At age 49 my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, which is obviously a complete shock to any woman. We are a family full of women who, until now, had no family history of the disease.
According to the CDC, aside from non-melanoma skin cancer, cancer of the breast is the most common cancer among women in the United States. Statistics say that about 1 in 8 American women will develop invasive breast cancer within her lifetime. There were approximately 230,500 new cases diagnosed in 2011 within the U.S. On a positive note, from 1999 to 2005 these diagnosis rates have decreased by almost 2% each year. Sadly, medical statistics expected nearly 40,000 U.S. women to die in 2011 from breast cancer; however, this number is down in recent years due to advanced treatment options, earlier detection and increased awareness.
My mother, a registered nurse, took matters into her own hands. She was dedicated to monthly self-breast exams and found her own lump. After consulting 3 doctors, my mother finally found a physician willing to listen to her concerns, perform a biopsy and diagnose her cancer. The cancerous cells were only found in one breast; against the doctor's wishes, Mom selected a double mastectomy. I admire her strength and now think that because of her confidence and positive attitude through it all, I would choose the same.
In August 2005 Mom underwent a double mastectomy to remove both of her breasts. The surgeon then pulled the skin from above and below her breasts to cover her chest area. I will be honest that her recovery from this surgery was very difficult and incredibly painful. She had drains placed underneath her skin that had to be changed regularly. Finally after recovery she opted to meet with a plastic surgeon who specialized in breast augmentation post mastectomy surgery.
Breast augmentation surgery uses implants to restore breast volume or fullness. This is a common practice after a lumpectomy or mastectomy. For a woman, it's a way to feel normal again after such a devastating loss. For my mom, it allowed her to feel like she had a womanly shape and body again. Now as a 50 year-old woman she still feels confident enough to wear a swimsuit. Cosmetic surgery can sometimes be associated with vanity, but in the case of woman who has lost one or both breasts due to cancer, I believe this is a fair reason to undergo augmentation.
There were more than 2.6 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. last year, my own mother being one of them. She is now 6 years cancer-free, a huge advocate for the cause and willing to share her story every day.