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.