Symmetry vs. Sensitivity

January 6, 2012

It’s been exactly two weeks since my diagnosis.  My surgery for breast removal has been set for January 12.  And between now and then I have to decide between one tit or two.

Every medical professional I have spoken to since the diagnosis has said that the other breast, my right one, will have to be removed eventually.  Waiting to remove it later leaves me with a 70% chance of the cancer coming back. Removing it now leaves me with only a 10% chance of the cancer coming back.  Seems like a no brainer, huh?

Yeah.. but it’s not.  I like my boobs.  Given… the left one doesn’t really look like it belongs to me anymore.  The tumor behind the nipple has gotten very large, so it’s super swollen, still pulling my nipple inward.  And I can still kind of see the remnants from all the bullet holes left after the biopsy.

But my right one still looks great.

And it’s soft.

And it’s me.

It leaves me feeling very torn about having it removed now as opposed to later.  It means zero nipple sensitivity for the rest of my life.  And, come on… we all know how AMAZING the nipple sensitivity thing can be.  And it’s not just about sensitivity during sexy times.  They’ll never get hard again when I’m cold.  Weird.  I’ll never know what it feels like to breast feed my child.  Sad.  Does this make one of them worth keeping?  “Yes,” says a large part of me.

But here’s a thing… if I keep the right tit… they will not look the same.  Or feel the same.  My surgeon has said she could augment the right one slightly to help it match the reconstructed one as closely as possible… but they will not be a matching set.  And, from a guy’s perspective… I can only imagine:  Going to frenchy-town with some girl.  Having a good time.  Moving in for the feel-up.  Discovering… duh duh duh… Gasp! …two completely different breasts on one body!  Oh, the horror.

So… the question remains… Sensitivity for me?  (and possibly looking a little like Frankenstein)  Or symmetry for whomever will be there to enjoy them?

Well… there is also the option of having both breasts removed but keeping the right/healthy nipple.  My surgeon says that I’m not an ideal candidate for this given the size of my areola.  (She measured it… humiliating… and it’s a hair past ideal width.)  But, I think if I pushed for it, she would be understanding.  I would lose some sensitivity, as they can’t save all the nerves in a breast removal, but I would still have most of it.  In my ideal cancer world… that is what I would do.  Remove both tits, but keep the healthy nipple.  However… I have invasive ductal carcinoma, meaning my cancer started in my milk ducts.  And my genetic counselor says (as she points to a model of a breast, running her finger along the milk duct down to the nipple), “All roads lead to Rome.”  If I keep the nipple… it is likely cancer will re-form in the right tit on the tissue around the implant.  And as my current tumor is directly behind the nipple… it seems likely any new lumps would form behind the kept nipple.

Not to mention… having everything removed now means that I don’t have to go through all of this again a few years down the road.

Of course I am leaning towards having both removed now.  But I am terrified of the loss that this means.  And this decision is for the rest of my life.  So, like a good Libra, I remain indecisive.

Losing both breasts…  Am I ready for that?  Can I make that decision in 5 days?

End cancer chapter 2.

8 Responses to “Symmetry vs. Sensitivity”

  1. April Says:

    Baby girl, nothing will compare to keeping *you*. It’s hard to be here but not give advice because there is no way I can know what you’re going through. But my vote is for whatever will keep you here longer. Big ol’ hugs for you.

  2. Susan Says:

    You are more than the sum of your parts. And as much as I enjoyed breast feeding, I would give it up if it meant living longer cancer free and getting to watch my children grow up. Ultimately only you can make this decision. You are amazing and I am so proud of you. Love you bunches.

  3. Tara Says:

    Only you can choose what’s right for you…but who knows where the med world will be when your ready for breast feeding. They’ll have some amazing way to let you do it somehow. And stimulation is gone after your kids use them up anyways…it’s like skipping a step and no stretch marks. Follow your strength..if you can play Russian roulette then keep the nipple..if you’re going to live in anxiety…let it go. I love you and whatever you choose is right. As man of my friends who are rooting for you say…you can live without a lot of body parts, but we can’t live without the body.

  4. PJ Says:

    Hello Gwen, I met you at the Land of Oz when you were playing Dorothy and I was Glinda. I am so sorry to hear what you are going through and wanted to let you know I am thinking about you. My mom is a two-time breast cancer survivor and has been cancer free for 11 years. You can beat this too! When my mom had her first breast cancer (23 years ago) she was not given the option to remove both breasts. In fact, her Dr. told her they could not remove the healthy breast as a preventative measure. She ended up having to go through it all again 12 years later. Times have changed now and women are faced with having to make difficult choices. But always remember, you will still be you! You will still be strong and pretty! People (including guys) will love you for you! (And if not, they are so un-worthy anyway!) Best wishes on your surgery and I will be thinking about you and following you, along with Billy.

  5. Tere Says:

    Gwen, leave your right tit at the hospital with it’s twin. I know this is your decision, and just this morning I was wondering why the double mastectomy. But after reading the blog, I feel differently. Who needs to go through this twice? Not you, sweet girl. I do love you and am looking forward to all the great things you’re going to be sharing with the world; sans tits.

    From my 57-year-old perspective, I’d LOVE to have perky, perfect-looking breasts the rest of my life. My boobs dropped like my mama’s did. They look like a salami at the deli. I can’t believe I have my mama’s boobs!! Still, I know, they’re mine. I love them. Even though they give me back problems and I’ve thought about having them reduced. But, other than breast feeding and stimulation, the only thing you’re losing is rapidly growing cancer cells. F*ck ‘em! They’re trash. Kick ‘em outta you!

    I agree with Tara, you really don’t need the anxiety…and it will be there not only for you, but for everyone who loves you. We all wish we had lives that allowed us to come to ABQ to nurse you back to health. I’m just happy that so many of your dearest friends will be there to love on you and laugh with you.

    As I type this and look at the amazingly beautiful young woman smiling up at me, a smile comes over my face. Here’s a hug and a tear — not for sadness but because I’m SO happy we found our way to friendship!! Who’d a thunk it! I’m blessed by your friendship, girlie. Love you!

  6. Krista Says:

    Beautiful Gwen, Your tits ARE lovely (I’ve been in enough costume fittings to know) and you will still be lovely without them. We heard that you made the choice to let them go and so we say “bravo”. For whatever choice you made would have been the right one for you. We are sending huge beams of glowing light and prayers out to you. Godspeed! Love, Krista (& Michael, & Greg)

  7. Tere Says:

    Gwen, sending love to you as you prepare for surgery. You are so Loved by so many.

  8. Jacque Says:

    Been there,Done that. Worring over the wrong stuff. As a vet of this sprocwess, I am happy to inform you that you still will have nipple sensitivity only no nipple. You can , however still feel the nerve sensations. You will feel the cold just like you had a breast. Even cold. About breast feeding, I’ll bet that you would have chosen the convience of bottle feeding anyway. Small sacrifice for thhe joy of seeing the sun rise and/or set for the rest of your life, feeling the wind in your hair, celebrating birthdays and having a child to bottle feed. Without the surgery, none of this is guaranteed.


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