This month last year I got the voicemail none of us ladies want to get. I had been called in for a follow-up mammogram. Then I was called in for a biopsy, something I’d never had to have before. Still, I just wasn’t too concerned. It was a Wednesday when I had the biopsy and Friday morning my doctor called with the results.
When I heard my doctor on the phone I jokingly said, “ok, tell me everything is great and I’m perfectly fine”, but she kept talking and talking and talking. She didn’t acknowledge what I said.
After about a minute of hearing words that meant nothing to me she asked if I was in the car or at home. When I heard that, I sat down in the middle of my kitchen floor. I couldn’t believe what was coming. She said, “you have Ductal Carcinoma In Situ.” All I heard was the word carcinoma and I knew that meant cancer.
I called my husband at work and asked him the same question, “are you in your car or in your office?” I have no doubt he knew what that meant. I then had to call my 77 year old father who lost my Mom to breast cancer when she was only 50 years old after a painful 10 year battle. I was devastated to tell my father that his little girl had the same horrible disease that killed his beautiful wife.
I was only 24 when my Mom died and losing her was very, very painful and certainly had a deep impact on my life. My husband and I have a 2 year old daughter (yes, I was 46 when I became a mom) and the thought of my little Ella having to go through what I went through was the number one factor that helped me choose the most aggressive option: a double mastectomy with reconstruction. Fortunately, the cancer had not yet spread from my breast. A double mastectomy also meant I would not need chemo, radiation and also gave me assurance that it would never come back. I literally would be cured.
My Oncologist told me that had I waited to get my mammogram for another 12 months the cancer would have been invasive and my treatment would have looked completely different. More importantly, I would not have had the opportunity to choose a treatment that would guarantee it never comes back.
It took nine months, three surgeries, and to hell and back to be where I am today: cancer-free. Without the love and support of my amazing husband I could not have done it. He took care of not only me, but our daughter full-time during this journey. Talk about painful—I was actually unable to physically pick up my sweet Ella during this 9 month process. So not only was it physically painful, there was that added emotional pain of not being able to hold my baby girl.
I was very fortunate to have had a progressive doctor who was trained by Dr. Scott L. Spear, the renowned Washington, D.C. 2-staged mastectomy expert and plastic surgeon (breast lift/reduction and then mastectomy). This type of surgery allowed me to keep my nipples which many mastectomy patients aren’t able to do. The nipple is just some pigmented skin with a nub, but there’s something about those babies that many women feel attached to. I know I was, and so this helped make my decision easier knowing I would be able to keep them.
Probably only 15% of women who are candidates for a 2-staged mastectomy actually have it, either because they don’t know this is an option or they don’t want to endure an extra surgery (which is totally understandable). I wanted to share my story with you to create awareness around this option, in case having a 2-staged mastectomy is a possibility for you or for someone you may know.
While I loved my boobs before, I have to admit they probably look a little better now. Pretty perky for a 49 year old! More importantly, I know that breast cancer will never kill me like it did my Mom. I never have to worry about it coming back. It’s gone and I kicked cancer’s butt!
I am eternally grateful for all the money that has been raised for breast cancer research over the last 30 years. Because of advancements in science my situation is very different than my mother’s. Early detection was the key to curing me.
Please do me a favor and go get a mammogram if you haven’t already done so this year. It’s super easy and it can save your life like it did mine. Also, please take a minute to share my story with your girlfriends. The more women we can tell, the more lives we can save.
In closing, I’m eternally grateful for all your support of b-glowing during these last 11 years. You allowed a girl to fulfill a dream to create a beauty destination where great taste and warmth aren’t mutually exclusive. We hope we inspire and empower you the way you do us.