Emotional response to bi-lateral mastectomies

New Topic Post Reply Printable Version
[ << Previous Thread | Next Thread >> ]

go4broke
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2004
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 11/22/2004 10:57 PM (GMT -7)   
I just had bi-lateral mastectomies in October after having gone through 3 previous breast cancer surgeries this year.  Having had 14 surgeries during my life I thought I was going to breeze through it and be ok in 2 weeks.
 
What I have found is that I was (and still am) emotionally devastated by the loss.  But it didn't hit me until the bandages came off.
Has anyone else had this kind of emotional response and if so, can you recommend what I can do to get my life back on track?
 
Oh yes, to add to all of this I was laid off from my job 3 weeks before my October surgery.
 
I have been unable to cope emotionally and don't know where to turn.
 
Thanks,
 

Tavish
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 2272
   Posted 11/23/2004 4:45 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi, welcome to our group. I did not have mastectomies, so I cannot offer you much there. I would think that time is going to be one of the best allies though. You might consider a local support group, through a hospital or your cancer center, or even a place like Gilda's Club (depending on where you live). Have you had reconstruction? That might help as well, to give you the look and feel of real breasts.

There are also a lot of books on the subject that might help too. And you will probably get some good replies here from those that have been there before.

Combined with the loss of your job and the holidays, you might also consider finding support with a counselor if the above methods fail...you have had some significant life stressors, and no sense in struggling alone if someone can help you get better faster.

Good luck,
Lori


Candy
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 1294
   Posted 11/23/2004 5:45 AM (GMT -7)   

We are so glad you found this site.  The women here are very supportive and have the knowledge and experience to help you. 

Lori's advice is good.  It seems that you have many things happening that is effecting your emotional healing. 

I had a simple mastectomy to my right breast.  My appearance was somewhat shocking after my husband and I removed the bandages.  Our focus at that time was to get rid of the drains.  What a happy day that was!!  I had also started reconstruction the same day as the mastectomy so my outlook was one of promise that I would soon look fairly normal.  With lots of support from family and friends and all my breast friends here on the board, I was able to emotionally recover quickly.

What you are experiencing is normal, but I do agree that you need to talk with someone.  Another suggestion is to contact the American Cancer Society.  I know in my area someone called me and offered to come out and talk about their experience and give me much information and resources.  They were very helpful.  Lori's suggestion about a counselor is good.  They can help you untangle all your concerns.  Another thought is that some of us experienced some depression and our doctors were able to relieve that with some anti-depressants.  Talk with you doctor.

What ever your decision, I hope for the best for you.  I hope you stick with us, this group of ladies is the best and we are here 24/7.  One of us will have some answers for you and all of us want to support you.

Hugs and prayers,

Candy

 

 


"A sister filled with joy preaches without preaching.  Joy is a need and a power for us . . . for it makes us always ready to go about doing good." 
                              Mother Teresa
 


gma
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 2921
   Posted 11/23/2004 6:14 AM (GMT -7)   
There are many women here who have had bilateral mastectomies who might be able to help you cope. During a holiday week people are usually busy with family and dinner preparation so I am not sure how much response you will get for a few days anyways. First, my advice would be to seek some help from your doctor for short term coping. There are many Rx that will help you ease into coping. I'm sure your job loss alone was enough to be very upsetting without adding in the additional health problems. Was your job loss due to your health problems or because of downsizing, etc.? You might find some help to fight the job loss if it was due to health at this time. Where are you located? City, state? We may have a member near enough to you to have lunch with you and tell you more about us. Our roll call above will give you some info on us and I urge you to post there with info you feel comfortable with sharing so we can get to know you better, too. We are here to help. There are many ages here, many different stories of treatment, many stages of breast cancer, survivors of about 20 years down to newbies. Please help us help you. Hugs, Mary K. MK


