Joyce Minor

Beating the monster one step at a time

This week I was scheduled to have an outpatient follow-up surgery that is part of the recommended reconstruction that follows bi-lateral mastectomy. But I really didn't want to do it. I argued with myself all the way to Tampa. Why should I go back to nursing surgical incisions and taking pain meds, when I'm finally past all that? Why should I make yet another trek to Moffitt Cancer Center? I'm not a spring chicken anymore. I don't go to a job every day where people see me and I need to look young and fit. I sit at home and write. Who cares if I'm shapely or even thin? So, why should I put myself through this surgery? Even my husband said it makes no difference to him. He loves me just as I am.
When I arrived at Moffitt and signed in, I was still unsure and I expressed it to the surgical nurse as she helped me prepare for the procedure. She smiled and reassured me that the surgery would be totally painless and I probably wouldn't even need pain medication afterward. That helped but I still was not convinced. The surgeon, Dr. Karen Wells, came in and smiled at me. She told me how great I looked and that she didn't even realize I was wearing a wig, it looked so natural. She said this procedure will really help me feel that I've conquered this disease. That I have my body back and I'm truly a survivor. I was feeling more amenable to the whole idea, but when she began by preparing several shots of local anesthetic and I realized I would be awake through the whole procedure, my dread renewed. Again, I asked myself, "Why am I doing this?" And the answer came into my head like an audible voice. "Because you're worth it. After all you've been through you deserve to feel whole again. You deserve to have a body you feel good about, not just okay about. You deserve to be you again, and feel good about it. It's not okay to just accept a damaged version of yourself as "good enough". So I looked at the ceiling, and at my doctor's confident smiling eyes, and told them about my new grandbaby, while she restored my body, and my soul, one big step closer to the me I used to be. I have friends who also are facing breast cancer and have chosen to forego complete restoration. I respect their decision, if that's truly what's best for their physical and mental health. All I would say to them is be sure. When you decide to pass on reconstruction surgery, make sure you're not doing it for the wrong reasons like just to save money or to avoid the recovery process. I have had virtually no pain. I had some slight discomfort the next day, but one Tylenol took care of it. And already I can look in the mirror and see restoration. As survivors we need to remember that recovery is a process. It doesn't happen all at once and it isn't over till it's over. We must continue the fight with every weapon available. One of those is friends who've been there and can encourage us. Another is trust in our doctors, who've faced this process in all its variations many times before. Talk to your doctor. Express what you are thinking and feeling. Don't stop treatment halfway through unless you're sure it's the right decision for you and your future. I know I've made the decision that's right for me. I am beating this monster one step at a time. And nothing is going to stop me now.