With the exception of my first 10 years of life, this is a question that I have pondered every decade of my life thus far.
When I was 13, my aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatment was successful and 30 years later she continues to maintain her NED (no evidence of disease) status.
When I was 19, my mom received her first diagnosis of breast cancer. This definitely created the internal questioning about whether or not my boobs were safe.
When I was 25, my mom’s breast cancer returned as metastatic. She died 11 months later. In the depths of my grief, the concern for whether or not my boobs were safe grew.
When I was 30, my PCP recommended genetic counseling. I was eligible for testing, which I declined because in the depths of my grief I knew I would want a clear answer. I worried that if I knew I had a mutation, I might decide to not become a mom because of the sadness I felt at losing her so young. I decided to sit with the uncertainty of whether or not my boobs were safe.
When I was 40, I found out that I did indeed have the BRCA2 genetic mutation, after being diagnosed with Stage 3a breast cancer. I finally had my answer, my boobs were not safe. I did not regret that I kept them for as long as I did. After all, I had been blessed with becoming a mom and being able to breastfeed my kids.
Now I am 45, and I am facing this question once again, but from a different angle. I finally decided to pull the paperwork on my foobs, to see if my new boobs are on the recall list because of the increased risk for lymphoma. Unfortunately, they are.
Now I’m faced with the dilemma, my boobs may not be safe once again. Do I take action? Do I wait and see? Will I blame myself if I get lymphoma? Do I want to face surgery again? Do I go flat? Do I take a chance on a different type of implant? Do I go for a more extensive surgery? If I take no action and I get cancer, did I squander the privilege of having choice? On and on, the onslaught of questions come.
I’m tired of wondering if my boobs are safe. How about you? I’ll give myself this moment to honor how I feel. Tomorrow I will begin the conversations I need to have to face this uncertainty once again, because…
-Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, and a former oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing emotionally from cancer. Through Creative Transformations, she works with people in person and online to offer the self assessment tool, cancer coaching, an Art as Therapy program,virtual workshops, and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss a blog and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.