I have a strong family history of breast and reproductive system cancers. Three years ago, I had bilateral simple mastectomies (preventive mastectomies) in hopes of decreasing my chances of getting breast cancer. I chose not to have breast reconstruction or implants. I am basically relieved and comfortable with my decision, although every time I look in the mirror I am still astounded by my lack of breasts.
As an RN, I have seen a number of women die of complications from breast cancer, and that’s led me to understand why I have no regrets for my decision. The only regret is that any woman would be in the position I was in of having to even consider such a decision. I am also sad sometimes, because I am a woman, but I don’t look like other women in certain ways. And, I feel a bit isolated, because I can’t talk about my decision and the resulting feelings with very many people.
My family and friends have been supportive and very helpful, although I did lose one friend who told me I was “self-mutilating” and to just wait until I got cancer before I made such a choice. It was a very difficult thing for me to hear, and made it impossible for us to continue to be friends.
But everyone else, whether they think they would have done the same thing or not, has at least been understanding and respectful of me as a person going through this. I think I’ll be adjusting to this for the rest of my life. It sure would be nice to have contact with other women who have had “preventive mastectomies,” particularly those who chose not to have implants or reconstructions.
During Breast Cancer Month, it would be nice to at least acknowledge that every woman is affected by the threat of breast cancer, whether she actually gets it or not, and that there is a considerable number of us who have been put in the position I’m in.
Not for a minute do I compare my situation to that of women with cancer, but so many close contacts with women and family members who’ve had it led me to consider my options and choose as I chose. I have no regrets, like I said, except for having had to make such a choice in the first place.