Monday, June 8, 2009

What price life?

Deciding something and actually doing it are two very different things.

I have been completely consumed with making this decision for more than a month. I've blogged about it ad nauseam. I know intellectually mastectomy is most likely the wisest choice for me with my particular set of medical circumstances.

And yet...I am still having trouble letting my breast go.

I wrote in my previous post, "I am as at peace with my decision as one could be under the circumstances." Truthfully, I had hoped to be more resigned once I chose. But whenever I try and picture myself going to the hospital on the day of my surgery, everything in me is screaming, "NOOOOOOO!!!" A big part of me just can't imagine going through with this. I keep searching my mind in vain for another option. Words echo in my head like, "there has to be another way"...There are many moments I simply cannot wrap my brain around any of this.

I do think the breast mound, as they call it, will probably end up looking pretty good eventually. Although the surgery in my case will be particularly brutal (we're talking about 8 hours) and recovery will be long and arduous, I know pain passes and I will heal. Cancer-wise there is alot to deal with yet, still a bunch of unknown factors to be revealed. But these are bridges to be crossed when I get there. So, what's causing me the panic, the dread, the ultimate terrifying fear?

Of course I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that what is causing me the most anguish about the whole thing is losing my nipple. I mean, really -- it's all about that damn nipple with me and has been from the start.

So, in order to get my feelings out and face them, you, dear reader, are coming along (if I haven't lost you already). To start with, let's talk sex. I mean, that's what this is about at the heart of the matter. We're all grown-ups here (hopefully). Oh, and get ready for a wee bit of TMI for those of you who fall on the prudish side of fence.

Michael and I have an absolutely lovely sex life. True, frequency is a challenge since we've had kids. But let's get real, find me any couple with little kids in a small house and I'll show you folks that are not swinging from the chandelier as often as they did before the babies came. However when we do have sex, it is...amazing. There, I said it. I'm not bragging, just sayin' (and right now my husband is reading this and dying a thousand deaths of embarrassment.) Truly, we have really great sex and I particularly enjoy my breasts in the process. Both of them. Alot.

What I'm getting at here is that this feels like an almost insurmountable something fundamental to who I am as a woman and who we are together as a couple is going to disappear under a surgeon's scalpel. A significant part of what makes me feel sexy and desirable will be ripped away forever and I am deeply mourning and rebelling against it all at the same time. I can't think about losing my nipple for more than a few minutes without wanting to cry my eyes out and dive into a bottle of Xanax.

Michael will love me no matter what, I know that. He will find me sexy no matter what. I know that too. But half of the equation of good sex is how you feel about yourself. Will I ever feel sexy or desirable again?

I want to have my nipple and my breast too. But I can't and that's not fair. Cancer has robbed me of them like a thief in the night. And the only thing that keeps me moving forward and actually going through with this mastectomy is that I somehow on some level do believe that if I don't give cancer my breast it will take my life.

As I write these words I realize maybe it comes down to this: I am trading a nipple for my life, for my kids to have a mother and my husband to have his wife, his lover. I am trading my former breast for a future with my family, not to mention the chance to pursue my own deep passions, my personal writing poetry or that novel temporarily getting dusty right now.

I guess that's how I will have to try and think about this. It may be the ONLY way I can go thru with this. Yet even put into those terms I can't say it's a small price to pay -- it feels like a colossal, exorbitant and extreme price. But I'll pay it...only because I have no choice.

And that had better be it, God dammit! Because enough is enough.


WendyB said...

It IS a huge price to pay. I don't think anyone would want to lose any body part. Of course, you're doing the right thing and the smart thing but you certainly should have the space to grieve.

Jean said...

You absolutely have the right to rave about this trade. Trading a nipple and a breast for your life is a big price to pay, but you will still BE HERE. You may lose your nipple/breast but you will still have your beloved Michael. And once you have learned to love yourself again (and it will happen) you will still have that amazing sex-life. Which, by the way, is more than I have! TMI? I know, I know....

You're still grieving for your loss, so don't feel bad that you feel to angry and hurt.

Much love to you K, x

Barbara said...

I just came across your blog and after seeing your post I just had to share this article from the BE WELL! 28 May 2009 - 5th Anniversary Edition ezine by Dr. Alexandra Gayek.


How fast can you cure a headache?

It depends on your belief.

Most Western people believe that in order to cure anything, the
physical factors in the body involved in creating it have to be

Because they believe tissues can't change at the drop of a hat,
they believe it takes time for things to heal. Maybe the time it
would take is longer than the years a person has yet to live.

There is also the belief that certain physical changes are
irreversible. Some things can't be undone. Most people would put
loss of body parts, spinal cord injuries, and aging in this

Most people believe there are incurable diseases, too.

How, then, do you explain miracles?

What is the power that causes someone with terminal cancer to be
cancer-free overnight, like my friend Michael?

