Tuesday, October 2, 2012

It Is Time

Ok, enough’s enough.

I’ve stalled long enough. 

I have actually opened Windows Live Writer half a dozen times in the last week to write this post, but every time I just sigh and click that little red ‘X’.

It’s not that I don’t want to share my latest news, it’s just that I don’t know exactly HOW I want to put it.  So I’ll just say write it-

I am having a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction in a little over two weeks.

Whew!  See, that wasn’t so hard!

But actually it was.  Extremely hard.  It has been a tough decision to make, and it has been a long time coming.  Let me start from the beginning…

When I was diagnosed, I was completely rocked…like, to the core.  I was so stunned that I could not even imagine what all was about to happen to me.  The first thing I remember thinking about was my kids.  First, are they going to have a mother to grow up with??  And second, how are we going to deal with this so our lives are shaken up as little as possible. 


So when we sat down with Julie and started discussing surgery options, I absolutely clung to the word lumpectomy.  I was in no way, shape, or form ready to deal with the possibility of having a mastectomy.  A lumpectomy was easier and would disrupt our lives less.  In my mind, and I remember thinking this, “having a lumpectomy meant that my cancer was not that serious.”  [Umm, hello, stage 3?! But I didn’t know that at the time.]  Having a lumpectomy meant an easier surgery, and that they would just remove the tumor and surrounding tissue and all would be well.  I didn’t give any thought to the future and how I would feel about things later, because I was just trying to get through each day, each hour, each minute.  I just wanted to get all this stuff over with as soon as possible and get our family’s lives back in order.  So, with Julie’s blessing, a lumpectomy it was. 

Fast forward two years and I started having doubts about not having a mastectomy.  “WHY didn’t I just do that THEN?”  I even had a phone conversation or two with Julie about it, with her telling me, “you can ALWAYS choose to have the mastectomy whenever you choose.  It’s not like it’s too late to change your mind.  But we are monitoring you very closely.”  That gave me some peace for a little while.IMG_5305

But as time went on, I found that that peace was disrupted every six months, right on cue, as I had to go for my scans.  Mammogram, MRI, mammogram, MRI…every.six.months.  I cannot even describe to you the anxiety I have thinking about those appointments.  We are there for one reason and one reason only- I KNOW they are looking for CANCER.  I literally thought I was going to throw up while I was waiting for my mammogram results a couple of weeks ago.  I was just waiting for them to come out and say, “Um, Mrs. Griffin, we need you to come back in here…”  I’ve done that before…and I don’t want to do it again.  And not to mention that I KNOW that those occasions are going to arise when they ARE going to find something benign, but those “little things” will require a biopsy just to be sure.  Especially with the MRI, which is a great screening tool, but is does have a higher rate of false positives.  I’ve already had one of those happen to me, which led to me having a MRI-guided needle biopsy just a year and a half ago.  I cannot even tell you how far down my stomach sunk when Julie called that day and said, “I’m fairly certain it’s nothing, but we have to check.”  Ughhhh, I could get sick now just thinking about it.  And then there is always the possibility of having a recurrence and having to do the mastectomy then, along with more chemo and whatever else I might need.  

So these scans are going to happen every six months.  For the rest.of.my.life. I’m only 34!  And I plan on living a long, long time, so this every six month scan game will be going on forever!  After my last mammogram, Jack and I sat down and I finally said, “I can’t do this anymore.  I have regretted not having the mastectomy for two years now, and this scan routine is the most nerve-wracking thing I’ve ever had to do.  I can’t live like this.  I’m done.  I’m going to call Julie tomorrow and talk to her about it.”  He was in complete agreement and had the exact same feelings I did.

And the rest is history.

She and Tim (my oncologist) fully understand and support my decision and that it makes perfect sense.  I know it really doesn’t change my actual overall recurrence rate (which, the last time I asked Tim was around 15-20%), but it WILL change my local recurrence rate…meaning I won’t have a recurrence in the breast (98-99%), because there will be no breast tissue.  I also know that there WILL be scans in my future if symptoms arise and something needs to be checked out.  But not on schedule…not every six months.  (Hopefully, gosh!)


We met with my plastic surgeon yesterday and she is wonderful.  She talked to us about all the options and talked with us about getting the surgery scheduled.  As of my last email this morning, it looks like surgery will be in a little over two weeks.  Julie will be performing the bilateral mastectomy and Dr. Tenenbaum, the reconstruction.  I am sad, nervous, and relived all at the same time.

I know this is a big surgery, but it will be so worth it when it all over.  I have always said that “you have to be your own advocate” and so I’m practicing what I preach.  I am doing what is right for me.  I can’t live my life in six-month intervals feeling like I’m just waiting for them to find a recurrence. 

Life is so much better than that!  And I’m looking forward to MOVING forward.



Caitlin said...

u are SOOOO brave my dear. and such a courageous fight u've put in so far and u are fully capable of handling this next challenge with just as much fortitude!! i'm going to be keeping u in my thoughts every day and kno that u've got SOOO many people supporting u!

MOJoe said...

Wishing you luck during this next step in your journey, Erica! You have clearly made your decision thoughtfully and carefully--and in cooperation with your amazing medical team! I will be thinking of you and praying for you in the coming weeks...I have no doubt "you've got this!"

MOJoe said...

Erica--Thinking of you as you travel this next step in your journey. You have clearly made a careful and thoughtful decision in cooperation with your amazing medical team. I will be thinking of you and praying for you the next several weeks. Girl, "you've got this!"

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