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My Bilateral Mastectomy – Was It Just a Bad Dream?

When was the last time you woke from an unpleasant dream feeling relieved to realize it was merely that, a dream? It’s an amazing moment when you wake from such a state of agitated sleep. Reality suddenly feels pretty darn wonderful doesn’t it?

Sometimes I still have moments when I wonder if all the cancer crap that has transpired has been a dream. Sometimes I pretend or think about waking up and finding out none of it really happened. Sometimes when I first wake up in the morning, I do forget for a while.

I wonder if a day will come when I do not think about cancer.

Somehow I doubt it.

It’s not like I’m stuck in the past. It’s not like I dwell on cancer. I’m not and I don’t.

With this being said, certain things and certain dates are triggers and likely always will be.

Certain dates still feel full and heavy. Certain dates still bring to mind vivid memories of a time when things felt very uncertain. One of those dates for me is June 2nd, the date of my bilateral mastectomy two years ago.

There is much to remember.

I remember the weeks before that day which were full of appointments, tests, restless nights and huge decisions I felt forced to make. I remember feeling trapped into a corner as my oncologist explained to me why a bilateral mastectomy was my best option.

I remember a long and lonely night with little sleep before the surgery. I remember the text message that came in during the middle of the night from one of my sisters wishing me well. She couldn’t sleep either.

I remember the jolting and silly-sounding alarm tune on my cell phone at 4:30 a.m. I remember the emotional and private minutes I spent in the bathroom taking one last look at the familiar image in the mirror. I remember the tears.

I remember my surgeon asking me what procedure I was to have that day and how I could not bring myself to say the words out loud. He gently patted my legs, said the words for me and told me I’d be fine. I remember wondering how he could possibly know that.

I remember a hospital chaplain peeking in the doorway and solemnly asking if we would like a prayer, making me realize this was a pretty major surgery. Dear Hubby said yes. I said nothing.

I remember a look of fear and helplessness, but mostly love on Dear Hubby’s face as we spent a few personal and precious moments together.

I remember being wheeled briskly away down a long hallway and into a brightly lit room that felt cold and sterile. And scary.

I remember voices and masks and a clock on the wall. I remember wondering what it would be like when I woke up with my new unfamiliar form.

I remember wishing I was dreaming and wondering if perhaps I was.

I remember slowly waking up hours later and realizing I was not.

I remember…

What is one of your “trigger” dates?

If you’ve had a cancer diagnosis, do you ever have days when you don’t think about cancer?

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My bilateral, was it just a bad dream

My bilateral mastectomy, was it just a bad dream?






Jeannie Dowd

Saturday 17th of September 2016

I think about it every dang day. I've been through so much in these 4 1/2 years. Having bilateral lymphedema is a daily reminder. Just today I was thinking it was a bad life feels so different. But I'm still here.


Sunday 18th of September 2016

Jeannie, How could we forget with all the daily reminders, right? Still being here is wonderful for sure, but...well, you know.

Valerie Nemeth

Thursday 10th of March 2016

I'm thinking my reminder times would be November (a strip mall fire in my community with my favorite cat lover's specialty shop going up in smoke ) and December (my breast cancer diagnosis where my breast cancer status was "fortunately controlled but still complicated" with suspected breast cancer "spots" in my liver.). I wonder if my other reminder times will be mid - winter to mid - summer when I had to "mark time" between "3 week on - 1 week off" chemo sessions. It was surprising that I didn't pinch myself and that those inauspicious events that transpired in November and December 2015 would all be a nightmare and the Cat House was still around and I still had a healthy right boob or breast and didn't need a "boob bandage" or chemo sessions (though aside from hair loss and occasional insomnia,, I was rather lucky with the side effects.).


Tuesday 3rd of June 2014

I can really relate to the dream part. After my mastectomy, when I was undergoing chemo, I would wake up in the morning and touch my chest to remind myself it wasn't a dream. I stopped obsessing about a recurrence or mets a while back. But I do think about it often. In my heart of hearts I think it will come back, but there are days that go by where I don't think about it. Not weeks, but days.


Tuesday 3rd of June 2014

GLF, I still think about it nearly every morning when I wake up too. For one reason, I usually wake up on my back now - a sleeping position I always hated before. Always used to sleep on my stomach. Just another little daily/nightly reminder. I think about recurrence, too, of course, but I certainly don't dwell on it. I do think about cancer every single day. I don't see that changing. I'm sorry you have that thought about recurrence in your heart of hearts. Thanks for reading and taking time to comment.


Tuesday 22nd of April 2014

May 6th will be my trigger date. My birthday is May 7th. May 6th of 2013 I received a phone call informing me that I had breast cancer. I did 8 rounds of chemo, 2 herceptins, decided to refuse any more herceptin and schedule a double mastectomy. Guess when I have surgery. Bingo. May 6th, 2014. I am having second thoughts. I know that after they cut parts of my body off they will also cut off pain relief. Chemo caused a lot of nerve damage on top of already existing nerve damage. My breasts hurt constantly even though I only have a tumor in one of them. I think the residual nerve damage that will be heaped upon me after the nerves in my chest are severed due to the mastectomy will cause a lot of pain that they will be unwilling to treat me for. So I may be better off accepting the pain level I have now, keeping my breasts, and going on with my life until my time comes.


Tuesday 22nd of April 2014

Marilyn, Obviously, I don't know any details about your situation, but it sounds like you're feeling nervous and frightened and this is completely understandable. Second guessing your decisions is as well. I don't understand what you mean about them not being willing to treat your pain, that doesn't sound right. If you still have questions and concerns, be sure to discuss them with your doctor before your surgery. Good luck with things. You're not alone.

Susan Zager

Friday 7th of June 2013

Wow Nancy reading this again today about your bilateral mastectomy when mine has been on my mind a lot lately. I had a recurrence with a radiated breast only a year and a quarter after my lumpectomy, chemo and radiation. There had been a question if not taking tamoxifen had contributed to it but I am er+, pr- and because the ATLAS and aTTom studies came out of ASCO this week and I had been reporting on all of the breast cancer abstracts at ASCO on #BCANS, I went back to my question of whether er+ pr- is resistant to tamoxifen (since I took it for 5 years) and all of my research shows it is. All those side effects for possibly no benefit! I was going to blog about my procedures, since I had a radiated breast I had many failed surgeries but I finally found someone who fixed it. I found myself researching this for hours. I have decided I must not let fear take over me and assume all is well since this kind of thinking will do me no good. I think about my mastectomy every day especially because my radiated breast is so numb with my back a little numb too from the lat flap. Each time I woke up with the expanders in I felt so positive everything was fine. Then came the waiting to get the drains out and the injections. The expanders would come out, implants in and over time many surgeries failed. What I must do is bring my mind to a positive place and be thankful that all is well. I just wish that this disease did not have so many awful side effects and cause mets and take away people that I loved very much. What's most important is that I release all of this into the universe, take a deep breath and focus on all of the positives while I try to be the best advocate I can be to others. It's ironic that there are people who think we got free breast jobs! LOL!


Friday 7th of June 2013

Susan, You covered a lot of ground in your comment. It's funny how one post can stir up a lot isn't it? Thanks so much for reading this one and leaving your thoughts.

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