Frayda
Regular Member


Date Joined Aug 2003
Total Posts : 248
   Posted 11/23/2004 7:29 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi! Welcome! I had bilateral mastectomies in 8/2000. What you are feeling is not unusual. I had been on an emotional roller coaster, and trust me, it does get better! The women here are a wonderful source of support. Being able to "talk" to someone else who has gone through the same thing is so comforting. I found their caring and support invaluable! One of the most helpful books for me was "Living Beyond Breast Cancer" by Marissa Weiss, MD. She also has a website, www.breastcancer.org that has lots of info and resources. The depression that follows your surgery is common; many of us have sought some professional help to get through it, as medication can help. Share some more info with us so we can better help you. I had reconstruction w/ saline implants. Once the reconstruction was completed, I felt much better; kind of like Humpty Dumpty who was put back together again!LOL! I'd be happy to share my experiences with you! Here's a big ((((HUG)))) to welcome you to our little corner of cyberspace! Frayda

Joany4Hope
Regular Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 69
   Posted 11/23/2004 10:37 AM (GMT -7)   

Hi,

Like Frayda, I had bilateral masts in 2000.....it is a shocking and hard experience to see the results. I did do the tram flap surgery at the time, but of course no choice is exactly like the original.  I remember being in the shower before surgery and saying "goodbye" to my breasts. I had a little chat with them and thanked them for feeding my babies, but since they could kill me, they had to go!  Life is obviously so much more important, but it doesn't reduce the reality of having to grieve for lots parts of ourselves.

Lori's advice about counseling is great......I AM an MFT (marriage and family counselor) and still have benefited from sharing with my best friend who is also a counselor all the depths of my sadness as a woman in our breast-obsessed culture.  I feel for you because it's just pickin' hard.  I had to go through many surgeries too and ultimately lost one of my reconstructed breasts due to a very nasty staph infection and all the effects of radiation.  I did 40 hyperbaric treatments just to grow enough skin to cover some bone and save my life ( I know, good heavens). So I had to grieve losing a breast again.  The prosthesis world is a new experience and I sometimes still get sad 4 years later that I can't even have fake ones!  What I have found is that it takes re-working my self identity and getting grounded as to where my femininity really lies.  It's a good, growing process, but it's okay to scream and cry with a trusted friend or counselor along the way.  I find journaling to God helpful too. 

Bless your heart for all you are going through.  The ladies here are great.....Frayda was an encouragement to me along with so many others here too.

Love ~ Joany



gma
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 2921
   Posted 11/23/2004 12:16 PM (GMT -7)   
Wow Joany reading it in one post like that, makes me realize even more what you have been through. I am sure your experience has been invaluable to others. When I was having a rough time going back to work after my problems my dr sent me to a counselor who had had breast cancer. We had two meetings and I truly enjoyed visiting with her, and I told her I thought I was taking up her precious time from others, and I really didn't feel the need to "see" her even though I liked talking with her. I often wonder where she is now and how she is doing. Maybe I should check, huh? Thanks for a reminder to do so. Take care of yourself and have a great holiday. Hugs MK


tking
Regular Member


Date Joined Sep 2004
Total Posts : 141
   Posted 11/23/2004 12:17 PM (GMT -7)   

About 8 years ago, I had a single Mastectomy and reconstruction.  I was never happy with the results - you really can't match them up very well (or at least not in my case). In April, I had a recurrence and opted to have Mastectomy and implant removed.  It was a HUGE Shock to see my chest afterwards.  I had a hard time.  I am doing better now and am going to a plastic surgeon on Dec. 1st to go about beginning reconstruction.  Although on the outside I look the same (except for the wig), I feel like I look so different.  I also have been having problems with self-esteem.  Fortunately, my DH has been very supportive of me and loves me like I am - ALIVE!!!!!!!!

I know this is a hard time for you - remember that you can make it thru.  It is very demoralizing to have such a scar but remember you are a survivor!!!!!!!!  That's the most important thing - all the rest is cosmetic and can be fixed.  We are all soldiers in the war against Breast Cancer and there are always consequences of war, unfortunately. 

