So, I've just read Angelina Jolie's op-ed in the NY Times. What an amazing story from a very brave woman! Of course, as you know from my prior blog posts, I also had the double-mastectomy surgery. I did not have the BRCA gene (or at least, my geneticist told me that I didn't test positive for the BRCA gene mutations that they currently KNOW about...who knows what future medical research might bring????) but here's a synopsis of my story:
I had big cystic breasts. Well, as far I as I knew, I had just big breasts, but when I went to a doctor for a check up and she told me that my breasts were cystic and she also recommended, at age 37, that I have a baseline mammogram. I did it and never thought they would find something small come up on the screen that would turn out to be such an aggressive form of cancer that I would be subject to chemotherapy (even though it did not spread to my lymph nodes I was Her2Nu positive...not a good thing). I lost all of my hair and that was extremely traumatic. But look at me now:
This feels like it happened to someone else!
I am digressing and obsessing over the hair thing, I know! It is wonderful that Angelina had the prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomy. I WISH I could have saved my nipples...but because of the size and sagging, I had to choose a different route. And also, my doctor told me that it was still possible to get breast cancer in the nipples, so I hope Angelina's procedure works for her (how things can change in only four years!) Though my doctor did create new nipples, and they look great, but they are just not the same...And it was very disappointing not to be able to save as much of my breasts as possible, but they are much perkier now and really don't require a bra at all (still amazing to me!)
I guess the point I am trying to make is that everyone is different and has different choices. Some women aren't as fortunate to be able to spend the money to know whether or not they carry the gene. And even if they don't carry the gene, but do have cancer, some doctors might have tried to push some other sort of treatment and not been so agreeable to do the bi-lateral mastectomy. I did it because I had to have some sense of control that I was doing everything I possibly could not to let the cancer come back or spread anywhere else in my body. And my cancer surgeon was EXTREMELY supportive of my decision. I could just as easily have had the lumpectomy with radiation, but I did not want to do that. I also had a reconstruction surgeon who told me at the outset that if I was having the bi-lateral mastectomy for cosmetic purposes, that I was doing it for the wrong reasons! I cried when I left his office, but I am so glad that I used him as my reconstruction surgeon...he did a great job!
I do believe that a woman should be able to make their choice without concern about backlash from a doctor or society at large. I truly hate the way my implants feel and how sometimes I get a phantom itch somewhere and because I had some of the nerves cut, sometimes I scratch on my breasts and the itch still never goes away. Think of someone who still thinks they feel a limb after it has been amputated (though not even close to as gruesome!!!) I would never WISH a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction on anyone, because it is not only not fun and a difficult recovery, but it just feels different and not in a good way! But it sure beats the alternative! And if this gives Angelina the piece of mind and gives her a sense of "control" over her body, then that is more important than whether she kept her breasts or not...while they are beautiful and feminine, they are just boobs!!! I just want to live to a ripe old age and enjoy my beautiful kids (and extremely awesome and supportive husband) and annoy them until they are too old enough to annoy their own kids!!!