One out of eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year. Did you know that breast cancer surpassed lung cancer in 2021 and is now the most commonly diagnosed cancer around the globe?
As scary as those statistics sound, life is still a beautiful experience with all the ups and downs. I look back at myself one year ago on October 19th, 2021 the day I had my double mastectomy (DMX) to aesthetic flat closure (ACF) surgery to fight breast cancer, and I realize the woman I was then is not who I am today. Breast cancer has given me more clarity in life and what it means to be healthy.
When I reflect back on my diagnosis of breast cancer that I received on August 31st 2021, I realize I had one of the best possible scenarios in terms of breast cancer. My cancer was invasive ductal carcinoma, progesterone and estrogen positive. Before I was diagnosed, I didn’t know there were different types of breast cancer. I learned some are more aggressive than others and that I was considered fortunate to have this type. I was 38-years old and I thought how is this possible to have breast cancer this young? I thought I was a healthy person. Looking back in terms of my lifestyle it’s easier for me to comprehend now.
First of all, I had no idea that as a woman if you drink more than two alcoholic beverages a day it increases your risk for breast cancer by 30-50%. How was I unaware of that statistic until I had cancer? After being diagnosed it spiraled me into the process of trying to pinpoint how I got cancer. The more I informed myself by reading information on the foods we eat, our exposure to EMF radiation ie cell phone towers, stress, and just how the body functions, it really became clear to me that I was not living an optimal lifestyle for my overall health as much as I thought I was.
For four years I lived in downtown Huntington at the West Virginia Building. I was single for two of those years, and going for a casual drink at the restaurant downstairs in my building became the norm. It was easily accessible and I could walk to wherever I wanted to go. I can now say, confidently, that I definitely had a close relationship with alcohol. It just became something to do and I was having fun doing it. I realize now that I consumed way too much of it from the years of 2017-2021.
In June of 2017, I had just gotten out of a very toxic relationship, and alcohol had become a coping mechanism for me without me even realizing it. I never looked at it as something harmful my body at that time. If anything, I viewed vodka as a friend. I guess this perspective was naive, but more so because it is legal and I witnessed so many consuming it on a daily basis without any problems. Nonetheless, alcohol is probably one of the most toxic and addictive substances we can consume, yet it remains legal. Literally, nothing good comes from alcohol for the mind or body, and in some ways, I’m very thankful for being diagnosed with breast cancer. I have a better respect for what goes in my body and my relationship with alcohol is completely different.
At most I will drink one day out of the weekend or every other weekend socially. But the older I get the less appealing that even becomes to me. I hate how I feel the next day even if I just have two or three drinks, and hell if it was a really good night, then I hated the next several days. You start to ask yourself is it even worth it? I think now I’m at a place in my life at age 39 where all I want is just to feel good consistently, and most importantly to be happy.
Having breast cancer brought me clarity, and I really dig living with clarity.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer I kind of lost my mind a little after having to take Tamoxifin, which is a drug that blocks estrogen to stop the growth of a cancer tumor driven by estrogen. I had to get on Lexapro to balance me out, which I am currently tapering off right now after learning it increases your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by two folds! (WTF) But Lexapro did serve a purpose and was definitely helpful during that time frame of diagnosis and treatment. All the changes that my mind and body were going through skyrocketed my anxiety. And it’s okay to get help for that, no one should ever feel shamed for seeking help via medication.
I took Tamoxifin up until the day of surgery on October 19th, 2021. Originally, I was scheduled to have a double mastectomy (DMX) with reconstruction, however, the day before my surgery I called and opted to go with an aesthetic flat closure. Thankfully, I had talked to my doctor, Dr. Ben Moosavi, before about the option of going flat. I had been torn on what to do until I finally took a whole weekend to educate myself. I reviewed recent research that has come to light on breast implant illness and read stories from other women who have had reconstruction and ultimately end up going flat due to complications and multiple surgeries.
One in Three Women Undergoing Breast Reconstruction Have Complications. One in five requires more surgery.
For me personally, I knew my choice to go flat would ultimately allow myself to get back to feeling normal the quickest, and I could possibly avoid radiation.
Ladies and gentlemen let me tell you, if you are under 40 years of age and are diagnosed with just one tumor of breast cancer, under the current treatment standards you are not allowed to get a lumpectomy with targeted radiation. Even though I was just two years shy of 40, this treatment option was off the table. I knew I didn’t want to have my whole chest wall to be hit with radiation treatments, so the only way to avoid that is by doing a mastectomy and taking a gamble that the cancer is not in your lymph nodes.
You can have your sentinel node tested before surgery, but you have to go under for the testing, and being put to sleep back to back like that is not recommended. So I took a gamble and thankfully I came out of surgery with no lymph nodes testing positive. I will never forget my doctor telling me the news after I woke up, it was music to my ears.
I thank God and my angels everyday for guiding me to the right surgery option for my over all well-being. Not having any breasts oddly enough isn’t that strange to me. In fact, I don’t miss them at all. After surgery there was an adjustment period where I was still figuring out which tops looked the best on me, but now, it doesn’t even phase me. I wish for women who are faced with breast cancer to know that opting to go flat is the healthiest choice for your body. You should always put yourself first, regardless of what your husband, boyfriend, significant other would prefer in terms of surgery outcomes. Having breasts or no breasts isn’t what defines you, the spirit inside of you is who you are.
You have the power to choose what’s right for your body. Health and happiness is what brings life to the spirit from within. The body is only a tool for the spirit to move around and experience the pleasures that living in physical form can offer. I wish for all women to see their bodies for this purpose and not just for the pleasure of others. Too many years women have suffered from a cataclysmic idolization of Barbie, Baywatch and The Kardashians.
But women are waking up. There is a movement going on right now and women are putting their health and well-being first.
Sharing all of your pain and suffering openly is no easy task, yet many women are doing it on Facebook groups to help future women who may be diagnosed with breast cancer one day. There are two groups in particular that really helped me to make an informed decision and opting for a double mastectomy with an aesthetic flat closure. The first Facebook group is Fierce, Flat, Forward which educates you on the outcomes and experiences of women who opted for AFC or who have tried reconstruction but ultimately ended up flat due to complications and multiple surgeries. The second Facebook group is Breast Implant Illness and Healing by Nicole which there are over 170,000 women in that group alone who have explanted and shared their stories about their symptoms they experienced with breast implant illness.
Regardless, when it comes to your health you have to be your own advocate. It pays to educate yourself and be informed about ALL of your available treatment options and what could potentially happen if you put implants into your body. Unfortunately, many doctors do not even present going flat as a treatment option for surgery. Hopefully this is something that will change over the next several years as more and more women are opting to go flat.
As a survivor of breast cancer, I wish the best outcome for whichever surgery option you choose. It is your choice and there is no right or wrong because it is such a personal decision. But I do hope that this article can help guide you to what’s best for your overall well-being.
Sending you love and light always,