Rhode Island Monthly Breast Health 2013 : Page 5

SPE CIAL AD VER TISING SE C TION Talk It Out: The “B” Word Discussing mastectomies and breast reconstruction. by Carol Ann Donnelly fter my irst bout with breast cancer, I never really talked about what I had been through. I held fast to the old-time superstition that if I spoke the words “breast cancer” above a whisper, I would contract the disease again. And, if someone did happen to ind out that I was a breast cancer survivor — especially a man — I felt embar-rassed because on more than one occasion I found a guy or two look-ing at my chest and most certainly wondering, “Are they real or are they mammo-rex?” Even though I did what I could to avoid jinxing myself, my luck ran out and I found myself in that small percentage of women who are diagnosed a second time. I also found myself with some very big decisions to make regarding mas-tectomies and breast reconstruc-tion. Of course, well-meaning wom-en with healthy breasts were the irst to o er up unsolicited advice: “Oh just cut them o — you don’t need them anymore!” A snarky reply like, “You irst and let me know how that worked for you,” probably would have stopped those same women from showering me with their insensitive and ill-informed counsel regarding breast reconstruction surgery. Despite the superluous guidance offered by some people, I had to make these choices on my own. For me, the decision-making process to have bilateral mastectomies was brutal and painstaking. The decision to have reconstructive surgery was less so, but I wish I had had the opportunity to talk to people who had been where I was going. Fast forward almost a decade and women still aren’t talking about breast reconstruction. Perhaps it’s because they feel too embarrassed to ask questions, but every woman who has gone through reconstruction has felt that way. If I had a time 116 RHODE ISLAND MONTHLY A Of course they’re fake. machine, I would travel back eight years and ire a round of questions I was too afraid to ask back then. Fortunately, organizations like the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Re-source Foundation can connect women who are considering breast The real ones reconstruction surgery with women who have had similar surgery and nearly killed me! who are willing to talk openly about their experiences. It is very comfort-ing to speak with someone who can relate to what you are about to go through. It also helps lessen the burden of the unknown. Today I wear my two-time survivorship as a badge of honor and would shout from the rooftops that I’m a survivor, except I’m afraid of heights. And, when I catch a man looking at my chest after he inds out I am a breast cancer survivor, I look him squarely in the eye and say, “Of course they’re fake. The real ones nearly killed me!” ✛ l OCTOBER 2013

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