Breast Cancer from a Personal Perspective
My Mother is a breast cancer survivor. I try not to dwell on that time. It was scary for her, and scary for the rest of the family as well. My Mother is a very modest woman and we don’t talk about a lot of personal things. She was very blessed in the size department and being busty really does define a certain physical appearance and perception you have of yourself. I don’t think I realized it until after her surgery when she opted for a breast reduction as part of the reconstruction. There are things that I learned as the daughter of a breast cancer survivor that I wanted to share. Hopefully this helps someone else weather this time in their lives.
Medical Terminology & Other Doctor Stuff
I am a firm believer in second opinions. I remember asking my mom to get a second opinion before surgery. She opted to go with the opinion of her doctor. As more and more information comes out about breast cancer, genetic markers, and indicators versus actual masses I would recommend this even more. I would go even further to say make sure they are doctors from different hospital organizations.
In a world where insurance company limitations cause people to think their options are limited because that dictates so much of what care is offered to them by their doctors; this is a great time to invest the extra money in yourself and pay for a doctor visit even if it isn’t covered by your insurance.
We tried to make sure someone was always with my mom when she went to the doctor. Two sets of ears hear better than one. Four sets of ears don’t miss much. It is easy to miss things when new terminology like interductal and insitu are being thrown your way. One of the best things to do is allow yourself a support system. When people offer to help let them. We are so afraid sometimes of judgment that we take these offers lightly. The person diagnosed with cancer feels helpless but so do those around them. So when people offer to help whether it is a ride to the doctor, a moment of prayer or making you dinner let them. Helping each other makes us all feel like less of a victim and can aid in the healing process.
My father was very assertive about taking care of my mom after she came home from the hospital. I think the thought that she might not make it was very scary for him. We stepped back and thought it was great that he cared so much. It was not until later that my mom let me know she felt like we all abandoned her. Her hospital recovery was horrible. She was in a room with someone that had so many visitors that she couldn’t get any rest and no matter how many times we said something the overworked nurses couldn’t seem to do anything about it. We were worried not just about the noise but the exposure to germs. My mother was relieved when they sent her home, but the idea of a visiting nurse and drainage was a little scary for her and my dad.
What the heck does In Situ mean anyway?
In situ means the cancer is not spreading but is in the place where it originated. There was a large concern with my mom with spreading to the lymph nodes. DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) is the most common breast cancer diagnosis. While not life threatening there is always the concern about the spread. We are learning new things about cancer all of the time and recent reports are saying that a wait and see approach may be better for some women than the rigorous treatment.
Post Surgery Options
Of course different people face different choices in regards to radiation and chemotherapy. Prior to surgery there are a lot of decisions that women must make about reconstruction of the breast as well as treatment post surgery.
Reconstruction does not equal restoration. The wonders of plastic surgery can restore some shape to the breast depending on the extent of the cancer. There are implants available with their own set of health risks and the scarring can be extensive. Every woman must decide for herself how she wants to face this part of the disease and treatment. The woman’s nipple is lost as part of the process which I am not sure I still understand at this point if the cancer is being removed from the ducts in the breast. I have asked my mom a couple of times if she would like to see someone again about implants but she said she doesn’t want that. I can’t say I blame her based on the information I have seen about them. I don’t bring it up anymore because I don’t want her to feel self conscious but I do sometimes wonder if perhaps it is a badge of honor for what she went through. I know from things that I have read that many women embrace their scars as a tribute to themselves for surviving the disease. A daily reminder of what they have overcome, I wonder if that is my mom’s reason.
One of the coolest things I learned about during this time was tattooing to restore color to the nipple area for women. Amy Druding in Mays Landing, NJ does this and runs specials for breast cancer survivors during the month of October. Her compassion for women is amazing and hearing her passion to help others was something I will never forget. I first heard about it from my friend Ashley whose mom had a family history of breast cancer and had proactively had her breasts removed. If I remember correctly her mother had hearts tattooed where her nipples had been. There are lots of options but my mother was not interested in this option.
In the midst of writing this I came upon a series of videos about the Cancer Industry. Yes, I said industry. If they cured cancer tomorrow what would the economic impact to loss of jobs and revenue be to many companies and individuals. I didn’t watch the series yet because I want to have time to really watch it and I am not good at sitting for that long, but I am planning on watching it soon. If you would like to check it out go here.
If you have a comment, resource or story to share that you think may help someone else please comment below.
Until next time,
The Passion Profesor