Breast Reduction or Mastectomy: Yoga and Cancer

Started by anonymous, July 08, 2015
4 replies for this topic
anonymous

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Posted on
July 08, 2015
A week ago today, I had breast reduction surgery. Though not talked about as frequently as breast enhancement surgery, many friends confided that they’d love to have the procedure. They asked me how it went.

In 2001, my middle sister had stage 2b, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. She didn’t want her tumor tested for BRCA, so in 2003 when I was diagnosed with colon cancer, my HMO tested my tumor for Lynch and FAP (genetic forms of colon cancer).

Fast forward to spring 2015. I requested a ultrasound of my dense and fibrous, oversized breasts. The HMO’s response was to send me to genetic counseling. Here I met with the same counselor who had tested my tumor over a decade ago. We updated my family cancer tree, added that my mother died of leukemia, a few other relatives had blood cancers and one first cousin had died of colon cancer. The counselor recommended modified genetic testing that included the BRCA gene. There are some indications that BRCA gene hosts have a higher incident of both breast and colon cancer.

There was only one problem. I had scheduled a breast reduction surgery with a private plastic surgeon. The accidental overlap of drawing blood for genetic testing and my surgery date made me stop and think. Would I do anything differently?

I thought about the statistics and my personal history. The genetic counselor explained every possible outcome, its associated risk, and went over every test she recommended. Still, as I contemplated delaying surgery until the results of the BRCA testing came back, I wasn’t convinced a positive result would change my decision to reduce my breasts, not remove them. In the case of a positive genetic profile for BRCA, the genetic counselor said that a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery would likely be provided by my HMO, (as well as an abdominal lift to cull fat cells for new breasts).

This makes a yoga teacher’s head spin! I share my journeys because I know that someone is reading this who has similar circumstances or questions. How do we make our decisions about health care as cancer survivors?

You’ll have to wait with me as I anticipate the results of the genetic profiling. It may take up to two months. Like many cancer survivors, we are given tests and checkups, and we have to wait with bated breath. Or as Robin Williams used to say, I wait with "a worm on my tongue."

We wait and wonder. In between, we learn to live with the unknown. The veil of "normal" is ripped open with the diagnosis of cancer. There’s no going back to naïve notions of an impervious human. Most of us see this as a gift that a cancer diagnosis awakens. We survivors tend to be very much awake and aware. Not in a hyper-vigilant way, but the way a soldier might regard life after a battle.

In the meantime, I am recovering steadily. Within one week’s time, I can perform all the activities of daily living without assistance. Save, I ask my husband to standby when I shower. The incision areas do smart and twinge. Nerve regrowth can create prickly zinging sensations. Yoga breathing helps me tackle intermittent pain. I am no longer taking any pain medication.

Today’s Yoga Practice: I am posting pictures of Restorative Bed Yoga. I have seven pillows, including a wedge pillow to keep my whole upper body in a gentle recline. Notice the small pillows on each side of my head. When we don’t have to support our heads, our necks and backs relax very deeply. I use pillows to raise my arms to shoulder height, a much more gentle angle for recovering pectoral muscles. Pillows are used to support my knees, so when I twist, I can rotate without straining my abdominal muscles, which are also sore.
Image courtesy of Jean Di Carlo-Wagner


Image courtesy of Jean Di Carlo-Wagner
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Jean Di Carlo-Wagner

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
July 08, 2015
A week ago today, I had breast reduction surgery. Though not talked about as frequently as breast enhancement surgery, many friends confided that they’d love to have the procedure. They asked me how it went.

In 2001, my middle sister had stage 2b, estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer. She didn’t want her tumor tested for BRCA, so in 2003 when I was diagnosed with colon cancer, my HMO tested my tumor for Lynch and FAP (genetic forms of colon cancer).

Fast forward to spring 2015. I requested a ultrasound of my dense and fibrous, oversized breasts. The HMO’s response was to send me to genetic counseling. Here I met with the same counselor who had tested my tumor over a decade ago. We updated my family cancer tree, added that my mother died of leukemia, a few other relatives had blood cancers and one first cousin had died of colon cancer. The counselor recommended modified genetic testing that included the BRCA gene. There are some indications that BRCA gene hosts have a higher incident of both breast and colon cancer.

There was only one problem. I had scheduled a breast reduction surgery with a private plastic surgeon. The accidental overlap of drawing blood for genetic testing and my surgery date made me stop and think. Would I do anything differently?

