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PatriciaELa’s Story

  • Lumpectomy

  • Breast Reduction


By the time I was in 4th grade, I was already wearing a bra - not a training bra, a size B cup that was actually too small. Flash forward to 7th grade and I was a D cup. It was humiliating - I often would bind my breasts, tape them, basically do anything to hide them. One day, in 8th grade, I noticed a lump in my left breast. It scared me - but I was more afraid to tell my mom and my stepfather as they were totally anti-sex education and felt that touching yourself was a sin. So I spent hours in the library, trying to understand what was happening. Now mind you, this is was back in 1968 - when research meant the library and Dewey Decimal System (I know, I am ancient or so my kids think).

What I read scared me more, so I finally got the courage to tell my mom, who of course told my stepfather (who by the way, was nuts). After being punished for touching myself, I was taken to a doctor at the local Army base. After a thorough exam, with a couple of medics in the room, I was told that it was an infection, to take antibiotics and to soak my breast in hot salt water 2x a day - and to stop touching my breasts. (True story). The lump did not go away but I told my parents it did as I had been humiliated by the doctor visit.
At the age of 19 I was living in Boston attending college, and was a full size D. My boyfriend at the time noticed not only that lump but another one, and also one in my Right breast. I went to the local Public Health hospital (still military dependent). They ordered a mammogram and when it came back, they had me admitted to the hospital. I was scared pretty badly. I call my parents, who refused to come up to Boston, as they were living in Florida by now.   

My mom actually wanted to come, however my stepfather refused to allow her stating I had no business touching myself and this was my punishment for continuing to be, in his words, promiscuous. So there I am, sitting in the hospital, and the doctor is telling me that they were going to remove the 2 lumps in my left breast and one in my right, and oh by the way sign here because we may decide to just remove your breasts if they look suspicious. I refused to sign - I wanted to know when I woke up that my breasts would still be there and I was scared!

Unfortunately we argued, I made the Hospital Administrators and Head of Surgery come to my room and sign a document that they could not and would not take off my breasts without my knowledge and approval.
I woke up in recovery, and there are tubes in both breasts. The doctor (who I pissed off) came in, followed by a gaggle of medical students (all male) and said take off your robe, I want to show them what I did. I refused - told them I was not a pinup or an exhibit to a bunch of men and to get the Administrator and Surgeon, again. Another battle, another waiver, only the doctor - the head surgeon- could exam me. I had a tumor and cyst removed from the left breast, and a tumor removed from the right. Both ended up benign. But had I not fought for myself, I would have woken up to no breasts.

It was determined that I had fibrocystic disease (that is what they called it in those days) and actually put me on hormones to control the cysts! Six months of taking the hormones and I grew to a DDD/E cup. I went off the pill - lost all the weight I had gained, but not in my breasts. I hated it and hid them as best I could.

I went on a date with a guy once who asked me, over dinner, what size breasts I had, I left immediately (but took a doggy bag home!). After that, I wouldn't date anyone who looked at my breasts before looking at me! Oh, and did I tell you, my boyfriend broke up with me because he didn't want to date someone diseased and couldn't handle the scars left from the surgery.
Now I am 32, pregnant, an EEE. My breasts did NOT go down after the baby was born and I stopped breastfeeding. I told my husband at the time (now known as my 20 year sentence) that I wanted a Breast Reduction. He wouldn't hear of it - we had a daughter, and since there were no sons from any of his side of the family, he wanted us to try again in a couple of years for a son. I have another scare or 2 with mammograms and biopsies, but not to worry, it was OK.
I'm now 36, pregnant and a size G. I have a boy - the weight doesn't come off as easily and the breasts once again did not shrink. Instead they grew and I ended up a GGG. My 20 year sentence is "disgusted" at how I look; I go on diets, work out, and do it all. I lose the weight but the breasts remain.
I am now 40. I receive a call - your mammogram is suspicious, please come back tomorrow. I asked my ex husband to please take off work and go with me as I am scared. He said oh, I can't because I am moving out in a month after I get back from the trip to Alaska (that we were both supposed to take). So I go alone, and it is OK.
My divorce is final. I am dating a wonderful man who agreed a BR would be great but I didn't have insurance that would cover it (I am unemployed). Eventually he moves in with me. We dated for ~ 8 months, and he them moved in with me. We got married after being together for 3 1/2 years. In Feb of 2004 he was working in Alaska - he is a union electrician and there are no jobs in Seattle. I go for my annual checkup and they find another suspicious lump. Doctor says it is fine, but I am tired of all this and go to a friend who is the head of radiology and the breast cancer research center at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. She reviews the films and then orders an ultrasound and then a diathermic ultrasound.

