By Shormistha Mukherjee
To start with there will be surgery. This Wednesday.
Because the biopsy clearly shows one malignant lump in my breast, it’s pretty clear they have to get that out.
Now the options are a lumpectomy or partial removal of the breast, which falls under breast conservation, or mastectomy, which is complete removal of the breast.
If it’s just one malignant lump, I’m guessing most doctors and patients lean towards lumpectomy.
However in my case, there’s another lump, which is suspicious, but not totally confirmed. Plus an infected lymph node. Plus some suspicious calcification.
Note: Not all lumps are malignant. Most are benign. However, if you find one, pls get it checked immediately. Not all procedures involve mastectomy, so don’t get freaked out. And finally, calcification is normal. Google it. But if it looks suspicious, doctors will want to have it checked.
So, the option is Mastectomy of the left breast. And I am not fighting it, because I’d rather have everything done in one shot. Maybe the doctor’s are being super cautious, but dude, this is cancer. And I don’t want to take no chances, that’s a choice I am making.
Then comes the next question. Would you opt for breast reconstruction or not?
Not your regular Friday morning question. But one I was asked exactly two weeks back, two minutes into being told that I had cancer, and one option could be a mastectomy.
My first instinct was to say no. I don’t really have body image issues, I am pretty chill, and I would be okay. I could order Mastectomy bras and swimwear (some of them are pretty awesome) from all over, and I’d be good.
But I’ve had two weeks to think about it. I’ve done no google search, no nothing. Only looked inside me for answers. And I changed my mind.
I learnt from my Doctor that they could do an immediate breast reconstruction. Which means the Onco surgeon would do his job and walk out of the OT, and the cosmetic surgeon would step in. They’d make a cut under my breast, take out all the cancerous tissue etc. And then fill it with tissue from my back. And stitch me up. Which means my breast, my tissue. It’ll age with me, grow fat with me, or lose weight with me.
I know it sounds so easy breezy. I’m sure there are downsides to it. But to me this seems like the best option. When I asked the surgeon, if taking the tissue from my back will restrict me in any way, he said I can’t climb trees.
Also, you can have reconstruction later, but for some reason they said two years after your surgery. I didn’t ask why, because I was sure what I wanted to do. But I’ll ask them, just so I know.
My logic was it’s better to have reconstruction now because they will use my own breast. Think of it like a flap which they will fill with other tissue. If I didn’t opt for it now, they would do away with the skin flap, and stitch it over, and later have to create and graft everything.
My other reason to get reconstruction is because I think I’ll have a lot to deal with. The surgery, the chemo, the being careful so I don’t get an infection (which by the way is the toughest thing. I’m going to want to jump around! Hopefully.) And I don’t want one more thing to deal with.
I want nothing to bring me down, or make me sad. If I lose a part of my body, and I can have it back, I want it back.
So it’s going to be a 4.5 or 5-hour surgery, and at the end of it all, I’m going to have a new boob! Hurrah!
PS: The surgeon looks very pleased when I tell him I am opting for breast reconstruction. He’s like a massive bear who waves his hands and says, “good, good, very good.” He’s so pleased that I am taking this step, he pulls out his phone and starts scrolling down his pictures, saying, “let me show you something.” And then, with his head bobbing about he turns his phone to us, and says, “See see”. It’s a picture of some lady’s boobs. No face, only boobs. And he’s chatting all along, saying, “can you tell which breast was reconstructed.” I am laughing in my head. Z is grinning. A is wondering if he should look or not. This is like being in a hospital version of Bangkok!
Originally published on Agent Greenglass’ blog. Look out for part four tomorrow!