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.