Getting Something Off My Chest: A Mother and Daughter’s Opposing Outlooks on Mastectomy

November 29, 2007 by  
Filed under CANCER

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I’m still stuck here on the couch sick, but I’ve got great news — because she had such a great time guest posting for me last week, Amanda is back to Battling Cancer for another essay.  Having worked directly across her benchtop space for years, I’ve always told her that she’s got way too much personality for her stodgy lab environment.  Maybe I can talk her into joining the ranks of bloggers who actually are encouraged to have a good time on the job!  At the very least, be expecting her and her unique views as a regular contributor for the new content makeover that we’ll be rolling out soon.

I am one of the lucky persons out there who absolutely adores her mother. She is not only my mother, she is my best friend and the one that I turn to when life is just crumbling around me. About 10 years ago, my mom had to have a hysterectomy to correct some problems associated with the birth of my sister (she was messing things up even way back then [Ed. note — just kidding!]). I didn’t really give it much thought until my grandmother developed breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy. To me, it is a no-brainer. Cancer in boob, get rid of boob. End of cancer = happy me.

The surgery was extremely upsetting to my mom, though. She swore to me that if she developed breast cancer, she would not get a mastectomy, no matter what the prognosis was. She said that if she were to lose her breasts, too, there would be no parts of her left that made her a woman. Naturally, I sat there in shock. How could my mom not opt to save her life? They are just breasts! You can survive without breasts! In this day and age, they can replace them, and make them perkier to boot. I even offered to go through the procedure with her. I would gladly give up both my breasts to save my mom. No matter how much I argued, she would not back down, and to this day maintains that in the event of cancer, she will proceed without the mastectomy, even if it means certain death. I cannot comprehend how anyone would take this kind of gamble with their life, but the ultimate choice is hers, and I have to respect that.

So it was with a heavy heart that I read about the increasing occurrence of breast cancer patients opting for double mastectomies after their initial diagnosis. Most breast cancers are treated with by lumpectomy, which involves the removal of the cancerous growth and preserving the surrounding breast tissue. There is a new trend, however, of women undergoing surgery to remove both the affected breast as well as the matching, healthy one as well. Young women are most likely to choose the double mastectomy, in the hopes of reducing the risk of the cancer spreading and improve their chances of survival. While this option reduces the chances of cancer developing on the opposite side, it does not eliminate the possibility. This option also provides a peace of mind for the patient, who may feel relief at the thought of not having to hear the news that they have breast cancer ever again.

The American Cancer Society predicts estimates that 178,480 women in the U. S. will develop breast cancer this year, and about 40,460 will die because of it. Given those odds, I say “Take the boobs!!! Get rid of them, and when I undergo reconstruction, I will get plastic ones that are bouncy and perky”. A bad joke, I know, but knowing my own family history of breast cancer, I will not hesitate to undergo a double mastectomy in the event I develop cancer. I will be a woman in spite of the lack of bosom.

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