The other, she said, was this muchyounger woman, who’s also great,but just hasn’t had as muchexperience. Well, I went, as I think probably most people would, to seeMr. Esteemed doctor first.He looked at me and said, “Well,you’re awfully young to have gottenthis, aren’t you?” What am Isupposed to say to that - “Well, I’vealways been mature for my age”?It made me feel like more of afreak. Then he said, “Oh I hearabout all these women who showeach other their breasts aftersurgery and I don’t quiteunderstand it,” and I just thought,you know what, this guy justdoesn’t get it. Maybe he’s good atputting drugs together, but I knewan oncologist was someone that Iwas going to have to see on aregular basis and I wanted thatperson toheal me on many levelsandnot just with the cocktail of drugs I was going to get. So I wentto see thisyounger woman. I justadored her and we hit it off right off the bat. She’s still the doctor I seefor yearlycheck-ups.So itwassix days after my 30thbirthday, it was May 16, 1995. Theygaveme achoice to have alumpectomy or a mastectomy.Knowing that I could have thisreconstruction was part of why Ichose the mastectomy. So I had thesurgery. It was a difficult andpainful recovery. Even little thingslike lauhin hurt.
I’m really one of the lucky ones in that I was stageone, it wasn’t particularlyaggressive. Also, my parents wereincredibly supportive. I envisionedthem as two pillars sitting on eitherside of me who created thiscomfort zone where I could dothings to help heal myself. If Icouldn’t pay for things or if myinsurance couldn’t cover things, Ihad a financial cushion in myparents. Not everybody has that,so I don’t take that for granted forone second.
At 29 the biggestthing I was struggling with wasshould I get a tattoo or a navelring to mark the end of mytwenties. Can you elaborate onwhat the next few months werelike?
I did get a tattoo but Ihad to get my nipple tattooedwhen I had my reconstruction soit’s not the tattoo you’re talkingabout!I went for a second and thirdopinion. Everything shifted when Imetplastic surgeon, Mark Sultan.The f act that he talked to meabout reconstruction, somewherein mybrain I thought that if someone is willing to build meanother breast then maybe they’rethink ing Imight be sticking aroundfor afewyears. Afterthat,I had to meet with anoncologist. The general surgeonwhoI hadultimately ended upgoingwith, Alison Estabrook,recommended two to me.One was a man, very esteemedand well-known.I went back to work around LaborDay and shortly after that Istarted chemotherapy through anIV once every three weeks. I waslucky. I did not lose my hair and Inever really got sick. Basically it just made me very tired. I had afew months of the chemotherapyand then it was back to life.In terms of the emotional fallout, Ithink a lot of it came in the fewyears that ensued when I wastrying to pick up the pieces of mylife in my early thirties. When youmove away from it at first, youstart to process everything thatyou’ve been through. As opposedto the early stages, when eventhough there are moments whenyou might pass out from the fear,you’re doing “something”. Youknow that you’re actively trying toknock this thing out of your body,so that kind of forward motion, Ithink, helps.Once you’re healed from thesurgery, and the chemotherapystops, it’s kind of like, now what? Am I this ticking time bombwaiting for this thing to comeback ? The world seemed like averytoxicplace to me. When Iwasdiagnosed, I became acutelyaware of bus fumes. You justreallygo into an alternateuniverse. And then you think,should I be on a macrobiotic diet? Am Inot eating the right things?I’m an eater. I have a Jewish-Italian-Greek-food-loving-emoting-all-senses-involved family.
As you can tell bymy writing, I tend toward dark humor and use it to abundance intimes of stress or trouble. Whatabout you? Dark humor or lightmoments during your fight?
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“..if someone is willing to build me another breast then maybe they’re thinking I might be sticking around for a few years.”