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Ovaries, Tubes and Tits... Oh, My! (Part 2)
Signs of Stress! OCD Strikes Hard!
Most importantly, let's clear the air if you have already read "Part 1"... I do not want to commit suicide. Phew! Actually, the shrink I began seeing recently asked if I ever considered committing suicide after having to deal with some, in my view, horrible news.
"I can't say I never did (consider suicide). After my sister died, I thought, maybe if I killed myself, I could be with her. But then I thought about all the movies I would miss." No really, I was being serious. Hey, I was only 12 years old when I thought that. I realized I had to show her I'm not totally nuts and added, "No, I would never do something like that. I have kids." That seemed like enough of an answer. If you're a parent, you'll completely understand the true depth of those three words, I have kids.
Her question about any potential plans to kill myself came quickly after her first ridiculous question, "Are you experiencing any anxiety?"
Am I experiencing anxiety? Hmm. First, a little history.
My sister had breast cancer about 15 years ago. She was only 32 at the time and her HMO was convinced the lump in her breast was nothing more than fatty tissue. Perhaps a cycst, but certainly not breast cancer. Yes, they insisted this was the case simply by talking with her over the phone when she tried to get them to approve a mammogram. A battle ensued for more than a month during which time our parents (my dad is an attorney), hired an attorney who specialized in dealing with just this type of "HMO wants to fuck you out of treatment that will save your life" case.
Why so much concern at only age 32? Ladies, you know when you go to the gynocologist's office and sitting on the table is that gelatinous fake boob containing various types of tumors? You're supposed to feel it, press into it, so you know what to detect when carrying out self exams. My sister had the marble-hard lump. The one in the fake boob you try to squeeze between your fingers like you're going to get a prize if it pops out of the fake boob. One day, my sister asked me to feel the lump in her breast and give her my opinion of whether or not she should be concerned. Upon barely pressing into her skin, I quickly drew back my hand like I was instinctively protecting myself from getting burned.
In the few weeks it took to get her an appointment to check her breast, that lump grew twice its size, another grew adjacent to it and yet another grew in the neighboring arm pit. Before we knew it, her doctors were telling her this aggressive cancer would likely take her life within six months and she should begin settling her life's details.
My parents refused to let cancer kill their daughter. USCF took over her care where she had her first mastectomy, powerful chemotherapy and eventually, an extremely painful bone marrow transplant. She beat the odds and she lived. She is now a breast cancer survivor.
At the time, my mom had been researching this new thing, genetic testing. She wanted me to get tested. I didn't want to know the results. I figured, how likely would I get it if my sister already got it. Stupid, I know, but I really didn't want to know. Not smart when you consider my dad's mother and sister both died of breast cancer.
This past year, my sister's cancer returned. A new cancer. Another breast cancer in the remaining breast. It was time to get tested.
In fact, we all got tested. My mom doesn't have the mutation. My dad does. He got it from his mother. We don't know if his father passed it to him as well.
I got tested, too. I still didn't want to know the results, but my sister getting struck twice is sort of like God kicking you in the head and saying, it's time.
Another time, I'll tell you about the horrible day I found out I have the BRCA gene mutation, but for now, the result of the bad news has been one surgery to take out my ovaries and tubes, and in May, I'm removing both my breasts. Anxiety? Most of the time I can't even think about the upcoming surgery -- an eight to 10-hour surgery involving reconstruction -- without my heart rate quickening and tears forming in my eyes.
Everyone has the BRCA gene, you know; just not everyone has the mutation. According to what I've read, it is the BRCA gene that blocks certain types of tumors from forming: breast, ovarian, colon and prostate (yes, men are affected as well). It's when the gene is mutated that your body doesn't fight off those tumors from forming.
I've already had my kids and my 10-year-my-senior husband was getting too tired to want any more children. Therefore, it was okay to get the ovaries removed. Menopause sucks, but the odds were against me if I didn't take action against a cancer that is difficult to detect. Moreover, once you know you have ovarian cancer, you'll likely die. One intern at UCSF told me, whereas most women have a one in 60 to 70 chance of getting ovarian cancer, because of this gene mutation, I have a one in three chance.
Breast Reconstruction Options in 3D
As for the breast cancer, my chances of getting it were up in the 90-something percent range because of my family history. Basically, I felt like I was fucked. But I knew I didn't want to go through all the chemo my sister went through and suffer through all the side effects she deals with on a daily basis (including a never-ending menopause complete with nasty hot flashes). I knew I had to take action and begin the process of cutting off sections of my body if I was going to watch my kids grow up.
Back in October 2008, I was scheduled to do the ovaries, tubes and tits all at once. I'd have a TRAM flap reconstruction. I couldn't do it all and maintain my sanity. ANXIETY! I couldn't talk about the procedure without crying. I couldn't even talk to the scheduling lady at UC without crying about the impending appointments. You know your mind isn't in the right place when you can't talk about appointment times without blubbering like a baby. Certainly, that was no way to approach an extended period in the operating room and an extensive recovery time (about three months before you feel like taking on regular activities).
So now, if you'll return to my blog again, I will tell you more of my story. The countdown has begun and my big surgery is little more than two weeks away. I'll tell you about my first ever full-blown anxiety attack. I'll tell you more about what it was like to get the gene test news. And I'm even planning on documenting my post-TRAM flap experience. And why am I writing about all this crap thrown into my life? Because when I tried to get a clear picture of what my body was going to go through and what the recovery would be like, I couldn't find enough clear information. I only got the "There's no way to tell because everyone is different" speech. Duh! But there must be a pattern. Okay, I'll wait to tell you more. Please make comments and let me know what you'd like to hear about.