impossible choices

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to move forward with my BRCA situation. Since meeting with a plastic surgeon a few months ago, I hadn’t thought much about it. I go about my daily life just as I always have, unencumbered with the knowledge of this mutation. Sometimes life really is just the same as before I tested; I don’t think about it 24/7 anymore and because I’m still fairly young, the fear of cancer isn’t ever-present. But sometimes, I do start thinking about my plan. I’m a planner, and this is one of the biggest things I will have to figure out in the next few years. As anyone reading this knows, surgery has always been my #1 choice. I went from “no big deal, it’s just an operation” to “OH GOD I WILL BE DEFORMED FOREVER” to my more recent state of “surgery probably sucks, but at least it’ll be okay in the end.”

And then I got my head out of the sand and started realizing that, for most people, it’s not exactly “okay in the end.” Beyond the initial physical pain and discomfort of the surgical procedure, there is always a risk of complications. Being younger, it’s possible that some of them will be less likely to occur, but there are others you can’t avoid or prevent. It’s a gamble. Because I’ve always been fairly healthy (mutant status aside), I’ve been able to ignore the back-of-the-mind worries about complications, preferring to assume that my previous health will dictate my future health. Not quite rational, I know, but what’s the use in worrying about possible complications that may not even happen and are out of my control?

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot of stories about less-than-ideal results. It isn’t so much that I ever believed the “it’s just like a boob job!” cries of people who don’t have first-hand experience, but I hoped that things really would turn out well in the end. I’d held onto the belief that, because I’m young and healthy, my results would end up being almost as good as my natural body. Once I got past the initial shock of having to make such a change, I decided things would be just fine. I’d look normal again.

Yet more and more I’m reading about women, even those around my age, whose skin dies or whose scar tissue builds up or whose breasts are forever uneven or lopsided. Some of these things can – eventually – be fixed, but it’s after surgery upon surgery, and who wants to go through all of that? I’m struggling now with the idea of what I’ll do if that happens to me. Can I handle never looking the same again? Can I handle really, truly always feeling abnormal? For many people, life after surgery is much like life before BRCA – you just don’t think about it that much. I think a botched result or even a less-than-perfect result would be a constant reminder for me, and is that something I’m ready to risk?

Before surgery is scary. You have to plan, you have to worry, you have to wonder what things will be like. But at least there’s possibility. My fear is that after surgery, it’s just… over. It is what it is, you get what you get, and now you have to figure out how to deal with it. And until I think I can deal with a result I’m unhappy with, until I can deal with a life in a body I don’t like or appreciate the way I used to, I can’t let myself make any surgery decisions. As much as I really want to get it over with, I’m realizing that I have to cover all my bases and truly understand all of the risks first, and I have to be okay with whatever is going to happen.

I’ll get there, I hope. It just isn’t going to be anytime soon.

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3 thoughts on “impossible choices

  1. Wow, you are so brave. It’s so unfair that someone as young and vibrant as you has to think about these things, but you seem to be approaching the whole situation really well. I hope you eventually are able to make some solid decisions about the future (but I REALLY hope that we can tackle breast cancer so you don’t have to make those decisions).

  2. I feel the exact same way about it as you do. I want it, and I know it reduced risks leaps and bound but I just dont know if I cant deal with loosing my ladies. I never appreciated them through high school and now that I eventually have to make the choice to loose them forever I am quite found of them. and I heard your chest goes numb. is that really true? I can see how it could be. My jaw was numb after my wisdome teeth surgery in feb… actually it still is slightly, and I have learned to deal with it but its not the same as before and I miss feeling my face, although I know my jaw feeling will come back eventually. will the chest feeling come back? I think that is what scares me the most. So, I completely understand where you are coming from and take comfort in knowing you are out there feeling the same way as me.

    • It is true, unfortunately, that you mostly lose feeling. My mom went through all this a few years ago (but she actually had cancer so getting surgery was a no-brainer for her) and I’ve asked her about it… she said it isn’t as weird as I think. I’m completely freaked out by being numb – like, I hate getting cavities filled because of it – so I don’t really look forward to losing all feeling in my chest. 😦 I hear it can start to come back slightly, but it doesn’t end up the same and you do lose sexual feeling (even if you keep your own nipples).

      On another note, I had NO IDEA your jaw could be numb after wisdom teeth surgery. I haven’t had mine out (I only have two on top, as it is, and they aren’t really doing anything) but that freaks me out!

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