Sunday, October 21, 2007

Pulling an Ostrich on myself

You all know about the phrase to "Bury your head in the sand". Fortunately for their species, ostriches aren't that stupid, but it works for me!

I wouldn't hide my head. Some other body parts of mine most definitely.

Tuesday is looming, and I'm really scared. Confused and emotional. Trying to work, but concentration is not on the menu today.

The day we got confirmation that my mom had the BRCA2 gene mutation, I thought I might go with the oophorectomy but nothing more. Maybe, (can you see how small the maybe is?) a hysterectomy too so I won't have to handle the bleeding side effects of the hormone replacement therapy. Not to mention the fact that that in itself can cause breast and ovarian cancer - between the devil and the deep blue sea it seems!

Well that was then. I discussed it with two really good friends, and both of them said NO to surgery at all. For various reasons, all sounding extremely good and convincing at the time. I was calm and sure: I'll deal with breast cancer if and when it happens to me. Until then I'll do my self-exams, go for an annual mammogram, and change my lifestyle for the better.

Again, that was then. When my mom almost died two weeks ago, everything changed. Even though the doctors don't want to confirm our suspicions (due to professional ethics I presume?) we are almost certain the pleural effusion was caused by her chemotherapy (taxotere). She suffered from extremely painful rashes on her hands, her nails (hands and toes) was equally painful and started falling off a few weeks ago. Not to mention her shortness of breath and utter exhaustion.

Yes she is very sick, and yes chemo is everything but a walk in the park. But seeing her suffer so much, has changed my mind yet again. Right now I would cut off and out everything that could remotely increase my chances of getting breast cancer. IF I have that damned gene mutation.

I can see it for the emotional reaction it is. But I also understand for the first time why women would gladly get rid of their breasts, uterus and ovaries to be safe from cancer. Despite the trauma the surgery undoubtedly cause. Not to mention the financial implications and the physical pain. The loss of all the body parts that makes them female. (Being infertile I've been through the argument that your femininity doesn't lie in your body parts or ability to procreate a million times - this post is not about that)

Lately my body feels more like an enemy than anything else. My ovaries, uterus and I have made friends even though I felt they let me down years ago when I needed them, but now I'd rather not think of them. It's not all that difficult. The Mirena helps me to forget that they're there.

My breasts are a whole different problem though. God has blessed me with a little bit more (uhm too much if you asked me!) than I wanted in that region. But with age came acceptance, and I actually started to like them. They are full of flaws but they are mine, and even though I never wear anything in public that would announce my cleavage to the world, I secretly adored that part of me.

It's October, and it's breast cancer awareness month, and just about everywhere I look the message shouts out: "Look at your breasts, touch them, feel for lumps, look for changes, go for a mammogram etc etc etc."
(While we're on the October month subject - when last did you have a mammogram? Make an appointment TODAY. And don't do as I do, do as I say!) But I don't want to touch my breasts. I don't want to see them either. I want to ignore them, and maybe, just maybe they will go away quietly.

Forget it. They are in my face. Not literally, thank goodness no, but it's as if they have a life of their own lately. Asking for attention. I'm sure they expand on purpose just so I'd brush against them whenever I move my arms. So I'd be reminded they're still there. And then they get smaller again just to make me worried that something is really wrong. They take turns you see. One day Lefty itches, the next day Righty. Innocent itches don't worry, just like my nose or some other body part. I covered them in body lotion, quickly, so I could put them back underneath my clothes and try to hide from them again.

On Friday they started a new game. A nasty one. Sharp pain shooting through them. Like a thunderbolt (no not THAT painful!) - quick and gone again. Never in the same place twice. Happened about 8 times. But I'm not stupid. I know it's my mind playing tricks on me. This is absolutely psychosomatic. It's because they are the center of my worries and anguish waiting for the results on Tuesday.

I probably won't go for prophylactic surgery if it turned out I do have the BRCA2 mutation. (That's how I feel this second, but I retain the right to change my mind as often as I want to on this one!) On the one hand because I'm too scared (and maybe because my medical aid won't pay for it) and on the other hand because I really believe that God is the captain of my life's ship. He will take care of me, and give me the strength to handle whatever rough seas He steers me through.


Waiting Amy said...

Oh Karen, I can't imagine facing this decision. As a fellow "well-endowed" girl, I often thought I'd jump at the chance to lessen my load. But not under those circumstances, not with all that emotional turmoil.

I can understand how your thoughts change from moment to moment. Don't pressure yourself to decide. Listen to the counselors, discuss it with family and trusted friends, ask for second opinions from drs you trust. Take as much time as you need.

Thinking of you during this tough weekend. Hope your mom continues to get good news.

Changing Expectations said...

I am so sorry to hear about you going through all of this. I hope that the results for your Mom and yourself come back okay. I am thinking about you both and will say a prayer for you.

Pamela Jeanne said...

So sorry you have to even consider these sorts of impossible questions. Have you (or could you) get the genetic test for the BRCA2 mutation yourself? Knowing if you possess it would at least give you a better sense of whether the radical surgery would be necessary. I would be reluctant to undergo any surgery without a really good sense that it was absolutely positively essential. (And from another -- late blooming -- but fairly well-endowed chick, I can totally appreciate your attachment to the girls -- would hate to loose mine, too). Now really hoping you get some good news on Tuesday.

Fertilize Me said...

wow - o wow. everyone has said it all so well. - just wanted you to know that you are in my thoughts

Kami said...

I can't imagine facing this decision. I hope, hope, hope you don't have the gene.

I had a friend of a friend who found out she had the gene and she was planning on having everything removed. I was horrified. But once it sunk in, I realized living with the unknown would be horrifying too.

My thoughts are with you.

Deathstar said...

BUGot my reminder for a mammogram in the mail last week.....Mmmm. Will call tomorrow.

Will be chanting for your mum.

Geohde said...

Karen, you're fealing with so damn much right now.

Really, really wishing all the best for you here,



Bea said...

I've still got my fingers crossed you're gene-free. There's a good chance of that (unless I'm missing part of your family history). The other decision - well, that's a whole new bag of tough.


Summer said...

It sounds like you are going through a lot right now, and understandably so. I wish there was more I could do than say that I am hoping for good news.

Schatzi said...

Unless I am mistaken, you are getting your results right about now. Sending you good luck from across the pond. Will be anxious to hear your news.