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” I’m sorry for being selfish.  Cancer is affecting both of us more than I let on”

We had our first disagreement since my wife’s diagnosis with breast cancer and it ironically happened after meeting with the plastic surgeon.  Stepping back, my wife has been given the opportunity to have a surgery that is not offered everywhere to everyone.  In fact, it was not an option we were aware of until we met with our breast cancer surgeon.  4 years prior when my mother had breast cancer, the skin-sparing mastectomy was not readily offered.  When originally told my wife was eligible for a lumpectomy, we both felt relieved, yet my wife and I knew that this is something we wanted to be overwith since both of our mothers had chosen for mastectomies and were doing fine (hers ahad a double or bilateral and my mother only had a single).  We chose for a bilateral mastectomy given all the options and our doctor told us this was not unusual for people our age.

It had been about 10 days since my we met with the cancer surgeon and now we were meeting with our plastic surgeon.  The process was very complete and they had typed up our laundry list of questions (recovery time, how is it done, infections, time of surgery, pictures, etc.).  As a husband, you are wondering who is this guy?  What does he look like?  Is he some slick tanned golfer?  A pervert? Actually he was perfect.  A no-nonsense guy and very matter-of-fact.  Interestingly enough there were more people in our room for the plastic surgery consultation than in with the cancer surgery consultation.  This is where my diagreement with my wife occurred. 

I am in this strictly for my wife and mother of our children.  If she had decided against reconstruction that is her choice.  It is her boday and I’d be happy with it.  We’ve had many discussions on this topic in private and she knows I am with her every step of the way.  Before diagnosed with breast cancer my wife had been undergoing therapy for a bad back as caused by her size DD breasts.  Ironically a mastectomy would reduce that weight and hopefully help her.We had both come to the conclusion that if she wanted to have reconstruction that a smaller size would be great as long as it was good for her.  I told her that I was in agremement as long as it was up to her.

What many men don’t realize that this is a very serious topic and not the same as some starlet getting new breasts.  Check out this idiot’s article in Glamour that upset my wife today!  This is my wife and I am not some kid in a candy shop.  If you had asked me before I would have told you I’m a leg man.  BUT, my wife’s breasts are part of her identity whether she hates them or not.  Without them she’d probably be off balance emotionally as well as physically.  I think that the average large breasted women are more inclined to say that they want reconstruction (at a smaller size) after their surgery because they know what is is like.  I don’t know about smaller sized women who want bigger breasts (post-cancer surgery).

Anyway, my wife is the typical person who asks me questions all the time, but this is not the one time when I wanted her to do that.  The plastic surgeon and his team pointedly asked me questions several times and I deftly pitched them to my wife saying it is her decision.  I felt like the team was trying to make sure I wasn’t some “pig” husband trying to push his wife into getting a fake rack.  My wife kept coming back to me and saying.  Should I have a “C’ or a “D”? 

Look, “This isn’t like choosing shoes or trying on clothes”, I yelled at her afterwards. “These people are trying to make sure YOU want this and that I am not pushing you to do this.  I want YOU to show them this is your decision and not OURS!  The only thing I want is for you to be happy with whatever you get”.

To my wife’s credit, she wasn’t focused on my thoughts and predicament.  This was the normal way we made decisions everyday.  We have always been a 50/50 couple.  She didn’t realize she was putting me on the spot in front of the surgeon and his team.  She forgot about my feelings and the stress I was under as well.  I reminded her that because of costs, you can’t change your mind 50 million times when shopping like she does at Target.  I might not go to any follow up meetings with my wife and the plastic surgeon as I don’t want to be on the spot again and I don’t want to be scrutinized like that again.  Society does that to you.  I know there will be people in the future who will look at my wife and say, “Oh, she has a fake rack.  Her husband must be a pig for doing that”.  I even might have been one of those people.  Never again. 

Other than that the consultation did provide some eye-opening informations.  Overall it is only adding 45 minutes to the total surgery.  Each mastectomy takes about 2 hours.  His part takes 45 minutes.  Once the cancer surgeon is done with the first breast, and moves to the second breast, he can start.  Recovery should be two weeks and they say not to drive for 2 weeks because you likely can’t react for several weeks fast enough without hurting yourself.  Then (depending upon any radiation or chemo) you get pumped with saline in 4 weekly sessions.    After the sessions, you get the saline replaced with silicone in a separate procedure.  If there is radiation and or chemo involved, they wait until after the treatments to swap out the saline.  They say infections do occur within 20% of the patients and that is because of the radiation most likely.

The skin-sparing surgery my wife is having is the most interesting and newest part of the procedure.  it must be done at the same time as the cancer surgery.  It preserves the nipple and is done through a crescent shaped incision above the nipple.  In the past, this incision was done with the nipple removal.  This surgery thus does not require nipple reconstruction or tattooing.  Amazingly enough in looking at pictures provied by the pysician, he showed us some photos which were amazing.  in 2 of the 3 that he showed us, the woman had chosedn to get a lumpectomy and then later had to have mastectomies.  That sealed the deal.  It told us that my wife was making a very informed and yet not -so radical decision to have the bilateral mastectomy.

Next up: The MRI and genetic testing