I will be praying that you will go thru the difficult time with much ease and confidence.  Remember that God, family and friends all love and care for you.

 

 


Teresa King


gma
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 2921
   Posted 11/23/2004 12:22 PM (GMT -7)   
Teresa, it is good to see you back again. I understand what you are saying about the one sided reconstruction, altho in size and shape and feel my tram flap is about as good as they can get. In hindsight I wonder if I wouldn't have been better off having bilateral, but there was truly no thought of it at the time. I keep wondering if I should ever have a problem again what I would do. I hope I never have to decide.

Please come back more often. Hugs MK


tking
Regular Member


Date Joined Sep 2004
Total Posts : 141
   Posted 11/23/2004 12:27 PM (GMT -7)   

I wish I had known before that you could have a bilateral - wasn't told that.  I wish I had both breasts removed the first time and avoided this year's excitement.  But, oh well, you learn by experience.  Also, each time I have met even more women struggling with breast cancer and try to help with emotional support and practical advice.  Might as well have something good come out of this.  It's all part of the journey.  (why couldn't mine have just been a trip to Hawaii?)

Glad to be back on the screen - very saddened by all the losses - even tho I didn't know any of them.  They are all still "sisters" in this war on BC!

Hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving - we are all very blessed to be here this year for it!!!


Teresa King


babyseeester
Veteran Member


Date Joined Oct 2004
Total Posts : 826
   Posted 11/23/2004 12:41 PM (GMT -7)   
I just had a simple mastectomy to the right breast less than 5 weeks ago.  Fortunately for me, I didn't have the emotional response as you are having.  My husband has been great about it, too.  That's not to say I won't have something later.  My advice is to try and focus on your LIFE!  That is what is important now.  I think that is what has helped me through this, along with all the wonderful ladies here.  I am large breasted, so I don't think reconstruction will be very good for me and I don't know that I want that anyway.  That is down the road, because after chemo, I will be having radiation.  I have very sensitive skin, so who knows what it's going to look like after rads. 
 
You have already gotten great advice and I know you will get more.  Just hang in there and we will all help you through this.  We are in this together!
 
Love and hugs,
Kathy


wackygal
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 857
   Posted 11/23/2004 2:22 PM (GMT -7)   

Hello, welcome to the board.  You've received lots of good suggestions already, and I just wanted to let you know that there are lots of women who have made the same choice you have.  I had bilateral mast. in 2001 with no reconstruction and the emotions you are feeling are very normal... it's a loss, you have to grieve... but just think, it is a new 'you' that is emerging, a new cancer-free you that can be stronger and still live life fully and completely.  Yes, you look different.  But you didn't choose this disease, it just happened... and you are doing what you have to do to save your life.  Be proud of that stance and think of your scars as battle scars, for a battle that you are winning.  People have crosses to bear everyday... wearing a couple prostethics to me isn't so bad after you get used to it.  I am the same person inside, and nothing can change that.

good luck, and i hope you feel better about it soon.... hang in there!
hugs

stefanie

 


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"It's been worth everything I've been through,
 To do what I do"

                       To Do What I Do   -Alan Jackson, 2004


go4broke
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2004
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 11/23/2004 5:24 PM (GMT -7)   
Thanks to everyone who answered and gave advice. All of it great. I have now taken the step-I see a psychiatrist tomorrow. I also learned that because I never once allowed myself to cry over this that I robbed myself of being a feeling human being. I refused to reach out and ask for help. What a mistake. I kept all of the anger inside and refused to even acknowledge that it was there.

I live (and was raised) in Anchorage Alaska. Am single and have been since 1967. I do have a daughter and 2 grandaughters from which I am estranged. Being the "Tough Alaskan Woman" working in the oil industry I just had to prove to the world I could do this all by myself. The result was a fall into an emotional and psychological abyss that has been terrifying. Last week I actually went 84 hours with no sleep at all.

