“Prophylactic mastectomy” refers to the removal of healthy breasts to reduce a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer. Bilateral prophylactic mastectomy is the most effective means of reducing a woman’s risk; however, the benefits of such surgery depend on each woman’s individual risk. Because even the most experienced breast surgeon cannot remove all breast tissue, a small risk of developing breast cancer remains after prophylactic mastectomy. — from FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered); emphasis MB4M
We’re getting close, friends. It’s almost that time. It’s hard to believe that 4 years after finding out I was BRCA positive, and 11 months after starting this blog, that my mastectomy date is finally upon us. In 3 weeks, I will start this new phase, this new journey, in my life.
This evening, Jorge asked me, “So, have you thought about what you want to call your blog after your mastectomy?” Lots of things flew through my mind — maybe I’ll move to “Marathon AFTER Mastectomy” and focus on ways to move past the fear of my body. Or, maybe I’ll call it “Marathon B4 OOPHERECTOMY” (removal of my ovaries) as I look to reduce my risk of ovarian cancer. Or, maybe, just maybe, I won’t want to blog at all.
But, the truth is, having a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy simply reduces my risk; it does not remove my risk of developing cancer. With the surgery, I become less fearful and less anxious about every bump. But, there will always — always — be that little voice in the back of my head and at the base of my heart, wondering if I will develop cancer.
When I talk about my daughter, Joli, depending on the day, I say she either “has cancer” or “has recovered from cancer.” Joli will never just move away from cancer; it will follow her. Sometimes, it will stand beside her as a mark of strength, a badge of courage, a comforting friend, and a piece of her that has shaped the very girl and woman she will become. Some days, I’m sure, it will stand slightly ahead of her, forcing her to face the challenges she must hurdle over. But, rarely will cancer ever be completely behind her, just something she “went through” in the past. She lost her eye; yet she can see a future many of us can only dream about. Joli discovered kindness, compassion, and patience in a way that many adults — in a way that I — have yet to experience.
Since I scheduled my surgery date, it’s been appointment after appointment. Tomorrow, I will go in for my breast MRI (not an awesome experience) – the last one prior to the surgery. If there is time, I will drive across town and go in for an EEG and blood tests. I’m feeling a bit anxious about tomorrow because my 18 month old son will also be going in for an eye exam across town. This will be his first one done without anesthesia.
For the most part, having the exams under anesthesia (EUA) are emotionally exhausting — needing to withhold liquids for 7 hours, going in at the crack of dawn, restraining him under a gas mask. The office visits are less emotionally exhausting but tend to be physically exhausting trying to wrangle a squiggly 18-month old who really does not feel like having his eyes poked and prodded. On top of that, my husband is the one taking my son in for his appointment, so I’m feeling the self-imposed “I-Want-My-Mommy” guilt, too. Sigh.
Is it still called ‘nesting’ when you’re not having a baby but instead having a mastectomy?
I’m starting to do crazy things — stocking up on months worth of diapers for my son, buying favorite breakfast foods (oatmeal and Nutella on toast), writing down schedules and appointments, deep cleaning the house, doing the laundry just as it hits the basket, locating all of the cold weather gear. I’m also trying to tie things up at work while desperately carving out some “me time” to get ready.
This weekend, we took a lovely trip to NY to see some old friends and stay in a beautifully serene lake house that our friends graciously let us stay in for the night. It was just what I needed; just what my family needed.
“Mama, how many more days until your operation?” says Joli.
“24 days, Joli. It’s in 24 days.”
“I really don’t want you to do it, Mom. I really don’t. It’s gonna hurt isn’t it?” her voice trailing off meekly with each statement.
“Jo. Yes. It’s gonna hurt. But, you know that I’m strong, right? And, you know that you’re strong, too. So, we’ll make it through. We’ll be just fine,” I say. She knows I’m trying to convince myself, too. Joli’s no fool.
“Okay, Mom, but just one thing. I just want you to know that if it hurts, I’ll be strong for us, okay?”
(pause, smile, wipe away tear)
You already are.
Peace, love and getting ready,