Why I Skipped Breast Reconstruction Surgery After Surviving Cancer

surgical toolsI still vividly remember the summer between second and third grade, when every day I was off and running through the neighborhood with the other kids, getting hot and sweaty and quickly peeling off my shirt to continue the day topless. It was only when a neighbor commented that I should enjoy it while I could, because this was likely the last summer I could get away with doing that, that I realized changes were a'coming.

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While it wasn't that quick, it was just a few years later that I was picking out a training bra. I never did develop that much, topping out at about a 34B, give or take, but there was always enough to require a modicum of coverage.

As I got older, and with the advent of the T-shirt bra, I became a bra connoisseur -- my collection included a few sporty racerbacks, some lacy ones with (ahem) a little extra padding, the requisite black and red ones, plus a few that were strictly functional.

Then, in 2002, I had breast cancer. First, one of my breasts had to go. Then, about six months after I finished chemo and radiation, I opted to have the remaining breast removed as a preemptive strike against a potential breast cancer recurrence.

More from The Stir: The One Thing I Wish I Had Done Differently While Battling Breast Cancer

Before both my first mastectomy and my prophylactic mastectomy, I was offered the option of getting a plastic surgeon in the mix. During the days leading up to the first mastectomy, I was still reeling from a cancer diagnosis and two surgeries practically back to back, so inviting a plastic surgeon to join in was the last thing on my mind.

The second time around, I did give it some thought.

I'm not a fan of anesthesia, and apparently the feeling is mutual, because I have never not had a terrible reaction to the stuff. Reconstruction requires at least two surgeries, and that's if all goes well. If there are complications, all bets are off. Plus, for a 31-year-old, chances are the "bags" would have to be changed once or twice -- which means more surgeries.

Those potential reconstruction complications really weighed on me, too. I had been attending a breast cancer support group, and several of the women there had undergone reconstruction. Their stories weren't selling me. Infections. Pain. Swelling. Drains for weeks. My response? Thanks but no thanks.

I was (and still am) happily married to a wonderful man who, thankfully, was never a "boob guy" to begin with. During the decision-making process, he was equally worried about potential complications and future ramifications.

Today, I'm quite happy with my unreconstructed chest. I opt not to use breast forms, so I just avoid certain clothes (strapless, mainly) and throw a tank under most v-necks because the plunge is deeper since I don't have breasts.

More from The Stir: I Survived Breast Cancer Because I Disagreed With My Doctor

The great thing about not getting reconstruction is that, whether next year or years from now, I always have the option to go for it. But right now, I can't imagine anything that would change my mind.

 

Image via Sherry Yates Young/shutterstock

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