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My On-Going Journey

I am a 58 yr. old woman. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in '06. Also Her2 positive. This past year has been very difficult. I had another mammogram and they found two more lumps, fortunately not cancerous, but doctors and I decided that I would have both breasts removed. Since I wanted to hike on the Pacific Crest Trail in August (I did 39 miles by myself - whoo hoo!) I didn't have my explanders put in until just before my daughter's wedding in September. Well, one of my expanders was punctured during one of the doctor's visits when putting in more saline. So, we decided to not replace expander but to put in the implants. I told doctor I didn't want more than a handful. I definitely got more than that! Problem is that was too much for my irradiated breast and it split open causing an infection that went systemic. Great. Anyway, implant was removed a couple of weeks ago and the split refuses to heal. I've been having quite a difficult time keeping it infection free. I clean the site with surgical soap and then put betadine in the hole and am able, I think, to keep it fairly under control. Meantime, I am going to college carrying 12 credits. My degree will be in Forestry. I have given up hoping I will get straight A's, and will have to settle for B's (several of my classes require class participation and a lot of the grade is based on that). All teachers are very supportive. Now there's not enough skin left to stretch to the size of my other breast and doctor says that it will probably require grafting. I don't think so. They can take out the implant in my left breast and replace it with a smaller one of the same size that will fit in my right breast. I am so tired. It seems my breasts have been in control of my life for the past 7 years. If I weren't so vain I'd just say remove them completely but I would at least like "fried eggs". Women's tops don't fit so well with no boobs. And I don't feel so very feminine either. I wish I could let women know NEVER have radiation. It is much better to have a mastectomy. The skin is the same, just the stuffing is different. But, of course, when my oncologist asked me if I wanted to keep my breast, I said yes. My surgeon says he wishes the oncologists would recommend that patients speak with surgeons so they have a better idea of what can, could, probably would happen. I have a very supportive husband. Many people say I have been very brave but my husband is my hero. I learned that not just I had to go thru this nightmare....maybe he and my children didn't have to go thru the chemotherapy and radiation and all the "fun" that went along with it, but they went thru hell just the same. My husband went to every appointment and no matter if it took eight hours he never got impatient. I can count myself one of the very lucky cancer survivors. And, more than likely, if I hadn't gotten cancer I wouldn't have found the courage to go up on the Pacific Crest Trail. After all I went thru I just wanted to really experience life.
chemosavey chemosavey 56-60 1 Response Jan 26, 2013

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I agree with your 'The skin is the same, just the stuffing is different.' I had a double mastectomy in April 2012, I am 37, I was recommended a lumpectomy, but I opted for a double reconstructive mastectomy because I had no intention of 'monitoring' my breasts after the fright I had with the right one. But I had to have radiation as well. I am vain too, but although I was sure about having a double mastectomy, I was hesitating about whether or not I should get implants, and was considering going flat, thinking I could wear frilly tops and stuff, honestly, to me as long as I am symmetrical, I can work around it, but couldn't see myself adjusting and comparing sizes every morning, and choosing a bra would have been a nightmare! I admire your accomplishment with the Pacific Crest Trail, I went on my first beach holiday last weekend and had to stay away from the sun because of tamoxifen causing brown spots, I don't see myself roughing it when travelling any more, 5 stars from now on!