We have come a long way in our discussion of cancer. Body parts, lumps, bumps, symptoms and side effects are all fair game. We discuss them openly, as we should. Our society has effectively exposed cancer for what it is – an insidious disease.
And still, there are parts of cancer we don’t unpack. For instance, we don’t dive into the emotions that come with a diagnosis. Emotions that sometimes persist even after treatment is complete and there is no evidence of disease.
We don’t talk as much as we should about how to be a great caregiver, family member, or friend facing cancer.
And we certainly don’t talk enough about the life-changing decision to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
Carol Hesse started working at the Kay Yow Cancer Fund in May 2021. It is the next phase of her ongoing fight against cancer which formally began in March 2018. She wants to make an impact, maybe even prevent future women from facing the decision she and her husband had to make.
Hold that thought.
There are several key points in Carol’s story. One is that amidst a change in healthcare coverage, Carol opted to have her annual mammogram. She prioritized her health, unaware that it was a life-saving decision.
The 2D mammogram showed one spot. That spot led to the discovery of 12 more cancerous tumors, representing 4 different types of cancer. The mammogram didn’t show everything, but it showed enough to save her life.
Thanks to decades of research, a cancer diagnosis now comes with options. Translation, decisions. Because her breast tissue was riddled with cancer, it made sense to have a double mastectomy.
With the double mastectomy came the decision around whether or not to have reconstructive surgery. She and her husband agreed. For them, it was not worth the extra surgery, medical treatments, and the chance of rejection.
There is a natural amount of anxiety involved in a surgical procedure. Neither Carol nor her husband wanted to face the emotion of yet another surgery.
Their decision was just that – their decision. For other women, for other families, other factors come into play and perhaps a different decision is made. In this case, it came down to one thing: Opting not to have the reconstruction did not alter their commitment to each other or their lives and wasn’t worth the risk of surgery.
So here we are…thankful. Thankful for the evolution of cancer research and the evolution of our conversations. We are thankful to have more options than we once had – we are thankful for decisions, even the tough ones.