In May 2019, I went for a routine check-up. As the doctor was doing a normal breast exam, she felt a lump. I had felt this lump months before and paid no attention to it. Ever since I was a young teen, I had always felt small little lumps in my breasts, so to me it was normal.
The doctor said that she wanted me to get a mammogram. I laughed, thinking, “What for?” At the time, I was only 34 years old, and I knew the typical age for a woman to start getting mammograms is at age 40. I was not too concerned with it, so I just took the script and brushed it off.
What If It’s Something?
Fast-forward 3 months later, I started to have a lot of pain in my left arm and chest area. I was rubbing on my chest area and noticed that the lump was still there, and it seemed bigger and a bit tender, which was a symptom I had not had before. It had not bothered me all these months, but now it did. I called my doctor, who urged me to get the mammogram as she had asked before. Still, I did not think much of it. In my head, I truly thought it could be a cyst.
A week later I finally got an appointment to get the mammogram. While sitting in the radiology dressing room, a feeling of panic came over me. What if it really was something to worry about? What was I going to do?
From Nervous to Numb
Once they took me back to the room for the mammogram, I got nervous. The test took about 15 minutes. After the test was done, they brought me into a room. The technician informed me that they needed to do an ultrasound as well.
Because this was my first mammogram, I thought that maybe this was a normal process. Once the technician finished, she told me to get dressed and the doctor would be in to talk to me shortly. That was unexpected and different, as I have had tests done there before, and I never had a doctor who came in to talk to me at the end.
As soon as the doctor came in, my heart felt like it sank into my stomach. I started to feel sick. The doctor looked at the images for a minute and said, “By the characteristics of the images, I am about 95% sure that you have some form of cancer.” I was numb.
When You Hear “I Am Sorry”
I could not process what he told me, so I sat there in silence for about a minute. To know exactly what I had, I was told I had to have a biopsy.
I had a biopsy scheduled for 2 weeks later. The biopsy process did not hurt. I was more anxious to find out the results. On October 1, 2019, I received the phone call that would change my life forever. It was the doctor who performed the biopsy.
As soon as she uttered the words, “I am sorry,” I knew something was wrong. She informed me of my diagnosis. I had invasive ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer, and I needed to seek treatment immediately.
Take Them Both Off
The following week, I saw a surgical oncologist. She assured me that everything would be okay, and what my options were. Before she could say anything, I said, “Take them both off.” Over the next few weeks, I had appointments with her, as well as with a plastic surgeon. They kept asking if I was sure I wanted to remove both breasts (meaning bilateral mastectomy). My answer never changed.
On November 11, 2019, I had my initial surgery. In addition to having the bilateral mastectomy I had tissue expanders put in to stretch the skin, in preparation for the implants. Everything seemed to go well, until a few weeks after the surgery.
Hospitalized During COVID-19
I started to feel unwell and had a fever. My right breast area was sore and swollen. I went to the hospital, where I was told I had an infection, as well as a seroma (fluid buildup).
This happened 5 more times over the next 3 months. We were in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, so this was very scary! Being hospitalized each time, and having to put drains in on my sides to drain the fluid from the breasts was not fun! The last time it happened, the tissue expanders tore through my muscle and skin, and I had to have emergency surgery to have them removed.
On April 28, 2020, I had the tissue expanders taken out, and they were replaced by the implants. For about 4 months, everything seemed okay with the implants. On August 10, 2020, while at work, I began to feel ill and was in a lot of pain. Later that night, I had a fever, and I knew that was not a good sign. I called the surgeon and was instructed to come to the emergency department.
Getting Through It
Once they examined me, they said that I had another infection, and they needed to remove the implants. I was devastated, having been through so much already. I told them to take both out and I did not want any other implants.
As I tried to sleep through the night, I wondered if I was making the right decision. How would I feel about not having any breasts at all? I also knew that mentally and emotionally, I was drained. I could not bear anymore.
Well, it’s now almost 8 months later, and I feel amazing! I wish I had made this decision to begin with. I thought I would be severely depressed about it, but I am not.
Confident and Healthy
I feel a lot more confident than I had in the past, and this was indeed the best decision for me. My smile is bigger and brighter! I feel healthier and more in tune with my body.
My real boobs changed my life. My implants changed my life. No boobs changed my life. No pair, don’t care! I am alive, and living my best life!