We all are faced with difficult decisions within our lives. We have to decide on jobs, having a family, what bills to pay, what kind of car to buy, and so on. Sometimes we make the wrong choices, and other times we make very good choices. At times we have to make decisions others don’t agree on, but are the best ones for us. No one can tell us what to choose or how. It’s all in our hands. There are times there is no good decision, just one that will benefit you the most.
Since last month I’ve gone to one appointment after another talking with doctors and specialists about the cancer that invaded my body. I talked with a geneticist about a cancer causing gene called the BRCA. We all have the BRCA gene, but when it becomes mutated, it can cause cancer in the ovaries, breasts, prostate, or skin. My aunt has the mutated gene and they tested me for it. I tested positive.
The geneticist went over my options for having the gene. I could choose to have my breasts removed or be on a high risk watch. I talked with my surgeon, a doctor at the cancer center, and a navigational nurse. All listed the positives and negatives to keeping my breasts or losing them.
I could keep them and get six month checkups and mammograms, but be at high risk to get another cancer. The next cancer could be more aggressive and harder to treat. For the cancer I have I don’t need chemotherapy since it’s in the early stages, but the next one might require chemo and harsher treatments. I’m a worrier and I’d continually worry myself sick each time I’d get a mammogram. Then if they find something, I’d have to go through another biopsy. My chances of getting another cancer would be high.
Then there is my second choice. Have my breasts removed and eliminate the worry. I’d have a 90% chance of not getting cancer again. No more mammograms, no more biopsies, and no more worries. I could choose to go flat chested or have my breasts reconstructed. The hard part would be losing a part of my body and going through a long, painful surgery that would take five hours I’d spend the night in the hospital and have visiting nurses when I’m home. I’d miss a lot of work and would have to find ways to pay our bills.
What a decision to make! How could I make this one? How can I decide to keep or lose part of what defines me as a woman? My breasts are a part of me.
A girl at work said, “Who needs them anyways? They just get in the way.”
She’s right they; can be a pain, but they are mine. When I was going through puberty, I didn’t want them. When they started to grow, I refused to wear a bra. My mom had to tell me to put one on. Through the years I have grown to like them and now I must choose to keep them or lose them. I agonized over this. Lou and I discussed it. We went over my options again and again.
I sat in my room looking at myself, holding them and crying. How would it feel to have fake ones? Would Lou still look at me the same? Would I feel the same about them? Would they just be lifeless things hanging from my chest? The questions swam through my head.
I turned to Lou and asked him how he felt. He said, “I support your choice whatever you make. You’ll be beautiful to me no matter what. Having fake ones will not change a thing.”
My mind went over my options again and again. My muscles tightened, my head began to ache, and I became nauseated. I got sick at a restaurant. I kept thinking, “How can I make this decision? I can’t do this.”
I prayed about it and continued to discuss it with Lou. Then the next day I called my surgeon’s nurse with my decision. I will have my breasts removed. That night I woke up several times, my decision swimming in my head. Did I make the right choice? Will I regret this?
I sat down and listed the positives of getting new breasts. No more mammograms, I could get them smaller, no more heat rashes, no more biopsies, no more chances of getting cancer in them, no more sagging, and no more worries. This helped me feel better about my choice.
If you have hard decisions to make, don’t let it drag you into depression or an anxiety attack. Talk to someone about your options. List the positive and negative sides. Weigh each one out equally and make a decision that is best for you. Others will have their own theories on your situation. Everyone has an opinion, but their opinions don’t count. In the end it comes down to what is best for you. Make your choice, stick to it, believe in it, and let it go. Don’t mull it over in your mind and dwell on it.
I made my choice and now I’m waiting for my surgery date with courage and determination that everything will work out for the best. Once I am cancer free Lou says he will throw me a party. I now have something to look forward to and another reason to fight. In time I will stand in the light of recovery from mental illness and cancer.