And, I’m so thankful for that.
But, that’s not the end of the story for me.
I haven’t wanted to celebrate because I knew what was likely on the horizon. I haven’t been able to fully exhale since I knew that mastectomies and reconstruction were looming. They’re like this large, nebulous cloud overhead (or maybe two large, nebulous clouds).
My mastectomies are scheduled for April 25th. This is real. This is happening.
I had planned to schedule the mastectomies for the summer, but I shifted around my schedule to allow the surgery to happen sooner. I'm much calmer since I no longer need to wait five months.
It’s an interesting part of the journey to observe people’s confusion and reactions at the fact that being cancer-free doesn’t mean being done with cancer. Kind and well-intentioned friends and acquaintances want me to be healthy; they want my life back to normal. I get that, and I want that, too. But, that doesn’t mean that it’s a simple road from here to there.
On the chance that you’re wondering why I’m getting mastectomies now, here are the reasons:
1. I’m 38 years old, and I’ve had 13 breast biopsies and four lumpectomies. My breasts are fibrocystic and dense with a lot of calcifications. That’s why I’ve had so many biopsies, and it’s expected that I’d continue to have biopsies every year if I did not have the surgeries;
2. I was unable to tolerate hormonal therapies, which have been shown to significantly reduce a woman’s risk of recurrence. (When my doctors recommended lumpectomies in 2010, they assumed that I would be able to tolerate this class of medications);
3. I was diagnosed at 37, which means that I have a higher rate of recurrence than older women;
4. Because of my health history, I’m ineligible to participate in any studies for new breast cancer drugs or vaccines; and
5. The thought is that my mom and I have a breast cancer gene that has yet to be discovered.
A few hours after I scheduled the surgeries, a friend sent me the following quote by Vaclav Havel:
Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.
I don’t believe that my breasts are killing me, and I could have the surgery and still get breast cancer again. But, I have a significantly higher chance of getting breast cancer again if I don’t get mastectomies. To me, this game of life is a numbers game. I’m playing my hand according to the probabilities.