Age 46 at diagnosis (1998)
Age 48 in photo (2000)
I had a needle-directed biopsy/lumpectomy. Under mammographic guidance we went in with a needle-directed excisional biopsy in order to remove enough tissue to perhaps eliminate any further surgery. Upon completion of the biopsy it was felt there were no clear margins for assurance of cancer-free tissue. Therefore, we did another lumpectomy to achieve that goal. Unfortunately, we then discovered an invasive tumor which had the capability of traveling throughout my body. The next procedure was a sentinel node biopsy. The purpose was to determine if the cancer had traveled to other parts of my body.
By no means my favorite procedure, it took a lot of time and was not the most comfortable to endure. However, the great part is we were able to determine that my nodes were negative. Yahoo!!!!!! The next procedure was performed to achieve a clear margin for the invasive tumor. Yet another lumpectomy, but one that would clear everything away.
When faced with the recommendation of a mastectomy or the option of a lumpectomy my thought was, why opt for a final solution, if there is even a remote chance that a less drastic treatment might just handle it. I truly felt even after one or two procedures there may be other options available. And I would certainly be open to additional suggestions if it meant a less final solution.
Right lumpectomy, two re-excisions, right
sentinel node biopsy, followed by radiation therapy
Although quite pleased with the results, I certainly felt deformed. The indentation in my breast caused my nipple to face outward. I felt somewhat self-conscious. We visit nude beaches and I was a bit nervous as to how I'd feel when other people noticed. Over time my breast looks better and better. It has reshaped and reformed itself quite nicely. Although smaller than the other one, it is not too unsightly. Dr. Glenn did a remarkable job of maintaining continuity and shape.
I give as much time and effort as I possibly can to the community through volunteer opportunities with the YWCA, the shelter for abused women and children, and LETA, the Lancaster Employment and Training Association. These organizations strive toward the positive empowerment of women and children.
Margaret and I have a very physical relationship and I was concerned that she would feel different after the surgery. I was concerned she would be afraid to be a woman again.
I think my feelings regarding the surgery changed as the fear subsided and the emotional healing began. When she realized she could be the woman she was before, we were able to continue on with our plans and dreams for the future.
We always reassured one another we would get through this together. We would do whatever was necessary to see it through. We went to every treatment and procedure as a twosome, being significant participants in the decision-making process. We attempted to always communicate our true feelings, be they happy or sad. Having an additional person who contributes, relieves some of the pressure regarding doubts about the validity of your decisions.
Together we work, we play, we go on holiday, we spend our time with our loved ones. We enjoy bralessness and nude beaches together.
Photos courtesy of Show Me (2nd Edition), A Photo Collection of Breast Cancer Survivors' Lumpectomies, Mastectomies, Breast Reconstructions and Thoughts on Body Image, published by Penn State Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA. This book is now out of print.