Barbara Tako is a breast cancer survivor (2010), melanoma survivor (2014) and author of Cancer Survivorship Coping Tools—We'll Get You Through This. She is a cancer coping advocate, speaker and published writer for television, radio and other venues across the country. She lives, survives, and thrives in Minnesota with her husband, children and dog. See more at www.cancersurvivorshipcopingtools.com,or www.clutterclearingchoices.com.
Breast cancer survivor contemplates her breast reconstruction choices.
Do size and shape matter? Well, they matter to me! How big? What shape am I looking for? Those are the decisions I get to make now. Do I stay big because it currently helps hide my overweight tummy? Or, do I go smaller, as motivation to lose weight - as though that will make my tummy smaller? Do I want saline or silicone or high or low profile? Each size and type holds its shape differently, too. The rest of the world may not notice, but these choices matter to me when I look in the mirror every morning.
There is a strange upside to having breast cancer and/or one of the genetic cancer abnormalities we now know about. I get to choose my new breasts, my foobs (a slang term for fake boobies). I had breast cancer several years ago, and now, several years later, I discovered I have the PALB2 genetic abnormality. So this is why several years after breast cancer treatment, I recently chose to have a prophylactic double mastectomy. How do you make lemonade from those lemons? OK, they were rather large grapefruit, actually.
The phrase, "just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water" rattles around in my head as I encourage you to keep tabs on all the new information regularly coming out in the field of genetic cancer research. If you already are a survivor, you may decide, based on newer genetic testing, to revisit your treatment options to prevent a new cancer or a recurrence. At the moment, I am recovering from the first part of my mastectomy reconstruction surgery.
While recovering, I am pondering breast shape and size. I tried on a pre-mastectomy bra from my dresser drawer. It appears I have quantity, but I do not like the current shape (flat). I would like my breasts to look more like breasts and to have projection (which is the term for having the new breasts stick out like my old normal breasts did--with help from a sturdy underwire bra).
My awesome plastic surgeon reassures me that the final implants will not have the same shape that my tissue expanders currently have. That is good. Trust me. Still, it makes it difficult to decide what size to have. I am grateful that someone who has done this before (my plastic surgeon) is there to advise me.
Whatever I decide, I am happy I chose to have a mastectomy. Even though I woke up in a lot of pain, the eight-year-old lump in my chest that was my ongoing fear of recurrence was actually gone! My understanding is that, with a double mastectomy, I have less than a three percent chance of breast cancer moving forward. Yes! Reconstruction was my own personal choice - I still want to look and feel like a girl and breasts, real or not, are part of that for me. It would not be everyone's choice, but it is the best choice right now for me.
I won't lie. Reconstruction surgery is a painful and major process, but I am starting to see the light, or rather the foobs, at the end of the tunnel. I am happy to be here to have the opportunity to explore foob options with my plastic surgeon. For me, this is all part of the cancer coping process, and it is nice to have positive choices to make for myself!