The Breast Care Unit in the CUH is a Center of Excellence. So every Thursday morning, all the doctors have a meeting and each patient is discussed. Every doctor gives their opinion and the best course of action is decided upon for each individual patient. How I longed to be a fly on the wall when they discussed me!
On that Friday, my aunt Delia drove me to Cork. It was nice to have female company and she was a great support to me. My cousin Jennifer also joined us in CUH for my 2pm appointment. We had a great laugh waiting for me appointment and I was in really good form. We all went in to meet Professor Redmond, Dr. Norma and Nurse Norma, and there was a nice atmosphere.
And my fate was revealed. The doctors recommended that I should have a mastectomy. In my situation, they felt that this would give the most successful result. I suppose, as a woman, it is not the news you want, but when it becomes life and death, vanity goes out the window! It can be likened to an amputation in many ways. I was going to loose my right breast, forever. For once, I did not cry in the consultation room. Mentally, I was getting stronger, and I just wanted to know the facts.
The doctors suggested that I should get a skin sparing mastectomy, with the possibility of also sparing my nipple. I could have immediate reconstruction, or delay it. The reconstruction they recommended for me was Latissimus Flap, which is basically taking a muscle from your back and relocating it in your breast. And finally, I may or may not need an implant to balance it out with my other real breast. Also, in the operation, I might need an Axillary Node Clearance, which is taking the nodes out from under your arm. It would be a 6 hour operation and I would be in hospital a week.
It was a huge amount to take in. And it still had so many uncertainties. It was major surgery. I asked Dr. Norma to write everything down for me. I did not have to decide there and then obviously, but on key issues, I was already certain. I wanted the mastectomy and reconstruction done at the same time. I just could not face coming home without my right breast. I had googled mastectomies and I had seen the scar when the full breast is removed. And I knew that I would not be happy looking at myself in the mirror every day looking like that. I would find it so traumatic. I was only 35 and I wanted to look pretty. For myself primarily.
If I was going down this route, I would firstly need to have a nipple biopsy. Before they could try to save my nipple, they needed to see if it was clear of cancer. If it was not, it would have to go. Suddenly I loved my poor little nipple all the more! And there was still no guarantee that it would work. My nipple could fall off 10 days after the operation if it did not take to the new muscle tissue underneath. Can you imagine that! But I was again willing to take the risk. The nipple saving surgery is relatively new too, so it was also very interesting to the doctors to see how it would go.
And finally, I needed to have a Sentenial Node Biopsy before the big operation. The results from the lump under my arm were inconclusive so they needed to take 4 of them out and examine them, before they could decide whether or not I needed the Axillary Node Clearance in the big operation.
It seemed a lot of information to take in. I was so glad Delia and Jennifer were there with me. Sometimes the doctors tell you so much, it is hard to remember all the details yourself. So all the way home in the car, if I could not remember what the doctors had said, I was asking Delia.
I still could not believe that I was going to have a mastectomy. It was surreal. But it did give me a focus. I can deal with any situation when I know the facts. It is the fear of the unknown that I do not like. And I was delighted that they could save all my breast skin. The icing on the cake would be if they could save my nipple too. Not to mention the implant! I always wanted implants, I just never thought it would be like this! ;-)