So now that I am in the survivor category and so many have been down this breast cancer road with me, I still get surprised when people question me from time to time on stuff like terminology, etc. I take certain terms and such for granted, because I am the one living this day in and day out.
Yes I had a tumor. Yes it was rather large, almost too large for stage 2. Yes my breast cancer was hormone driven and invasive lobular. No I did not lose all my hair because I had 7 weeks of straight radiation -my margins and nodes were clean and my oncotype score was low. If I had to have had chemo, yes, I would still be looking Susan Powter-like about now on my head. And yes I am taking tamoxifen and yes the hot flashes and sleep interruption are for real.
And yes, the procedure I had, the lumpectomy ,was also referred to as a partial mastectomy. I had a significant chunk removed, no matter how neatly and nicely done.
A lumpectomy is a name for a breast conservation surgery. A breast conservation surgery in plain speaking terms means you aren’t getting it ALL cut off, they are saving part of it.
Allow me to quote breastcancer.org:
Lumpectomy is the removal of the breast tumor (the “lump”) and some of the normal tissue that surrounds it. Lumpectomy is a form of “breast-conserving” or “breast preservation” surgery. There are several names used for breast-conserving surgery: biopsy, lumpectomy, partial mastectomy, re-excision, quadrantectomy, or wedge resection. Technically, a lumpectomy is a partial mastectomy, because part of the breast tissue is removed. But the amount of tissue removed can vary greatly.
All of my doctors, including the founder of BreastCancer.org Dr. Marisa Weiss have referred to my surgery as a partial mastectomy and lumpectomy. Trust me, you don’t screw this up. And if you are anal like I am, you keep a notebook.
It is easier to keep your head wrapped around this breast cancer thing with the word “lumpectomy”, but some days even now, when I look in the mirror this is hard. Some days I just feel ugly. I don’t see the beauty of my survival, I see breasts that now are unbalanced and go in two different directions. That is my reality post surgery, along with occasional fears of recurrence. My fear of recurrence is so great if I am being brutally honest that it paid a large factor in my resigning my job so I could reduce my stress, which is a very real factor in recurrence.
I also want to mention something else: if you think I am being hyper-sensitive I very well might be. The Tamoxifen screws with my body in several ways: new weight gain fears, anxiety, mood swings, sleep loss, hot flashes. Some days in the self-image department I am not doing so well.
It is really simple to tell a breast cancer survivor on breast cancer meds how to do things and share an opinion, but seriously walk a mile in our bras. Some days it is a down right pain in the ass. I just keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep on moving. My sweet man is my largest champion/cheerleader. I am so lucky he is in my life. His love is a blessing, and often when I am “in a mood”, it’s he who gives me that push when I need it.
Have a breast cancer free day all!!! But for the Grace of God go us all.
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The post-surgery reality is a tough pill to swallow. I struggle with that every single day, sometimes more than once a day, which makes it hard to get past what we’ve been through. Big sigh.