Thursday, March 3, 2011


FORT WAYNE, INDIANA - You don’t know everything. Just keep that in mind about … well, about almost everything! No matter how experienced you think you are, no matter how well-versed or studious, someone can always teach you something valuable.

I went into my mastectomy two weeks ago with about as much information as the average layperson could acquire; after all, the world now has Wikipedia so knowledge is just a click away! (Just kidding, go to your doctor with medical questions. Period.) I’ve been speaking about breast cancer for five years now, having gone through allllllmost every part I thought I knew just about everything a person could go through. Chemo, check. Radiation, check. Multiple surgeries, check.

Then I was introduced to something they call "drainage tubes." I’ll not say anything more about it, suffice it to say "ouch." All of those years I had been asked about my mastectomy (which was a partial, no tubes, five years ago) and I never had a response when asked about things like tubes. And reconstruction? Never had it, just walked around like Frankenstein’s monster and didn’t give it another thought. Well, now I’ve had both. I didn’t do it for kicks, there was yet another suspicious mass found and since it was the third in a year, it was decided that a complete mastectomy was a viable option. That way, all tissue can be checked and help answer these nagging questions. (I’m happy to report that all was found to be clean and clear, yay!) But, for years I have spoken to women who have talked to me about theirs, and their reconstruction following and I could only give a sympathetic hug and utter "I’m so sorry!"

But, now I know, girls. I get it. I’m so sorry I didn’t know until now what you’ve been through! I now have a full list of things to suggest when getting gifts for a friend going into this surgery. I now can offer tips and ideas about how to make yourself feel better afterwards. Everything has a silver lining; I think for me without question, the fact that I can help more people with firsthand knowledge is it. If you find yourself or someone you love about to step into that world, here are few links to help you with questions. But again, please talk to your doctor for specifics about your particular case.

Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center
American Cancer Society
American Society of Clinical Oncology

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