One Day and Counting

I feel ready. Ready to get it over with. Ready not to have a cancerous lump clinging to my chest anymore like a broach. At night, strange thoughts wander past: is it better or worse to have a cancer you can feel? a tangible tumor? If my tumor was deep inside my body, would it be more out-of-sight, out-of-mind? 

My initial reaction to the lump was panic. I wanted it out, and I wanted it out right now. Ever-helpful, Mary jokingly offered to rip it out with her teeth…a line she still uses when I need a laugh. But I’m glad I took my time. I know a lot of women make rapid-fire treatment decisions but that’s not my style. I needed the first two weeks to absorb the shock. The third week to wrap my head around my options. The fourth week to accept my choice.

Last year, I wrote  a story for Time.com about how surgeon bias can influence women’s decisions around choosing lumpectomy versus mastectomy. Reporting this story was an eye-opener but living the experience was sobering. As predicted, all three breast cancer surgeons recommended a lumpectomy with reconstruction. None of them asked me how I felt about having an implant in my left breast, instead it was all about how quickly I could regain the “appearance” of a breast. All three bent over backwards to assure me that no one would know the difference. No one like whom? I wondered.  They coo’ed that I would look “normal.” Normal for whom? 

The Ken-doll plastic surgeon talked at me for an hour and I didn’t like what he was selling. After all of these years and millions of women come before, how is it that my choices are a) harvest parts of my own body that I’m happily using elsewhere (thank you very much) b) saline or  c) silicone (of course, he didn’t mention the 10-year life span on those pups). Want your nipples? Sorry. Want sensation in the giant swath of skin from navel to clavicle? Sorry, no can do. What could “Dr. Feel Good” do for me? As it turns out, nothing. Because what feels good to me is getting this damn tumor off my chest, and escaping this ordeal with all of my muscles in tact, and as few man-made objects in my body as possible. 

Thanks but no thanks.

5 Responses

  1. Mary says:

    Hi Catherine,

    It’s interesting the impact of point of view on knowledge and medical decisions. I faced this at every step along this breast cancer path, and found along the way interesting research that indicates a rise in bilateral mastectomy as a proactive choice. So much breast cancer research and standards of care are motivated by the SAVE the RACK at all costs mentality, whether real or fake, working or non-functional. I don’t think it even occurs to most of these practitioners some of us really are motivated by an entirely distinctively other set of values.
    http://brys.wordpress.com/2007/10/22/quality-of-life-and-pov/

  2. Nan says:

    Catherine,
    We are sending positive energy and healing thoughts your way. We wish you a safe surgery with no surprises and a speedy recovery. Recovery will no doubt be paced differently for your body, mind and spirit. Along this next part of the journey we offer support now and always. Thank you for keeping us updated with your blog.

    Thinking of you,
    Nan, Tom & family

  3. Clare says:

    Look forward to hearing from you on the other side when it’s all over, and wish I could hug you in the meantime. xo

  4. Cathy and Brendan says:

    Hey Catherine,
    We just wanted to let you know we’re thinking of you and sending healing thoughts your way, tonight and tomorrow especially, and in the weeks to come. Thank you so much for this blog!! I too was a blog skeptic (referring to your first post), but what a gift to those of us who are concerned and want to follow your journey without being a PITA the night before… Wish we lived closer and could offer more tangible support. We love you guys!
    Cathy, Brendan and the kids

  5. Amy says:

    Dear Catherine and Mary,

    I will be thinking about you today. The only supernatural thing I beleive in is angels and I have sent all mine to be with you tday.

    xo Amy

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