Yesterday, I was in shock that I had a mammogram. Why? Because I had a Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy over 2 years ago and thought that one nugget of benefit was no more painful mammograms with my BRCA 2 status. Ever. Mammograms don’t seem to bother most women, aside from the pressure of having your breast pressed like a panini and the awkwardness of it all, but mine used to provoke tears, like rain dripping down a window pane.
It all started with a lump…
I discovered it, or perhaps rediscovered it late summer. I had remembered a pea-sized lump in that area after my mastectomy surgery and diligently massaged the area daily, in the hope that it would disappear. At the time, it shrunk and that seemed good enough for all involved. It’s common to develop internal scar tissue from surgery, yet it can be hard to decipher it from a small tumor. Plus, when I started trying to break it down again, it began to hurt and almost swell in size. An appointment to my oncologist kept me waiting a few months.
Apparently, I wasn’t too worried, or I would have pushed for one sooner. She recommended an ultrasound to get more information, which meant more waiting. When the day finally came, the ultrasound was not conclusive enough. After sitting back in the waiting area, I was summoned to go to the mammogram room. Wait, what?! I was nervous because I wasn’t sure if it would impact my DIEP Flap reconstruction; my breasts were created from my own tissue, called autologous, yet they had yet to be smooshed.
The technician assured me that my breasts would be fine. And while it still hurt, my newfound numbness helped cut down on the discomfort. Then, back to the waiting room. A while later, I was called to a small room, where a doctor introduced himself. Instantly, I remembered only meeting doctors during procedures when there’s a problem.
This would have been a moment for fear to overwhelm me as if I were catapulted off the back of a large ship, left in its vast wake—but it didn’t. Fear somehow failed to appear, as if it was off taking a well-deserved hiatus.
I have heard the cancer news numerous times from family members and friends and know that it’s a moment one never forgets, but I wasn’t worried. Not that I think my surgery made me immune to cancer; I actually think the opposite is true with women being diagnosed after prophylactic surgeries. Having spent so much of my pre-mastectomy months in fear, I have begun to heal from the whirlwind of worry and start living more joyfully while I am actually cancer-free.
As I calmly sat down, he expressed good news. He simply wanted to explain why he ordered the mammogram, which helped establish that the lump, which contained white edges like a tumor, now appeared to be fat necrosis—a result from the surgery itself.
Removing my breasts helped release my grip on fear.
This current ordeal revealed that while mastectomies lessened my chance of breast cancer, the surgery didn’t shield me from problems. My decision showed me that outside of some health changes, and annual medical monitoring, I essentially have no control over whether I develop cancer or any other disease. Somehow, I had to go through a bilateral mastectomy to realize that perhaps I didn’t really need to go there after all, for peace of mind.
So, what can I control?
My unhelpful thoughts.
Therefore, I intend to start living my life, right now, as fear-free as possible.
Everything you want is on the other side of fear.
From which fears do you wish to free yourself?