When I got home, I read the booklet. I got online and researched surgical videos, internet medical resources and talked to three breast cancer survivors who'd already been through this surgery. All of the information I found was overwhelming and I went to bed feeling bogged down. As I crawled into bed, I lay there and prayed asking God for His wisdom and direction.
This morning, my husband and I discussed the surgery. I shared information with him on what I'd found regarding the surgery and recovery period, complications, etc. After listening carefully to all I shared, he said he would stand behind me in whatever decision I made. So today, I've been doing a lot of thinking and even more praying. As I've processed it all, I've made my decision.
I've decided not to have the surgery and I have several reasons to support my decision.
- The D.I.E.P flap surgery is major surgery. It doesn't only involve one surgery but two. The doctor said the surgery would be about 10 hours long. Anytime you're put under anesthesia for any length of time it's dangerous. The doctor said I would be in intensive care for 2-3 days after surgery and have about a month of recovery at home. A recovery period of that length doesn't seem doable. I would need in home care and there's no way my husband could take off work that long.
- Expensive - although the majority of the surgery would be covered by my medical insurance, we'd still have to meet deductibles, and pay our portion of the surgical and hospital bills not to mention labs and other expenses.
- Pain: I'm not really keen on going through a lot of pain again. It has taken almost 3 years for me to get over the last two surgeries. I don't know if my body could handle that much trauma again. I'd be cut horizontally from hip to hip and then have several incisions at each breast site. With all of my other surgeries, if I had these too, I'd look like I'd been mauled by a serial killer.
- Why: Why would I want to do this anyway? Would having fake boobs give me more self esteem? I don't think so. Cancer has taken away my breasts, the ones God gave me, so why should I try to rebuild what He allowed cancer to take away?
- Would this change anything about my marriage? Not really. The only thing it would change is to cause us more stress and pain.
- The real reason for surgery? Would I be doing it to benefit my health (as the doctor suggested - I posted about this in yesterday's blog post) or would I be doing it out of vanity? Yes maybe having the weight of breasts replaced would help my spine, but is it really necessary? Couldn't I just continue to do stretching exercises I was taught in physical therapy sessions to help my back? Most of my back problems are from bulging or herniated discs and degenerative disc disease so I don't think the missing breasts are the main culprit of my pain.
- Complications: There's no guarantee I'd survive the surgery without complications? I was reading and studying about that surgery and many times tissue removed from the belly to make the new breasts will die. When that happens, doctors must remove the dead tissue and start over. This dead tissue is called fat necrosis or tissue necrosis. Since I've already had one episode of tissue necrosis after my initial surgery, I think my chances of developing necrosis again are probably very great.
- I'm getting old! At this time in my life I don't feel like I need to go through any more major surgery. I've already had so many. I'll be 60 in December and I want to maintain my quality of life. I'm enjoying going and doing exactly what I want to do when I want to do it. If I have surgery again, I'll have many physical limitations that would prohibit my current plans.
- It's my body! Just because the doctor suggested it and highly recommended it, doesn't mean I have to do it. It's my body and is ultimately my choice. Why do something I don't really and truly want to do?
- Boobs: When I want to have them, I can. I have silicone prostheses and when I slip them into the mastectomy bra, you'd never know they weren't real. I'm the only one who knows the difference. When I get tired of the weight of the prostheses and want to take them off, I do! Flinging my boobs across the room has become very freeing and usually brings laughter to family members who are here when I do it. The boobs always wind up in random places like the back seat of my husband's car or on the kitchen counter. How many women can just take off their boobs whenever they want to? Not many!