Around May of 2006 I had a bit of a revelation: I was in my forties; my son was barely three years old, and I’d begun to realize the importance of keeping my own health for the sake of the my family’s. Besides, my brother and I had discussed the importance of regular health screenings much more frequently as the years progressed, so getting a mammogram seemed like a natural decision to me. I didn’t think about it further when I heard nothing about follow-up afterwards.
Needless to say, I was floored when I woke up one morning to a phone call from Breast Health, asking me to schedule a biopsy. I’d heard nothing about test results prior to this and had assumed everything was fine. I was in a panic – what was going on? Apparently, my tests had shown DCIS and I would need a lumpectomy. I was in a daze – where had this come from? Where was the warning? I felt like my own doctor should have told me something; should have given me some indication of what was happening to me. Once I met with the oncologist she performed both a biopsy as well as an ultrasound. More DCIS was found and I was told I would need a mastectomy. I was in some sort of shocked daze – suddenly everything in my life seemed more urgent than before.
After the initial diagnosis, things moved so quickly that I barely had time to contemplate the outcome of any decisions I made. I met with Dr. Buchel, and together we decided on the best course of surgery for me, which was to restructure my breasts using fat from my backside, not from the front. Despite the fact that I was only diagnosed in April, by November of the same year I was screened, diagnosed and operated on.
I spent a week in the hospital in total. I couldn’t move, not even to 90 degrees. It was very hard, and I’m glad I didn’t know too much about the surgery before I went in; it probably would have affected my decision. As it was, this was the longest I had ever been separated from my son and I was missing him terribly. I was just so excited to get out of the hospital that I didn’t care about any physical shortcomings.
Later on I would talk with my doctor about women who undergo breast reconstruction or augmentation purely for cosmetic reasons. I just don’t understand the desire to voluntarily put oneself through that much pain – you couldn’t pay me enough to go through this if I didn’t have to. Even when the process is part of a life-saving surgery you kind of question yourself.
Ultimately, however, I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to help me through this. I am so grateful to my husband, who took the time off from work to help me recover at home. Drs. Buchel and Sudler were impeccable in everything they did. If a woman must go through this experience, then I cannot think of a better procedure for her to endure it by. However, I maintain that women need more information during the decision-making process leading up to treatment. There are simply not enough resources available to answer the multitude of concerns that appear once you’ve been diagnosed.