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Facing My Bilateral Mastectomy & I Am Afraid

Facing my bilateral mastectomy, and I am afraid.

Over a decade ago now, I spent Memorial Day weekend preparing for my bilateral mastectomy even though, of course, I had no idea how to do that.

Who would?

One thing I vividly recall about that weekend was going to the movie, Robin Hood, the one with Russell Crowe. The whole time I sat there, I was able to concentrate for just minutes at a time before my mind would wander into the land of fear. I have no recollection about whether that movie was any good or not. Have you seen it?

June 2nd was the date of my bilateral mastectomy. It’s one of those dates seared into my memory forever.

I decided to share this unedited journal entry from a day or so prior to my surgery. It’s very personal, but I’m sharing it anyway because often patients get screwed up messaging suggesting if you just remain positive, display a brave persona and somehow keep on smiling, all will be fine.

It’s not quite that simple. Or necessary. I am hoping someone who’s facing a mastectomy and feeling afraid might run across this post.

After all, just knowing you’re not alone can sometimes do wonders to reduce your fear, right?

Fear is normal when you’re facing scary things like cancer, surgeries, chemo, radiation, recurrence, or whatever it might be.

To face your fears, first you have to admit you’re afraid. It’s okay to do that. You don’t have to be stoic. Really, you don’t. Allowing others to see your vulnerabilities isn’t easy, but doing so just might allow them to let you see theirs as well. 

Feel free to share about something you’ve been fearful of in the comments below, cancer related or not. 

I am afraid

I am afraid of having a bilateral mastectomy.

I am even afraid of the words. I am afraid of how I will look the first time I see my new reflection in the mirror. David (my husband) tries to reassure me, but I am still afraid.

I am afraid the doctors will find more cancer in my lymph nodes. I am afraid of the pain which is sure to come. I am afraid of reading my pathology report. I am afraid of chemo, losing my hair and feeling sick. I am afraid of being treated differently by everyone around me.

I am afraid I will cry (I did) when I get to the hospital for my surgery and they ask me how I am doing. I am afraid I will not be able to speak.

I am afraid of drain tubes which David must empty. I am afraid of scars and having fake silicone-filled objects implanted in my chest that are to be replacements. I am afraid my breasts cannot be so easily replaced.

I am afraid David might see me as less desirable, or worse, not desirable at all. Again, he tries to reassure me, but I am still afraid.

I am afraid of being weak and wimpy. I am afraid of becoming a poor mother and a poor role model. I am afraid I’m already both.

I am afraid of having a male surgical nurse. How dumb is that?

I am afraid my cancer has spread already. I am afraid of dying. I am afraid of a slow, miserable death like mother’s.

I am just afraid.

I am afraid of moving forward into the unknown-ness of my future. I am afraid of moving too fast. I am afraid of standing still too long in the present because cancer’s tentacles are already attempting to take over my body cell by cell. I am afraid of moving too slowly. I am afraid to look back because all I see is mother lying in a bed covered with sheets that cannot disguise the cancer beneath. I am afraid of not moving at all.

No matter where I look there is fear, and I am afraid.

I must look forward to the future because along with the fear that is also where hope, happiness and life glimmer.

Yes, that is where I choose to look.

But I am still afraid.

When have you been most afraid during your cancer experience?

Cancer or no cancer, what are you afraid of today, if anything?

Have you had a mastectomy, lumpectomy or some other surgery before which you felt afraid?

Are you facing a mastectomy and feeling afraid?

Wondering what to expect? My ebook can help. It’s available for FREE via the Nancy’s Point Resource Library.

Facing my mastectomy and I am afraid

Rachel

Tuesday 8th of February 2022

My bilateral mastectomy is in 8 days. I am 37 years old. I am so mad and scared and just want my old life back.

Nancy

Tuesday 15th of February 2022

Rachel, I understand. Those feeling are completely normal and valid. By now, your mastectomy is likely over. I do hope things went well and that you're resting and recovering well. All my best to you.

