Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Chemotherapy vs Mastectomy

It's still very early days on this journey of mine and my research is relatively limited (i.e. some Googling at 11pm last night).  So please excuse me this is not as well informed as it might be.
But I have glimpsed a fork in the road up ahead.  It is possible that I will have to choose between the evils of chemotherapy or a mastectomy.

If the Cancer has spread, then I won't have any choice - chemo is almost certainly the path I will have to take.

I can, however, no longer hope to follow the path directly to an operation to remove the lump from my breast.  My tumour is too large and so I will either need six months of chemo in order to shrink it first, or I will need to go straight to a mastectomy.

It's too early to know if the choice really will be that stark.  But it got me wondering - which way would I go?

Would I prefer to lose my breast or my hair?

Oddly enough, I am more afraid of chemo than I am of a mastectomy.  Perhaps that is because I can't appreciate the awful psychological effect of losing a breast until it happens.  I think, however, that being small breasted helps.  I am inclined to make disparaging remarks about my breasts, but I must confess that I am fonder of the perky little things than I usually admit.  On the other hand, I've never had a cleavage and I don't really fill my titchy bra anyway so I do wonder, once fully clothed, would anyone really notice? 

 I can only imagine how women feel if their bosom has been central to their sense of beauty, if they are full breasted enough to be left horribly lopsided and unable to wear their clothes before reconstructive surgery.  That's not me.  So would it be so bad?  Unless the chemo massively shrinks this thing, I'm not sure there will be much left of my little breasts post-lumpectomy anyway. 
I'm not even sure I'd go for reconstructive surgery.  My very limited research makes it sound like a long a painful process with more surgery.  Would it be so bad to live one-breasted?

The photos of women with mastectomy that I found on-line were, however, shocking.   It's hard to imagine until you see it.  I passed the screen to my husband (could I have imagined ten days ago that I would be showing my husband photos of other women's breasts while we sit companionably on the sofa in front of the footie?).  He blanched.  

"They take the nipple as well?"  He made a good recovery.  "It doesn't matter, whatever you decide.  I don't love you for your breasts."

So, what if I go for chemotherapy?  Six months of poisoning my body.  Losing my hair.  Is it silly to be scared of losing my hair?  I've never exactly had lovely locks.  But going bald is like putting an advertisement on your head - yup, I've got Cancer!  And I'm hopeless with scarves.

Six months of fatigue.  Of sickness, mouth ulcers and diarrhoea.  Of course, no-one can tell you how you will react to chemo and for some women it is, I'm told, not so bad.  And if that pesky cancer has crept unnoticed into another corner of my body, chemo should sort it out.

But at the end of it all, there will still be an operation.  And won't I always be scared that the breast tissue that remains will spring another tumour on me?

My husband says there isn't a wrong choice and he's right - either way I'm going to live and I remain deeply grateful for that.  It's just that I might need reminding now and again either way, whether it is on a bad-chemo day, or when I look in the mirror.

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