Monday, November 22, 2010
The Century Club
This is my hundredth blog post, which, of course is a big deal. And I want to write a REALLY IMPORTANT POST fully reflecting and honoring the momentous occasion. But, as usual, I’ll probably wing it, see what my fingers poop out and move on.
How about this for a theme of my hundredth blog post: time. It seems fitting. My life over the last nineteen months is meted out on this blog, and the posts mark the passing of time, the reaching of decisions, the moving past and through difficult choices, the celebration of new beginnings.
Next month will be the one-year anniversary of my surgery. It’s been a little more than eleven months since I underwent a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy, and I have now lived with these new breasts on my chest longer than I lived with the knowledge of my BRCA status and my natural boobs. In other words: I had surgery a little more than eight months after I learned my status; I’ve had these new hooters for 28% longer. So, should I have waited? Should I have let more time pass?
It’s a question I ask myself when I meet women who are BRCA positive and have known their status for years but say things like “I’m only now beginning to understand what it means and make decisions.” I guess my problem was, from the very beginning, I understood too much what my status meant, felt too deeply the need to take immediate action, and made a decision about what do with the results before I even learned them. I hear a lot of women say, “I got my results and just put it out of my head.” And I can’t relate at all. Once I got my results, that knowledge completely consumed all my brain space. And the only way to get my head back was to sacrifice my tits.
Would I have gotten that brain space back if I had waited a little longer, let the information settle in, got more comfortable with my genes? I can’t say with certainty, but I doubt it. It’s not like this knowledge – this knowledge that I need to make some decision at some point, hopefully before my body made the decision for me – isn’t something you can get over; you might be able to set it aside for a moment (or much longer, if you are some one much more capable of denial than I am) but the fact remains: you must do something (whether surveillance or surgery). Surveillance, from my perspective, would only compound the impact of that knowledge; mammograms and MRIs only serve to remind you of your risk.
The truth is, I knew from the first that I wanted to have surgery. I was never thrilled with any of the options presented to me, but surgery made the most sense for me. And once I really confronted that choice – began seeing doctors, meeting other women who'd gone before me – it wasn’t a question of if but when. So why wait? In the weeks leading up to my surgery, when, at weaker moments I considered calling the whole thing off because I was just SO fucking scared, I reminded myself that I'd be doing this at some point. Why not now?
That now is now nearly year ago, and while I’m never glad I had to have surgery (“had to have” is a loaded phrase, but suffice it to say it wasn’t my tits that were the problem there: my brain was. I’ve mentioned hundreds of times,but it’s not equipped to deal with uncertainty and anxiety) I’m glad I got it out of the way. A lot has changed in those eleven months. Not only do I have new hooters, I have a new job, a change I was only able to make after I realized that I’m stronger than I ever thought I could be. My job resulted directly from the empowerment I felt about conquering the hardest fucking thing and coming out alive and happier on the other side.
So what would I look like, and what would my life look like, today if I had waited? I don't know for sure. But I'm glad I didn't. There is never a good time for something like this, never a perfect moment to make a life-altering decision. But I'm glad I made it last year. I've had nearly a whole year to see things from the other side, and I like the view from her much better.