I thought about the statistics and my personal history. The genetic counselor explained every possible outcome, its associated risk, and went over every test she recommended. Still, as I contemplated delaying surgery until the results of the BRCA testing came back, I wasn’t convinced a positive result would change my decision to reduce my breasts, not remove them. In the case of a positive genetic profile for BRCA, the genetic counselor said that a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery would likely be provided by my HMO, (as well as an abdominal lift to cull fat cells for new breasts).

This makes a yoga teacher’s head spin! I share my journeys because I know that someone is reading this who has similar circumstances or questions. How do we make our decisions about health care as cancer survivors?

You’ll have to wait with me as I anticipate the results of the genetic profiling. It may take up to two months. Like many cancer survivors, we are given tests and checkups, and we have to wait with bated breath. Or as Robin Williams used to say, I wait with "a worm on my tongue."

We wait and wonder. In between, we learn to live with the unknown. The veil of "normal" is ripped open with the diagnosis of cancer. There’s no going back to naïve notions of an impervious human. Most of us see this as a gift that a cancer diagnosis awakens. We survivors tend to be very much awake and aware. Not in a hyper-vigilant way, but the way a soldier might regard life after a battle.

In the meantime, I am recovering steadily. Within one week’s time, I can perform all the activities of daily living without assistance. Save, I ask my husband to standby when I shower. The incision areas do smart and twinge. Nerve regrowth can create prickly zinging sensations. Yoga breathing helps me tackle intermittent pain. I am no longer taking any pain medication.

Today’s Yoga Practice: I am posting pictures of Restorative Bed Yoga. I have seven pillows, including a wedge pillow to keep my whole upper body in a gentle recline. Notice the small pillows on each side of my head. When we don’t have to support our heads, our necks and backs relax very deeply. I use pillows to raise my arms to shoulder height, a much more gentle angle for recovering pectoral muscles. Pillows are used to support my knees, so when I twist, I can rotate without straining my abdominal muscles, which are also sore.
Image courtesy of Jean Di Carlo-Wagner


Image courtesy of Jean Di Carlo-Wagner
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birdgirl

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
July 08, 2015
Wow - Such an interesting dilemma! Really can relate -- As a uterine cancer survivor myself, the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, having had cancer scattered all over my family tree, I have wondered about genetic testing. Years ago my doctor pointed out that since I have already had a complete hysterectomy, the only thing left to do if I turned out positive for the BRCA gene would be a prophylactic mastectomy. And like you, I don't know whether I would do that or not. Great article. Thank you for sharing your experience with us!
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Jean Di Carlo-Wagner

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
July 09, 2015
Hello Birdgirl, Genetic testing is becoming a lot more affordable and is revolutionizing 'personalized' cancer treatment. I did get the results, just last night, and I will write about it and my reaction. As you know, as a survivor, we have many factors to consider. The older I get, the more quality of life is a critical factor in my health decisions. I choose to be pro-active in many lifestyle choices and health screenings. I hope others chime in about their decision making process! Thank you for reading and commenting. Blessings, Jean
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Wendy

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
July 14, 2015
Hi I will be awaiting your results. I have the BrCA2 gene mutation and have scheduled a consult with OB/GYN for oophorectomy. I haven't decided on a bi-lateral masectomy yet. I would prefer breast reduction. I already had 3cm removed during a lumpectomy and that surgery was relatively easy. Hope your results do not find the gene so you can rest easy.
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Jean Di Carlo-Wagner

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
July 14, 2015
Dear Wendy, Please come back and share with us your decision. I wonder if your insurance company will pay for a reduction? There are a lot of "spinning plates". I have found out and will be writing today. Keep looking for posts! And thank you for reaching back to me through posting. . As an interesting side note, I had a complete hysterectomy at age 39, due to polycystic ovary disease. That was twenty year ago, and I requested a vaginal surgery, I had had two "bikini cuts" to remove cysts on my right ovary - both blood-filled and then dermoid. But, only when I had colon cancer surgery did I find out that my fallopian tubes were not removed! There was a cyst inside it, so it was removed during cancer surgery. Come to find out that it is standard practice to leave the fallopian tubes. Now scientists have found that most ovarian cancer starts in the fallopian tubes. So, it's good that you brought this up because knowledge is power. I doing very well in recovery, thank you for asking. I wish you all the best in speedy results and great options. Blessings, Jean
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