What do Wanda Sykes, Judy Blume and I all have in common? We've all been diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) otherwise known as breast cancer stage 0. Stage 0? If you're going to get breast cancer, I guess this is the kind you want. I'm not even mad about it. I guess I think I'm lucky. So please don't say you are sorry.
Wanda Sykes said she kept it quiet because she didn't want to become the cancer "poster child." "How many things could I have? I'm black, then lesbian," she joked. "I can't be the poster child for everything! At least with the LGBT issues we get a parade, we get a float, it's a party. I was real hesitant about doing this because, I hate walking. I got a lot of walks coming up!"*
I love Wanda and her attitude. Like her, with the support of my doctors, I've decided to eliminate the enemy as much a possible with a double mastectomy and same-surgery reconstruction. I'm not dancing with this devil. Breast cancer affected my maternal grandmother at 39. It affected my maternal aunt at 41. They both survived. My mother was not so lucky. She died of uterine cancer at age 46. I was 15 years old. I'm only 36 now.
What I've learned in the few weeks that I've been dealing with this is that the treatment options are very personal to each woman. It really depends on the individual's age, risk factors (including family history) etc. I'm so lucky that I was referred to the high-risk cancer clinic at the University of Iowa a few years ago. But I will tell you that having mammograms (squeeze away!) and breast MRIs (face down in a tube for 45 minutes while it sounds like a car alarm is going off) every six months is not fun. Even less fun was the stereotactic breast biopsy which I likened to being trapped face down by your breast, unable to move any part of your body for 40 minutes, while they shoot a needle the size of drinking straw into you. If I would have chosen a more conservative treatment (lumpectomy and radiation), my life would forever involve these tests waiting for it to come back. That was not for me.
Don't get me wrong, I love my breasts. They have been with me on Joe's ledge when I danced the night away, they held up my strapless wedding dress and they have fed both my children. But this graphic says it all.
While I wrote this, Chris gave the kids a bath (like he always does) and then he folded the laundry. And the reality is that while this is a deeply personal decision, it will affect many, many others -- especially my family. The recovery involves three to six weeks of no lifting anything heavier than five pounds and lots of taking it easy. We've been so blessed with offers to help. A good friend is helping me organize it all. I'm going to post updates on this blog, so feel free to sign up to receive e-mails when it's updated if you like.
I've also enrolled in a clinical study at the University of Iowa. I did it for a lot of good reasons, but most of all for Lucy. This affects her now too. My surgery is Oct. 10. It's one day before she turns 6. Hopefully, I'll be coming home that day. She said it's okay because I'll probably be bringing her a present, "as long as it's light" she added.
So, we will end on a cinquain that Lucy wrote about a year ago. Our first poem together. Hopefully there will be many more poems in the years ahead.
Barks, Eats, Fetches
I Like That Dog Licker
*Note: In the video, Wanda said this surgery reduced her chance of breast cancer to 0% when it's actually lowered to 5-10%.
This post originally appeared on So Mad I Started A Blog.
This piece is part of the 'My Breast Cancer Story' project. To learn more and submit your story, click here.