When I was meeting with my treatment team immediately after my diagnosis, the topic of reconstruction came up. “How do you want to handle reconstruction?“ I was taken aback. Me? I’m not a doctor! No one asked me how I wanted to handle chemo or radiation, they told me my treatment plan based off of the highest chance of survival with the lowest possible complications. So, I decided to take the same approach to my reconstruction. I asked what they suggested. Actually I asked, “What helps me achieve the highest likelihood of completing my treatment and being cancer free? What gives me the greatest chance of surviving?" My team suggested: single mastectomy and removal of all found lymph nodes in my left arm without immediate reconstruction.
You might be thinking, “Why wouldn’t you do reconstruction at the same time as your mastectomy?” Well, let me tell you:
Finally, I am a tall, thin woman. I never had large breasts except for breastfeeding (perhaps my husband’s most favorite 6 months). My boobs were never my identity or a large part of what made me feel feminine or beautiful. They just weren’t that important to me. Living, on the other hand, was.
I had a single mastectomy, waited to finish chemo and radiation, then had a mastectomy on the remaining side (so a double mastectomy just at different times to reduce my risk of infection or complications). Over three years after my diagnosis and I still haven’t had reconstruction. My decision isn’t the most popular, but it was the right one for me. For me, this is a decision I will make when I’m at the 5-year mark of being clear of cancer (a big milestone that also marks a greatly reduced risk of recurrence). I do not want to risk more and more surgery that may need to be un-done. It’s something I’ll decide when I feel that my cancer journey is officially “done.” If and when I do have reconstruction I know that I will not be second-guessing my decision. Don’t worry; I’ll take you on that journey with me.