Now, I hadn't told Monty yet, as he was in Alaska, working night shifts and the cell phones didn't work there. He was in a "man camp" and could call me about once a week or maybe every other week. So here I am, frantic. Marion, my friend, comes back in with a grim look and says we need to remove that lump. It is cancer.  Because of the density of my breasts, and the number of cysts, it was hard to tell from the mammogram but the diathermic ultrasound showed signs of early stage breast cancer. I have the lumpectomy. - I tell no one, I am like in shock. Results come back, yes it was early stage but edges are clean and the nodes good so I don't need a mastectomy but I did an new test procedure called a mammosite, where they put a radioactive balloon into the area, and hook you up to essentially and electrode.  

I received two treatments which was the equivalent of two months of radiation - and it was only two times in the same week. By now of course Monty knows and he quits the job in Alaska and comes home. He is upset with me for not telling him but it all worked out fine. In the meantime, I get an email from my first cousin, who tells me she had a mastectomy of her left breast 4 days before I had my surgery!
I had to go in every three months to be smashed, prodded, have numerous biopsies, and studied - for over three years. I finally get the clearance in February that all is well and that I can come back in a year like a "normal person".  Monty and I say great, now is the time we can do the breast reduction.

I set up the Plastic Surgeon appointment – in which they insist on a mammogram. I say look, I have been squished to death - my boobs should have shrunk from all the mammograms I had and besides I had one 6 months ago.  They didn’t like my answer and told me we won't proceed without one.  This did not please me at all, I grumble, I snarl and I go much bit*chly to get a mammogram. And wouldn't you know it - its back!   My cousin, the SAME one, calls me the next week after I emailed her to tell me SHE had it in her other breast! She opts for a mastectomy of the other breast. Me, I am just nuts.

My husband and I discuss all the options. My daughter, who was with me when I got my results, took me shoe shopping (we are firm believers in shoe therapy being good for the sole and the soul) and told me she would be there for me no matter what is decided. So we meet with my PS, my friend Marion and an Oncologist. We map out the options, and decide that we will go forward with the BR, perform a quadranectomy of the left breast (partial mastectomy) at the same time and basically clean out my left breast, remove two nodes and make my right breast match the left. My surgeons were great - they were able to use the same anchor technique and save my nipple on the left breast (though it is not quite the same size). Recovery was hell. But the nodes were clear and so far, all is well almost a year later.
I love my breasts and am grateful I did both surgeries. The recovery was hard - it was easily 8 weeks before I really regained any of my energy. The left breast is more scarred, and I still ache sometimes and had a lot more difficult regaining the movement and reaching with my left arm. My husband loves the new breasts, my radiologist friend and oncologist love the new breasts because they can see what is going on and we are all confident I am cancer free. If it, God forbid, should happen again, I will go for a double mastectomy. But I am feeling good that it was early enough and that enough of the ducts and breast was removed to clear out the whole area.
So that is my long road to a BR. I wish with all my heart I had done it back when I was 32 instead of 52. But then again, I wouldn't be who I am now, and wouldn't appreciate as much, the wonders of my new breasts. And I love them, each and every scar.


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