I just started a relationship with a wonderful supportive man in June of this year after 15 years of never letting anyone into my life. I am now trying to repair this relationship because I took my self directed anger out on him. I don't know what I will do if I lose him. He has several health problems and has to think of himself too. It seems as though every area of my life has been yanked out from under me.

Mary K-
I was let go from my job because of "lack of funding" but I had been getting a lot of pressure from my company for several months because of the time I had to take off to have the prior 3 surgeries plus all of the doctor visits-you all know the drill-managing your health team.....numerous oncologists, 2nd opinion in Seattle.

I was told that my "multi focal microcalcification" condition was very unusual. The group of surgeons at Providence Hospital said they only saw about one of these a year.

I was floored when I was told on 9/13 that I no longer had a job. In July I had my last biopsy and had to beg to take 4 days off prior to the procedure. I was told "you are putting the project at risk-you are too important to be gone for 4 days". I don't think this is legal but even 6 weeks after surgery I am still not healed and am unable to mentally focus to know where to get information.

Has anyone else been "laid off" from their job because of cancer? Are there legal alternatives?

Thank you all so much. This is my very first reach out (and also the first chat room I've ever been in.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

"My fear is real. When I honor it, I do not need to be controlled by it."
Anne Wilson Schaef

gma
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 2921
   Posted 11/23/2004 6:32 PM (GMT -7)   
Yes, there can be legal alternatives if you have been discriminated against in your job. I sure don't know all the rules and regs but here is a cancer help legal site where you can possibly get some answers.

http://www.wlcdr.org/clrc.html

My issues at work were when I was having problems with infection and before we got too far into it I was on disability and couldn't work anyhow. But it was suggested I work part time and let the woman who helped me part time take over my job. She didn't want my job, and after I had to go on disability they hired someone for more money who was fired after five months because they couldn't do the job. And finally, my boss apologized and told me he just did not realize how hard I worked and how much I did. I was the accountant for an engineering firm with three offices, I loved my job and never complained, always got things done, so they never knew how hard I really worked until I was gone. Now they have four people doing what my part time help and I did. LOL.

BUT don't sell yourself short. If you feel you have just cause, certainly get some help. As I understand it the legal site above will guide you in that direction. A phone call sure won't hurt, will it?

Good luck, keep us posted. I think you headed in the right direction seeing a psychriatrist to help you sort out your anger. Anger is the one thing I have gained from all I have been through. I was told it is a form of depression. LOL I have been prescribed Rx to help but found the pills caused me to feel worse. So I just get angry and let it blow now and then.

Take care. Hugs, MK


Tavish
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 2272
   Posted 11/23/2004 7:28 PM (GMT -7)   
Wow, great job, ladies! THIS thread is what it's all about!

Broke, i do not know much either about the laws, and surely they vary from state to state, but cancer falls under the ADA. Now I do not think every cancer every time is a disability, but you may have some protection.

Many of us have been posting together for years, so please don't hesitate to ask questions or jump in anywhere. We are at all stages of disease here, and you can see that others have been in your shoes. I cried and had some anger, but I also had trouble asking for help. I can't accept help for anything, and it was so hard for me to let people take me to appointments and even offer support.

And let me tell you, even on top of the physical changes associated with breast cancer, there are psychological changes too...different for everyone. There is the sense that our bodies have betrayed us, the fear of "will it return", the "why me", hormonal changes, new friendships, new relationships, new ways to cope....every day gets easier and easier...but don't be surprised if you feel yourself taking a step back now and then...it's all normal.

Good luck,
Lori


Luci
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 892
   Posted 11/23/2004 7:51 PM (GMT -7)   
Dear go4broke, Welcome to our board. Glad you found us and happier still that you've decided to seek professional help in dealing with this emotional rollercoaster ride.

