What Does My Gut Know?

Last year on this day, I was at Magee Women’s Hospital getting my yearly mammogram.  I wasn’t nervous – I’d done this many many times and, because at the time I had just turned 36 years old, I knew I’d be fine.  Even though I am BRCA2+, I didn’t expect to even think about cancer until I was at least 40, and by then I knew I’d have had a preventative mastectomy and it would be a moot point.

After the mammogram, I sat in the waiting area while the radiologist determined if I needed to have any more films.  When the technician came to get me and said I would be having an ultrasound, my gut kicked into high gear.  I knew right then and there that I was in trouble.  And I was.  After some more films and an ultrasound, the radiologist showed me the areas of micro-calcification in my right breast, and I scheduled a biopsy.  There was no doubt in my mind what the biopsy would reveal.

Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  The biopsy revealed pre-cancerous cells (DCIS).  Nonetheless, as someone who is BRCA+, I knew that my life was about to change in drastic ways.

Since this day last year, I have had a bilateral mastectomy with DIEP reconstruction, a complete hysterectomy with oophorectomy and salpingectomy, and tomorrow I go in for what will hopefully be my last surgery – some nips and tucks to revise the original breast reconstruction.  Strangely, my gut is telling me this is a bad move – that I’m pushing things, I’m asking for too much.  After two perfect surgeries, why go in for more, especially when it’s solely aesthetic?  I feel like there’s too much of a chance for something to go wrong – my biggest fear, like the last two times, is the anesthesia – what if I just don’t wake up?  And what if I don’t like the result this time?   Do I go in for even more plastic surgery?

Regardless, I do feel like I need some closure with this whole thing.  So, I’m going to allow my brain to supersede my gut on this one.  As I did before my previous surgeries, I will use today to relax, listen to my pre-surgery guided imagery, and just enjoy the day.

Before I head in for the surgery, I do want to give a message to all (three) of my readers:  Anyone can manage his/her own risk of breast/ovarian cancer.  Genetic testing, genetic counseling, screening, surgery – whatever you choose, we all have the power to manage our own risk.  Doing so will save your life – it saved mine!

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3 comments

  1. You articulate feelings (of the gut & other places) that are universal & allow us “rethink” time. Because you are both emotionally & intellectually aware, you weigh your choices & make the best decisions you can. My gut tells me you’re safe to go ahead & you will wake up! As always, I’m wishing you the best. Love you.

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. You are stronger than you ever imagined you would be and an example to your fellow BRCA sisters. You will get thru this like you have all of the other surgeries – some short term pain for long term gain. From someone who knows 🙂

  3. Best of luck, today and tomorrow. I loved your last paragraph, with your recognition of the various paths of risk management that can be chosen on the BRCA+ journey. Each of us must find our own way, which may not look like someone else’s choices, but we can support one another regardless.

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