It has been a very exhausting week with my brain rarely still as it tried to process all the factors influencing my decision.
I have done a lot of talking to a lot of people about the decision. I have much gratitude to those people who have listened, counselled, commented and cared.
I really made up my mind the moment I was told that I had breast cancer again. One of my girlfriends, who is a very straight talker asked me what my initial reaction was when I found out ( after f*ck, f*ck f*ck) and it was; I want them both off.
The past week has been the consolidation of that. A bit like going shopping for a new dress - you really like the first one you try on but you have to spend the next 2 hours trying on a whole lot of others just to convince yourself that you really like it (ok you can always change your mind with a dress - not so easy with a double mastectomy)
I have also come to the realisation that even though I know that this is the right decision for me, it doesn't make it any less scary and I really have no idea how I will react when I look in the mirror for the first time and see my flat chest.
But I have absolute faith in my own resilience to deal with whatever I have to, as well as those closest to me.
My surgeon told me that he would agree to doing a double mastectomy, but that I had to write him a letter with the reasons why I wanted it done. He said that it was not for any legal reason but that it would help me clarify in my own mind why I was having it done.
Here is the letter I wrote him
Dear Dr Dave
When I first came to see you almost two weeks ago to talk about my diagnosis you told me that given the fact that this was a second diagnosis that I would have to have a mastectomy. I told you that I wanted both breasts removed.
You told me it was my anxiety talking and that I had to make decisions based on fact and rationality.
On my second visit – when you would have to agree my anxiety levels had dropped – we again talked about a double mastectomy. You counselled me that it was very big decision and that once done there was no going back. It wasn’t like cutting long hair – my breasts wouldn’t grow back (yes I could get some new ones but they wouldn’t be the original pair)
I signed the consent form for a single mastectomy, with the proviso that you would agree to do both. I had a week to decide and I had to write you a letter spelling out my reasons.
Well here they are.
The reasons I am choosing a double mastectomy are
- I don’t ever want to be in this position again, having to make these decisions
- I have talked to a number of people who have had both single and doubles, and had the chance to look at the results of both and I honestly believe it is the right decision for me
- Balance and symmetry are important and I feel that only having one breast will always, to me, feel unbalanced.
- I honestly believe that if I only have a single, after a short time I will want to have the other removed, thus precipitating another round of decision-making and a second operation.
- My breasts do not define me
- I have no doubt that I have the resilience to deal with this decision – no matter how shocked I may be when I first look at my flat chest
- I want this done and finished and over so I can get on with all the living I have to do.
Remember, this is my second diagnosis and as you said there was a 90% chance it wouldn’t come back and it did.
Statistics and me don’t have a very good record.
So as you instructed me to say:
"Dave, lets get this show on the road."