Re: multi-focal microcalcifications: You're in luck, my new friend, I had them too. Maybe unusual for Providence Hospital, but not for Westchester, NY. So you relax, you're not so out of the ordinary. I also had bi-lateral mastectomies. Yup, it was hard and sad and I grieved A LOT. But I had reconstruction (tramflap) 5 and 1/2 yrs. ago. The scars on my body are fading, the scars in my head and heart may not disappear so quickly, but I will tell you this. All of the misery will pass just as time does. You keep coming here to this board, we'll love and hold you up when you feel you can't go on. The day WILL come, I promise you, when you'll be the one writing and supporting another woman (or man) struggling with this wretched disease. In the meantime, you've taken the first steps toward healing. You've admitted you're in pain and you've decided to get help. You're on your way. Sending you hugs for strength from my new home in Henderson, NV. Luci
In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.  Albert Camus


postal2
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 1106
   Posted 11/24/2004 1:21 AM (GMT -7)   
Hi and welcome. I too have had bilat. mastectomies. One at a time, the second being prophylactic (sp?) I have had reconstruction and feel so much better now. Give yourself some time, it does get better. You have had a lot of things going on in your life and we will do all we can to help you get through this. It is quite a roller coaster of emotions, but it does smooth out after a while. It is never the same but it gets better. I too lost my job due to this disease. I developed lymphedema and could no longer due the job which required heavy lifting. I had no choice but to leave. I was lucky that they let me retire on disability although I sure miss the paycheck. This bc has a way of changing your life, but I found some of the ways are good changes. "Silver lining in the clouds" as they say. Hang with us and I believe you will see that time will help heal and we will be there with you holding your hand. We have our ups and downs, but we do have some laughs along the way. Take care and let us know how things are going. L&H, Gail

 It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth -- and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.   Elisabeth Kubler Ross


kasaleen
New Member


Date Joined Nov 2004
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 11/24/2004 9:16 PM (GMT -7)   

Hi!  I am two months ahead of you.  I had a bi-lateral in August.  I chose to start reconstruction at that time.  My emotional response wasn't like yours.  Logically I knew that they had to go.  The thought of going through chemotherapy again if it recurred in the other breast was not something I wanted to ever worry about and going through another surgery depressing. 

Right now my breast scars are healed and they are around a bra size B.  I am starting radiation in about a week.  With the final reconstruction starting some time after the radiation is complete.

I do think having the expanders put in gave me a sense that I looked somewhat normal in clothing.  Of course the removal of the nipples does have a shocking effect when the bandages are taken off.  Even though there are scars I am hopeful that over time after this nightmare is over that the reminders will fade even though the memories will always be there. 

I wish you well in your recovery.  Be strong.


gma
Veteran Member


Date Joined Jul 2003
Total Posts : 2921
   Posted 11/25/2004 7:52 AM (GMT -7)   
Welcome Kasleen. You have a good perspective of all of this already. It is more difficult for some than others. You sound like you are handling things very well. When you are dressed who knows if there are nipples or not, right? So many of the reconstructed ones are permantly showing, and with reconstruction you don't have to wear a bra, so the result is not necessarily what some women like, altho others do. Several of our group have had no reconstruction and wear their flat chests proudly, too. Being comfortable in your own skin is the answer and it sure sounds like you are doing very well!!! Feel free to sign in the roll call and find out more about us and tell us about yourself. Where you live, age, etc. Happy Thanksgiving. Mary K. (MK)

New Topic Post Reply Printable Version
Forum Information
Currently it is Saturday, December 10, 2016 9:44 AM (GMT -7)
There are a total of 2,735,879 posts in 301,336 threads.
View Active Threads


Who's Online
This forum has 151440 registered members. Please welcome our newest member, Ian88.
282 Guest(s), 8 Registered Member(s) are currently online.  Details
cupcakespinkgal, Girlie, reminder, BillyBob@388, ChickNorris, pmm73, Mustard Seed, Traveler


Follow HealingWell.com on Facebook  Follow HealingWell.com on Twitter  Follow HealingWell.com on Pinterest
Advertisement
Advertisement

©1996-2016 HealingWell.com LLC  All rights reserved.

Advertise | Privacy Policy & Disclaimer