Maria

Friday 17th of December 2021

I am scared. I was told this morning that I need a mastectomy because there is a malignant tumor in my right breast ( based on biopsy ) and it's big and my breast is very small. I never expected any of these news. I even begged for the tumor alone to be removed. Surgeon says no. He also gave me the option to have surgery next week Tues 21st Dec or Jan 7th. I chose Jan 7th and my family is pressuring me to take doctor's advice and act quickly.

Nancy

Monday 10th of January 2022

Maria, I hope your surgery went well. It's perfectly normal to be scared. Who wouldn't be? I hope you find some helpful posts and comments here on the blog. As always, knowing you're not alone helps. Rest and heal well. Thank you for sharing and my best to you.

Peggy Medearis-Peacher

Tuesday 7th of April 2020

Its 1:46am the night before my double mastectomy. I can't sleep. I am alone, waiting for exhaustion to take me. Everyone else is asleep. I am so afraid. Of everything you listed. I want my life back. I want to survive this horrible disease. My wife, my daughter and I named the cancer "Earl," so we wouldn't have to say the awful word. Tonight Earl is robbing me of my peace and calm. So this is Earl's last stand. I am going to be strong tomorrow even as I'm scared, and go through with this so I dont have to deal with Earl ever again.

Nancy

Tuesday 7th of April 2020

Peggy, It's understandable that you couldn't sleep before your surgery! I couldn't either and I was so afraid too. Hoping things went as smoothly as possible for you today. There is a lot of physical and emotional healing ahead for you. Be kind and patient with yourself. Thank you for sharing and take care.

Maribeth

Wednesday 23rd of May 2018

The universe sent me this post today -heading into this Memorial Day with my bilateral mastectomy scheduled for Friday 5/25 & filled with unspeakable fear...Your words resonate with those terrifying thoughts that no one wants to hear, as they respond of course with reassurance & platitudes. I need those too (maybe), and certainly feel grateful for all the love I am lucky to have in my life, but I'm feel oh so unlucky & afraid 'cuz I got breast cancer! The most "treatable" kind, yet requiring the most traumatic treatment...And I am frightened

Lisa

Tuesday 24th of August 2021

@Nancy, I really resonate with all of your posts. I truly hated the “ta ta to the ta tas” parties and that concept. Maybe because I am 64, lived too much life, had 4 miscarriages (one ectopic) a heart condition and have buried 3 parents from cancer. I was so afraid that I told my adult daughter I wanted to call in sick the day of surgery. Truly, when one gets through surgery and they (our breasts) are gone, there is no going back. I honestly don’t think I have even processed the cancer part. Obviously, I’m not ignorant about cancer with 3 parents dying of it and the one left has had breast cancer as well, but I am scared. I have so many symptoms of other types of cancers; will the doctors be able to tell the difference between my heart or IBS issues and the cancer metastasizing? Mom had breast cancer in her mid 60s, scans, tests, etc., after, and ended up dying of gall bladder cancer 7-8 years later. That scares me. Will that be me?? Thanks for letting me vent. I guess I needed to get some things off my chest (ha ha - pun seemed appropriate).

Nancy

Thursday 24th of May 2018

Maribeth, Well, I'm glad my post reached you and resonated. It's normal to feel many emotions - among them fear. I will be thinking about you. We all do what we must and you will too. Good luck with everything. My best to you.

Roberta Leeder

Friday 15th of December 2017

Thank you Nancy for letting us peer into your very personal time before surgery. I'm new here and will see my specialist on Dec. 18 for the first time. I have been diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. I have no idea what my treatment will be but I definitely have fear of being, like you said, wimpy and weak. I have had other major surgeries in the past (entire colon removed, total hysterectomy and investigative surgery). I have had many "parts" removed but that doesn't mean you get used to it. Oddly enough, my biggest fear is chemo. If I could have a mastectomy without chemo I think that would be my best outcome. But we will see. I am 60 and I don't know if I would want reconstructive surgery. I'm finding you Blog so helpful to prepare for the things to come.

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