I found myself in a plastic surgeon’s office on Thursday. I’ve decided to get reconstruction.
Radiation has limited my reconstruction options. That’s the bad news. One of the few options available to me is to have fat and muscle sucked out of my belly and put into my breast. In other words, I get liposuction and a boob job.
It’s going to be painful. It’s going to require a long hospital stay. It’s the only thing I can do, though, if I want to go this route. Patients who haven’t gotten radiation can opt for gradual reconstruction, using skin stretchers and implants of steadily increasing size. Radiation is still affecting my skin and it still may affect it for another year or so.
I found out that our insurance covers reconstruction. Meanwhile, our dental insurance only barely covers the oral surgery that Katie needs, which, oddly, I learned on the same day. We’ll pay nothing for a new breast, but we’ll pay a small fortune to have teeth taken out of her cute little face.
At the same time I get the surgery, they will lift the right breast so that it matches my new one.
I’m ashamed, honestly. I think I’m actually looking forward to this. I’m hopeful, and it’s all because I get new body parts. I must be shallow.
I have a mammogram on Tuesday. I’m scared.
It’s routine. I have to have one every year now. It’s something I’ve been planning for in the back of my mind since the diagnosis. Somehow, it’s only occurred to me now that they could find something.
I don’t think about the cancer that often anymore. I’m only reminded of it when I shower at night. I don’t feel the danger like I did before. It’s something that happened. It’s in the past.
I’m afraid that now that I’ve gotten on with my life, it’ll come back. I don’t even know what I’d do if it did. I’ve decided to get reconstruction, but that’ll have to wait if they find something. I don’t know if I can handle another round of treatment.
My missing breast hasn’t changed what I am inside. It’s a superficial change. Still, I want it back. I want to be complete and healthy and it finally feels like those things are within reach again. I don’t want to lose that.
After some consideration and a couple of trips to various offices, we have determined that testing for the BRCA+ gene is not practical, at this point.
It’s wildly expensive. At one of the meetings, I was shown a paper that said the average person who opts for this testing pays about a hundred dollars. At the second meeting with out HMO, they estimated a figure much higher than that. We simply can’t afford it. It doesn’t help that Katie will undergo oral surgery in two weeks.
I also learned something surprising during those meetings: the BRCA gene is expressed in men as prostate cancer. My dad went through a round of radiation for prostate cancer a couple years ago. So maybe it is genetic. It probably isn’t, but it might be, That’s not good.
I know what this testing will tell me, but I don’t necessarily know what I would do with the information. There’s nothing I can do about it. I want Katie to be able to make decisions about her health, but is she chooses, she can get the testing later in life.
It’s been a year since my first day of chemotherapy.
So much has changed. I can see the changes most plainly in my kids. Before my eyes, they’re becoming bright, wonderful, creative people. Last year, at this time, I wasn’t sure I would live to see them grow up. They haven’t fully grown yet, but I can sometimes see tiny pieces of the adults they’ll be.
Zac has become quite protective of me. Of the three of them, I think he was most frightened of my diagnosis. Now Zac is always looking for ways to help me, asking if I need water or tasks done. He surprises me all the time.
I still think about the day of my diagnosis sometimes, and often the memory leads me down a rabbit hole, to the memory of a Sunday almost eleven years ago. On that day, we celebrated Zachary’s baptism. It was also the day before the reconstructive surgery on his head. He was four months old.
This past Sunday was a bit of a rough day. Ryan and I had had a fight, and I was feeling moody and impatient. The closing hymn was “How Great Thou Art”, which I remembered from that Sunday over a decade ago. Suddenly, I remembered a thousand little details about that day. For a while, it made me feel even worse, and I had a hard time keeping it together.
Then, after church, Zac squeezed my hand and said he loves me.
I realized then that sometimes I haven’t been as strong for my kids as I need to be. I take for granted that they’re here, that they can handle everything. And I sometimes forget how precious they all are.