handle anesthesia, plus I was just so “beaten down” by all the chemo. I dread any future surgery. The memories of nausea from it are actually stronger than the ones I have of going through chemo! So, until that memory, that fear, subsides, I’m avoiding surgery.
The weird part is that it was recommended that I go back for the reconstruction, rather than have it during the lumpectomy, which does not seem to be the standard for other patients, since I am seeing or hearing of many women who are starting reconstruction while getting mastectomy. But I was told that since I was having radiation, my new “filling” should be NOT radiated. WTF? Oh well, whatever, nevermind.
In The End, How Much Difference Would It Make?
From the pictures I’ve seen of reconstructed breasts, the scars or lumpectomy or mastectomy are still visible. I also know I’d have no sensation in my fake nipple. Sure, I’d have the symmetry I miss so much. My breasts would look the same in a clingy shirt, which I have to avoid now, because the flatness and reduced size of my cancer breast is apparent in clingy shirts. But when I remove the shirt, I would know, I would see. No matter how much cosmetic work is done, the cancer would still be as evident on my body as the memory in mind.
So what is my alternate plan? Tattoo, baby! I get it in a couple of weeks. I went to an artist who specializes not only in cosmetic tattoos (eyebrows, covering burn scars, etc.), but super-specializes in breast reconstruction. I met with him a few months ago (scheduling and lack of money have been hurdles for me to not do this sooner), and I explained how I felt. I told him what I’d like to have instead, and he came up with a design that pleased me. I am excited—despite being a Gen X-er with a love of punk rock, I have no tattoos, this will be the first. I suspect it will not be the last.