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Monday, September 14, 2009

Surrendering to the Universe

You'd think I'd have learned this in all my years: any semblance of control I think I have is merely illusion.

Furthermore, paitence is not a virtue. It's not worth the effort to be impatient.

I met with the surgeon today. She's awesome. She comes highly recommended. She's awesome. Did I say that? She is incredibly personable. However, before I talked with her, I had to fill out reams of paperwork, most of which is a repeat of paperwork and history I've filled out already for the oncologist, who had given them my file, so all that information was already there. This is where the patience part come into play. Then the surgeon's intern came in and asked me every single question on all the paperwork I'd already filled out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

I know they are busy doctors. I appreciate that. But this is the second time in recent weeks I've done the exact same thing with an internist, neither of whom have very good patient rapport. Both doctors are incredibly personable. I wonder if working with such unpersonable interns bothers either doctor?

So, enough with reliving my impatience.

The surgeon had some definitive answers for me. Yes, I will have surgery. My left breast will go. I will then receive radiation therapy. The surgery, at least, will probably happen in December. Maybe the radiation can be finished by the end of December, which for insurance reasons would be ideal.

However, the MRI and mammogram show some calcifications in my right breast, which may or may not be more cancer. Lots of women have calcifications in their breasts. They are common as we age. Most are nothing. However, once you have been diagnosed with cancer, nothing is ever looked at as "nothing" ever again. This breast has been poked, prodded, and felt up by many, many people in the last eight weeks, and no one feels anything in it. But that means nothing, and as I said, nothing will never again mean nothing. Therefore, next week, before I go back to get my Neulasta shot on Thursday (after chemo on Wednesday), I'll have a biopsy on my right breast, the outcome of which will determine what will happen to it. It's pretty clear that it will also be removed, but how and when has yet to be determined.

What all this leads up to, then, is what to do about reconstruction. More decisions of the type I hate...the ones where I never am sure I'm making the right one.

Part of those decisions has to do with receiving radiation. Part is determined by how much reconstruction has to be done, and, believe it or not, if I am fat enough. Ideally, I think I'd prefer to have my own tissue used for the reconstruction as opposed to implants. Yet, do I want to have the reconstruction done with my own tissue and than radiate it?

Do I have enough tissue to do both sides at once? I'm thinking I have to have at least a decent size breast in each inner thigh, not to mention my stomach and hips and back fat...I could probably enhance all workers at the average Gentlemen's Club.

If the right side doesn't have to be done immediately, would I want to do the left, then do the right later? Would I be brave enough to go through it all again?

Or, have spacers put in and later have implants. That doesn't really appeal to me because implants have to be replaced over time. Also, radiation can ruin spacers, I guess. Another option is to have the spacers put in and not..erm..pumped up, get the radiation, and if the spacers survive (I really understand none of this), have them pumped up later to the size I want (how neat is that?...choose your own size).

Then there is the option of having nothing done for the time being. Do radiation, and then have reconstruction done at a later time. That's not a bad option, but it does mean more surgeries. I don't like surgery. I know myself well enough to know I'd probably not wear a prosthetic. I understand they are heavy, hot, and inconvenient. Hot flashes are bad enough without a pound or so of rubber on my chest and a special bra. Would I be comfortable going without breasts, though? Being bald is one thing. I go out everywhere but teaching usually without covering my head. But without boobs?

Of course, nothing can be decided until the results of the biopsy are in, I meet with the plastic surgeon, and then I meet with the breast surgeon again.

Meanwhile, I just have to surrender all of this to the universe and let it all go. I have absolutely no control. As we all know, I hate not having control. Hate. It.

Meanwhile, I grade essays and get ready for the next round of chemo next week, both of which get really old really fast. I amuse myself by accumulating new headwear and planning tattoos.


Kasaka said...

A very close friend of mine faced the same grueling choices. You are in my thoughts. Only you can decide, what feels best for you (or better, feels least terrible :(). All we can do is read and be there for you. Just know you are being thought of and admired for being the very strong woman you are! Hugs!!!

Adria said...

I'm glad to hear your doctors are awesome, & I hope you're able to make decisions you feel good about.

laurabz said...

you are an inspiration. you're in my heart and thoughts {{{}}}

Abby said...

Dawn, I want to say thank you for chronicling your thoughts and events here for us. I'm learning so much and I think of you often. It's hard when you're a wordsmith and there aren't enough words in existence to express the type of thoughts you're having, but that's where I am.

charsch said...

Lots of tough decisions and even tougher experiences of surgery, radiation, and possibly more surgery...and of course no one in the end can decide for you, but know that we're all supporting you and sending good thoughts and prayers your way that you will be guided to make the right decisions for you. It is of course great to have supportive doctors and others to help you along the way. Stay positive and keep using the writing to help you, too. Expressing all this so very well must be very therapeutic.

fairytail3982 said...

Dawn, back when I was in college, I remember seeing a picture in MS Magazine that just blew me away. It was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen - an older woman who had decided, after her mastectomy, to not replace her breast with an implant (I think she only had the left one removed), but instead to replace it with a beautiful tattoo of roses. It was "different" but it was gorgeous. I couldn't find a picture of the same woman (MS is only archived online back to 1999, and this would have been earlier in the '90s) but I did find another pic illustrating the same basic idea (although I don't like these tats as much):

Here's the whole article that goes with the image I posted, above. It shows tattoos as alternatives for all sorts of disabilities or disfigurements.

Whether you'd seriously consider it or not, I thought you might enjoy the thought. :)

@}-`--,--- Christina

grilledcheesegoddess said...

I have considered that, Christina. But insurance won't cover it:) I'm also fine being the "bald lady." But I'm not sure I'd be so fine being the boobless teacher. I'm not sure my kids would be OK being "son of boobless woman" either.