After 2 years of my breasts being biopsied, poked, smashed, prodded and viewed by ultrasound and MRI, it came as no surprise. The last surgical biopsy turned into a partial mastectomy, and a diagnosis of breast cancer, stage 0. My choices were: 'treatment' of tamoxifen and radiation and decrease my risk of breast cancer by 50%; or to have a double prophylactic mastectomy and full reconstruction, as close friends have done, and pretty much elimate the risk altogether. I choose the latter.
Background on me: I am an only child. I watched both my parents get eaten alive by cancer (Mom- Uterine, Dad- prostate) in the past 10 years. I saw the all the awful things; The drugs, the insane side effects, the surgeries that were painful and difficult to heal, the slow wasting deaths. I didn't want to go through that.
I am lucky; through vigilant checks and rechecks, my breast cancer was caught at a non-invasive stage 0, which means the cells were becoming irregular and looking funny. Not full blown cancer, but about to be. Lobular hyperplasia & ductal carcinoma in situ was the diagnosis. So remove the breast tissue, and the cancer risk is... gone. Well almost. I am told my risk of breast cancer is now less than 1%!
I think the scariest part of all of this, was the thought of going through the medical system alone. "Isn't there any one with you?" was the standard response that I would get when the doctor would walk in the room. "Didn't you read my file?" was how I wanted to respond. "Both my parents are already dead of cancer, can you make me feel any more alone?!" I knew when the shit was going down, and I knew I had to go where I had a real support system; it had to be LA or New Orleans; I have close friends I can count on in either city, with the time to take care of me post surgery and the room to let me stay. New Orleans had an entire hospital dedicated to breast cancer treatment, specializing the very reconstruction I wanted done... 3 blocks away from my best friend's house. Done deal.
So, I traveled to The Center For Restorative Breast Surgery in New Orleans. They are the best, and the only hospital in the world devoted entirely to breast reconstruction... and they took a look at my finances and said "Miss Cynthia, don't worry about the money. Just get here so we can take care of you!"
I had a double prophylactic mastectomy with immediate DIEP flap reconstruction on July 10th 2013. Stage 2 was done October 7th of that year.
A PSA here for DIEP flap reconstruction-- when I started getting the feeling I would have to have a mastectomy, the thing that scared me the most was the thought of implants. Foreign bodies inside me; ones which would need replacement, ones which could possibly leak and cause a different kind of cancer. So when a friend re-entered my life who had been through all of this already, told me about the DIEP procedure, I knew it was a done deal. They simply take the fat from your stomach area and replace your breast tissue with it. The patient ends up breasts made of tissue the body won't reject, that are both natural looking and feeling. It is a very complex microsurgery, requiring thread that can't even be seen by the human eye, sewing tiny capillaries together. If it is not done at a hospital specializing in it, it can take 14-15 hours. My mastectomy and 1st stage of recon took 7-8 hours. It's all they do there.
Now I am at the end, the last thing I need to do: Stage 3.
Stage 3 is the only thing left between me and a normal looking body-- the tattooing of the aureola. As little as this seems... it's a big deal. It's The End. My breasts will look much like they used to. I will be able to look in the mirror without thinking about how awful my scars are. I might even be able to face the thought dating again!
If I raise anything towards my tattoing, it will be more than I have now. The truth of a single income household is that there is no room for anything besides rent and bills. I am slowly paying off Swedish for all the MRIs, ultrasounds, and various biopsies form 2011 & 2012/13.
ANY donation of ANY amount is welcome. Donations of Frequent Flyer miles help too!!
I have been so fortunate, with you, my supporters. Many of you are old friends; many of you, I've never met. My initial surgeries were all funded through this. I wish I could thank y'all individually, but the best I can do is thank you here. Just know that I mean it from the bottom of my heart.
My goal is to raise another $1000 to take care of this last stage. All of the money raised prior to this, has paid for stages 1 and 2.
Also know... I wish to help others. If you know anyone being faced with this, I am happy to give whatever advice and resources I can. I want as many people as possible to know about DIEP flap reconstruction. Message me or leave a note in the comments with your contact info!
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