• Another 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 190 (Surgical Options: Lumpectomy vs. Single Mastectomy vs. Double Mastectomy)


    Saturday, January 17, 2015

    Run/ Walk/ Bike/ Elliptical (Today:  3.67 miles;  Running Total: 140.06 miles)

    Day 190 of *Another* 100 Days of Good Karma.

    You might be wondering why I’m only having a single mastectomy vs. a double vs. just having tumors removed. I’ve received this question more than once, so let me address it.

    Just having the tumors removed – called a lumpectomy – isn’t really an option for me.

    In addition to the two tumors in my right breast there is also 10 cm of calcified cancer in my milk ducts. My surgeon said she could try to remove the tumors and the calcification, but the surgery would leave me with a ‘severely disfigured’ (aka, ‘horribly mangled’) breast. If I chose the lumpectomy route, she also had concerns about being able to get all of the cancer.

    My surgeon said, “A mastectomy is really your only option.”

    I was convinced.

    Note:  When a surgeon says that, you should listen. 

    I’ve been asked if I’m going to have the other breast removed, too. The answer is no and here’s why.

    Even though there is no evidence of cancer in my left breast having a double mastectomy might seem like the ‘safer’ option. I mean, the right one went rogue, so the left one is guilty by association, yeah?

    But here’s the thing: The cancer in my right breast has already spread to the lymph nodes. Your lymph nodes run throughout your body. This means cancer cells could have already traveled anywhere in my body. They’re not just limited to the other breast.

    So I stand as good a chance of the cancer coming back in my liver or kidneys or colon or wherever as I do of having it come back in my remaining breast.

    So even though there’s no evidence of disease in my left breast, I sometimes wonder if a double mastectomy would make this transition easier.  Maybe it would make the girls more symmetrical. And it’s true, I wouldn’t have to worry about getting cancer in the other breast because there wouldn’t be any breast tissue left.

    But then I think of the loss of sensation and remember that removing my healthy left breast would do as much good as removing a random section of colon. Neither lowers my risk of the cancer coming back.

    A single mastectomy is as much a personal choice as it is my doctor’s recommendation. My surgeon said I don’t need a double mastectomy and I trust her judgment.

    So that’s why I’m having a single mastectomy. Removing the known cancer.

    And praying like hell that it never ever comes back.

    Today’s silver lining: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I’m so grateful I live in Houston, home to one of the premier cancer centers in the world. No one wants to have cancer, but at least I have internationally recognized experts in my back yard.

    What’s your silver lining today?  I love comments!

    Don’t want to leave a comment, but have something you want to share?  Send me an email at gettingthewordswrong(at)gmail(dot)com.


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2 Responsesso far.

  1. I have seen TV ads for the premier cancer center in Houston and I agree – you are fortunate to be near this wonderful center. Thanks for explaining the reasoning behind not having the left breast removed. I had been wondering myself. For some reason, I guess I never thought about you having a lumpectomy because you had shared so much already about your process for healing. I know women who have had different breast cancer treatments and I always appreciate the honesty that goes into sharing this information.

    Thinking about you and your upcoming surgery on Jan. 28. Prayers and blessings going over the airwaves to you.

    Marrianna in Flagstaff AZ USA

    • Meghan says:

      I’m learning that cancer treatment is far from a cut-and-dry process. Surgical options, chemotherapy, radiation and medication can be completely different from patient to patient. It’s so important to have a team of medical professionals you can put your trust in and who are willing to explain their decisions (even when it’s overwhelming). Thank you for the positive thoughts from Flagstaff! ~Meghan

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