Women’s Choices – Breast Cancer & You

Having breast cancer is a very personal thing.  Being proactive before getting breast cancer when you have the mutated gene, might save your life but there are still no guarantees.

Angela Jolie wrote a very strong humanistic letter in the New York Times about her very private medical choice to get a double mastectomy this spring.  I can understand why she did this.   I also questioned it but then I rethought her choice.  She was healthy now.  She was only 37 and had six children to think about plus she is much more to the world – with her work with underprivileged people. She also tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene; and her mother died from cancer in 2007 after years of battling it.

It helps to be physically fit when you get this disease.  If you are going to fight, you better be in good shape.   In my case, type 2 diabetes is an extenuating factor.  It was under control and doing fine until along came cancer and its associated stress.  Stress to a diabetic is like two pounds of sugar at once….Yuk.  ( so those that cause stress …please stay away).  Diabetes can prohibit healing…or at least slow the process.

But what Angelina Jolie doesn’t talk about in her article, and maybe she won’t experience some of the side effects, are the long term ramifications of not having your breast or breasts.  Do you know what your breasts are for?  They are not only for feeding babies and for enjoyment (look up) but they are a filtering system of lymphatic fluid for your body!.  What is that you ask?  Well maybe you better find out!

I compare the lymph system to having an oil filter in your car.  The breasts are a part of a huge centralized fluid circulation.  Impurities go through your body and are filtered at various points. I don’t know all the details, but I can tell you that when one breast is gone, its like having the bridge wash out over the river.  Its a little hard to drive over when the bridge is out.  So imagine this:  little germy things are running around your body and like the blood, make a full cycle throughout the whole body.

What happens when the lymph fluid can not find a place to dissipate to?  It builds up.  It clogs up.  It swells sometimes in the arm on the side where the mastectomy was done.  If there is two, I assume it will build up everywhere on both sides or if you are extremely lucky nothing will happen. In my case, it is choosing the trunk of my body and my left foot!   But lymphedema can happen even twenty years after the surgery.  Lucky me, it waited about three months.

What can you do for it?  Rub it out.  Physically work on moving it out and under the skin and it can be reabsorbed.  I wonder if Angelina thought about this or even knows about it.  This isn’t an easy or necessarily pleasant thing to spend your evenings doing while watching tv.  Some days it works other days it doesn’t.  In my case, I wait about three days and then it shows up again.  Repeat.  The other thing they recommend is wearing a compressed garmet on the area.  WELL….how would you like to wear a wet suit on a hot spring day?  and sleep in it to..that’s when they work best.  They squeeze it out of you.

The other complication is the arm.  My left arm doesn’t work right.  I have about half function on it.  Luckily, thank God I can type like I use to.  but I cannot sit as long as I use to because fluid builds up all kinds of places when you are sitting…if you get my drift!   So physical therapy is suppose to be the answer.  If any of you have read my prior posts, you can see what I think about that long term.  What an expensive pain in the ass going to PT is and you don’t always see results either.

I totally agree that exercise is key to alot of life’s issues and it helps with the fluid until it builds up.  I was reading just yesterday about some horrible side effects long term of this fluid.  There are all kinds of skin infections, fluid infections and ‘elephantitis’ like growths.

Oh gees.  But i suppose like the doctors tell me, this is better than being dead.  And yes I chose to get the mastectomy instead of going through radiation.  Doesn’t seem like much of a choice at the time. And I still think I did the right thing.  Can’t change it anyway.

But limited arm usage and lymphedema are no picnic.  I have no idea what other side effects there might be down the road and sometimes and in this case maybe ignorance is bliss.  But I think everyone should know what their choices can be, an then act with what you feel is best for you.  However if the medical community doesn’t fill you in on all the details well shame on them, they have not done their full job.  I will give them some slack because they do not know everything.

By the way, I have decided to go ahead and have the other breast removed next fall when the rains start again.  And I am going to do the reconstruction.  Grand total I will probably be dealing with this for an entire 18 months before going back to work.  Now how does one afford this?  That’s another whole blog on the financial devastation that cancer can do to your life!  Guess I won’t be driving any BMW anytime soon.

Okay sorry for the bitching and whining but I want you all to have an idea of what you are up against.  Yes its doable!  Many women and men win the good fight.  Alas, others do not.  But we do the best we can with what we have.

Have a great week!  Get out there and live!  Right, left, right, and left again.

Love you All.  Thanks for supporting me and reading my blog!



About Bonnie

Breast Cancer survivor owned by one old Shelty and a 3 pound Yorkie named Mimzy!
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