I received an e mail from my surgeon letting me know that the biopsy results are back and they are benign! Obviously, this is great news and a huge relief. But, at the same time, I don't have the sense of closure that I thought I would. I am grateful to be healthy, but also eager to attend my follow up appointment and discuss what I need to be doing from here on out. I know yearly mammograms are in my future for sure, but am less sure about the initial recommendations of annual MRIs. I also wonder if prophylactic bilateral mastectomy (PBM) is still an option I should be considering in the years to come, given my risk factors (which again, include family history and the recent atypical cells). And, most importantly, I want to know when I can stop wearing these incredibly sexy zip up sports bras (the way you can see the outline of the zipper through all of my dresses is especially alluring) and when my biopsy incision will stop looking so Frankenstein.
I had a frustrating conversation with a friend after I got my results. I told him I still wanted more information about PBM. "Wow," he joked "You really want that mastectomy, huh?" He went on to say that even considering PBM seemed like such an overreaction in light of my good news. I know he was just trying to keep things lighthearted, and I am sure he is genuinely perplexed at why a healthy person would be even vaguely considering a massively invasive surgery. But I find this attitude so condescending, and also so woefully common. Especially, it seems to me, amongst men. Like women considering PBM are just being hysterical, overemotional, illogical. Like women find out they are high risk, run into a surgeon's office, scream "CUT THEM OFF!" and have the procedure later that day, without any research or true consideration of the consequences (and yes, there are many really unpleasant ones).
I noticed the same attitude surface when Angelina Jolie publicly addressed her own PBM and, more recently, the possibility that she will pursue further surgery to address her heightened risk of ovarian cancer. So many Internet commenters (okay, not exactly known for their sensitivity or powers or perception but still) said things like "It seems really dumb to have surgery when you aren't even sick," or "I bet this was just an excuse to get a boob job," and I saw several go so far as to lament Angelina's decision to "amputate her femininity" and "defile her body" and "God-given parts." I can't help but wonder if people (again, sorry, but usually dudes) would get so worked up if the "god-given parts" were not her breasts and ovaries, or if our society didn't reduce women to sex objects and baby incubators.
Another frustrating, recent read was this piece, which initially purports to be about Samantha Harris (apparently a former host of Dancing with the Stars) and her decision to have a double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer (which is a different ballgame than a PBM). But then it is really about the author's wife's decision to have a lumpectomy instead of a mastectomy when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and how that was the best choice because she is still alive many years later. But then it is really about how a quoted doctor, Todd Tuttle, thinks women really need to calm down and be sensible before jumping into a mastectomy as treatment for cancer.
Of course, I think women deserve access to options and accurate facts about the treatments they choose to pursue, be those preventive or life-saving. But I also think that this is a personal choice, and one that the vast majority of women take seriously. I strongly feel that these concerns about women "acting out of fear" would not be so prevalent in a piece about men with, say, prostate cancer, and the treatment decisions they make. I also resent the implication that an emotional choice (lets face it, dealing with cancer will always be emotional to some degree) is by definition an ill-informed choice. I think that assumption alone is dripping in misogyny.
Okay, enough of that for now! Some of you might be wondering what I plan to do with this blog, since it's inception was so closely linked with health issues that are now somewhat resolved. Well, I plan to continue blog about issues relevant to women who, like me, are at high risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer, as well as any related experiences that I might have. It's corny, but I also feel that the past two months of cancer scare helped to highlight some real areas for improvement in my life. So, it is my hope that High Risky Business can be a place to document risks that I am taking (instead of simply risks that I am subject to) and my progress in getting to where I want to be. If that sounds interesting at all, please keep checking back! And thanks so much for your support in recent weeks!