I was sure of what I wanted when I went into the appointment with the surgeon today. A bilateral mastectomy with implants please. I didn’t have the whole low down on implants, but barring major disaster, that seemed the perfect option.
The implant in my bad boob has a 40% chance of failure because of the radiotherapy done last time. The surgeon strongly recommended I not do that option.
So I’m there in yet another appointment having gone in expecting one outcome and suddenly being thrown into chaos. My hopes of avoiding an extra wound site have been dashed on the rocks of radiotherapy. In this reeling state, the surgeon laid out the only other options.
Option one: Single mastectomy and reconstruction from tummy tissue and breast reduction on the good boob to match. D cup sized boobs.
Option two: Double mastectomy and reconstruction using tummy tissue. B cup sized boobs.
The plastic surgeon was arguing for the first option as all my doctors have all through this process. Just as I was being swayed, in walked the mastectomy surgeon. The knee patter.
He smiled warmly and greeted me as old friends. I smiled back politely and then we went back to the well trodden road of back and forth. Me expressing a worry, him dismissing it. To the point where he said that my understanding of my cancer was based on Daily Mail articles.
Yes my friends, he said that.
He mistook my stunned silence for acquiescence and went in for the closer. He leaned in and said I must make a decision quickly. The clock was ticking and I had to get a move on. Just before he had entered this space, the plastic surgeon had said I could take a couple of days to make the right decision. My surgery is booked in for the 3rd of October, three whole weeks away.
At this point I could feel the tears of frustration coming. I was not going to cry in front of this man. Again. So I stood up, told them I needed a break and went to cry in the corridor. Not so much a huffy walk out as an empowered decision to remove myself from the situation.
My family and my nurse followed after and we occupied a different office far away from him. We invited the plastic surgeon back into what we claimed as our space and the whole dynamic changed. He agreed to whatever surgery I wanted to do and checked out my tummy fat again. Apparently it’s a ‘good belly’. Think he was trying to be nice.
We didn’t invite the mastectomy surgeon back in. But he came anyway. He hovered at the door, full of apologies and big statements about just wanting to do the best for me. I tried to tell him again that I only want to be listened to, to be heard. And he came in close for a hug I didn’t want and asked me to tell him we were friends again. His apology was as problematic as his errors. I couldn’t wait for him to go and he did quickly.
When the plastic surgeon left, he shook my hand and suggested that I could see the clinical psychologist. He didn’t offer this is a ‘you must be crazy if you’re not listening to me’. He offered it in the realisation that if I’m happy about the decision going into surgery, there’s more chance of me being happy coming out. And he at least counts my happiness as a measure of his success. I trust him completely.
We stayed a lot longer chatting with my breast care nurse. She shared her thoughts, much along the lines of the other lovely nurse. This is my life, they are men and don’t really get it, this is my decision. This is my decision.
So I made a pros and cons list. My only hesitation at going with my original choice of a double mastectomy is that now I have to have the third wound site on the tummy. It’s a bigger op using microsurgery to reattach blood vessels from the tummy tissue to the chest wall. So I’m exposing myself to a bit more surgery, a bit more recovery, a bit more risk. It gives me pause.
And small boobs.
But on the plus side is no more anxiety, no more mammograms, no more surgery.