What is the power that causes someone to almost instantaneously
shave off ten years of age, like my friend Mary Lee?

What is the power that causes a blind person to suddenly regain
full vision, like my friend Ibrahim?

What is the power that caused the egg-sized lump in my neck to
dissolve within two weeks?

You've probably heard other stories of miraculous healings. They
all sound inspiring, but until they happen to someone in your
own life, or to YOU, there's always that edge of doubt. There
must be some "scientific" explanation, right?

There must have been a misdiagnosis. The timeline must be
exaggerated. These things just CAN'T happen.

Why not?

Because they don't fit the paradigm--the belief system--that has
been accepted as Truth.

You are welcome to believe anything you want.

But if you are the one with the "incurable" disease, the
condition, the shortened lifeline, you might want to re-examine
that belief system.

This is where The Science of Being Well comes in.

It offers you a different paradigm of medicine. And with it, the
genuine invitation to be WELL instead of being RIGHT about the
beliefs that say it's not possible.

It's up to you.

Best wishes

Mervat said...

As I have said before you are Brave and Generous. You have uttered the words most of us know would be there at the backs of our minds if any of us were to be going through what you are going through right now. Sexuality (whether often or few and far between) is an important part of a deep, loving relationship and fear at having it affected in any way is certainly justified.

I truly hope that having expressed your concerns makes your decision a little easier to go through, somehow.

My thoughts, as always, are with you.

La Belette Rouge said...

I hope this makes sense to you and feels relavent. He-weasel had surgery when he was young that saved his life. He hates the scar. The scar is my favorite place on his body. It is that scar that made his life possible and our life together possible. I love that scar enough for the both of us.

~Tessa~Scoffs said...

I know you have a lot on your plate right now but I've given you an award. Continue to pray for you and your family every day.

Imogen Lamport, AICI CIP said...

I can completely understand - I've always wondered if it happened to me how I'd feel - yes logically I'm all for the mastectomy - losing a parent was terrible - so of course life is more important than breast, but as a woman with some huge knockers, which have been a part of me for 25 years, thus a big part of my identity, I've always wondered what it would be like to lose one or both to cancer.

I would feel like 'less than me' not the whole me, that something important would be missing.

But as people who have arms and legs amputated know, they get used to it not being there anymore.

I hope they manage to reconstruct with as much feeling as possible.

Anonymous said...

Maybe losing one breast will make your sex life even better, Kayleigh. The closeness you feel with your husband could be enhanced to the high heavens. Maybe you will focus on different things during sex now. It could happen! Don't forget, you still have your lovely hootchie to enjoy. They can't take that away from you!!!!

Jean said...

Did Imogen really refer to her 'huge knockers'? And has Karen mentioned the word 'hootchie'? These are two women of exquisite taste and decorum!

This is all too much for me, I'm going to have to lie down in a darkened room for an hour to regain my composure...

Chuck Dilmore said...

you have every right
to feel scared

and we... we are but witnesses to this crime.

we loved you before this.
we will love you all the way through it.

i think that says something... that
we who barely know you feel
compelled to help lift, soothe.

but the best?
your husband. your children.
you chose them all so, soo well, Kayleigh!

in time
i think you will find
that your life is richer, more precious
than ever before.

we hate that you have to sacrifice
any part of you. it's unfair! it hurts so!
but there will be something new for you
at the end of this chapter.

you are a Writer...
for every dark chapter, there is
another to bring us out of the darkness.

peace & healing~

Sheila said...

Oh, honey, I can't even imagine how torn you are right now. I'm also very attached to my breasts (also have "huge knockers" like Imogen, haha) and I can't even comprehend how hard this decision was for you.

As for the sex, I know you know,'s 80% in your head. You are not less sexy just because one breast is gone. You still have the other one, and other parts of you! I guess what I'm awkwardly trying to say is that your breast is not YOU.

Thinking of you and sending good vibes!


Trace said...

Hi K. Definitely a huge price to pay. I can't imagine what it would be like to lose a breast. I would feel the same way as you, your feelings are completely justified. I know in the end lots of women go through this. And I think it ends up being a small price to pay after all. Always thinking of you and praying for your and your fam.

Kari said...

I think you are absolutely, totally entitled to mourn what *is* a loss to your body and part of your identity - but it doesn't mean that you, your sexuality, or your beauty are *lost* by any means. As someone who has a love-hate relationship with my bust and a family history of breast cancer, I really do wonder how my self-image would be impacted if one or both of them were gone, or smaller, or lacking in sensation.

Okay, this may be TMI too, but I have to tell you that reading about your diagnosis & experience so far is motivating me to be more dilligent about regular self-exams. This year I got pretty lax about it. I know I'm very young, but I also know how critical early detection can be. So... thanks for the reminder.

sallymandy said...

It's so good that you're facing that anger and loss you're feeling. How could you not feel those things?