Dr. M is a tall man in his mid to late 60’s with impeccable posture and a steady demeanor. He listened to me intently as I advocated for myself in the kind of help I was seeking. “I respect your decision but it’s my job to give you my professional opinion. What you are asking is not what I would be recommending for you.” said the surgeon.
I held on tightly to the pile of notes I’d used to state my request with conviction. I couldn’t let his words shake me because I’d already made my decision. Prior to my initial meeting with Dr. M, I’d spoken to best selling author and naturopath Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur who wrote “The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer”. Dr. Kaur’s book bridged the gap for me to cross over to conventional medicine with an open mind. In our one hour appointment she helped me to form a strategy that made sense to me and fortified my decision to have surgery. By the time I’d met Dr. M, I was crystal clear on what I needed to do.
I breathed deeply and settled into myself before speaking. “I appreciate your professional opinion but I won’t be doing the recommended procedure. My hope is that you will agree to solely remove the tumor and the enlarged lymph node above it. I do not want an Axillary Node Dissection. I understand it’s merit as a diagnostic and preventive measure, but I’m not willing put myself at risk for Lymphedema. I won’t be getting radiation or undergoing chemotherapy.”
I agreed to the Sentinel Node Biopsy since I was prepared to take out the enlarged node anyway. A Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy shows if cancer has spread from the tumour to the closest lymph node. If cancer is found in it, what is typically done is an Axillary Node Dissection where 10-40 lymph nodes in the armpit would be removed to biopsy and possibly contain the cancer.
In my case, the Axillary Node Dissection with the Lumpectomy was the obvious go to because the scans clearly showed an irregular shaped lymph node next to my tumor. I was reminded again that the “safer” option would be to remove my right breast entirely and better yet, to lop off both for good measure. That reality never entered my field of consciousness in it’s fullness. In regards to removing body parts, I’d set a firm boundary on how far I was prepared to go.
I’m an artist, body worker, lover and mother- cherishing the use of my hands as the extension of my heart. I couldn’t possibly jeopardize my mobility by cutting out segments of the fluid network integral to flushing out cellular waste. Damaging the lymphatic system could impede the draining of fluids and cause painful edema. I was mostly concerned about the host of other issues that could arise linked to that procedure. I would not gamble with that possibility.
At no point during our meeting did Dr. M talk down to me nor judge me- if anything, I think he found me intriguing as I clearly had taken the road less travelled. He repeated my request at least a couple more times to be absolutely sure he understood what I was asking. That’s when I knew I had found the right surgeon for the job.
I echoed him with my own words so we were both on the exact same page. ” Doc, I just want you to scoop out the tumour with minimal margins and the one lymph node in question. I don’t want any extra nodes taken out for testing. We can test the one we take out but regardless of the prognosis, that’s as far as we are going to go. That’s it.”
” Ok, I’m clear on your request and I’ll do that for you.” He replied.
The question that was stirring up in me finally bubbled up to the surface. I kept telling myself it wouldn’t matter, that there’s no point in asking because I’d made the decision…it wasn’t important because I’d come to know myself deeper and the surface stuff was just that… but vanity is real and nice tits are hard to let go of… so I asked. “Will my breast be deformed? Like a shark bit a chunk out of it?” Smiling he answered, “You’re lucky that tumour is on the outer contour of your breast, I think I’ll be able to make it look ok.”
Everything was clicking in place so I shot him my final request. “I’d like to book in for the surgery working with my menstrual cycle as my tumor grows and shrinks depending on my hormones. Can you take it out when it’s in its smallest form so I can preserve as much of my breast as possible?” Clearly amused with my line of questioning he said, “Let’s see what we can do.” I looked him in the eyes and thanked him from my heart with a resounding YES inside.
Al and I both had a good feeling about Dr. M. I’d scrutinized the surgeons hand movements throughout the whole of our meeting and felt confident in his steadiness. When I told Al that he laughed and said, “Of course you did babe, you had it all covered. I trust you and I’m proud of you.” “I’m excited to meet the German New Medicine lady tomorrow.” I replied.
“What side of the body do you walk you bike with?” she asked. Confused I visualized myself pushing my mountain bike uphill and answered, “Right.” “Great, let’s just double check. Clap your hands please.” she said. Puzzled, I stared at the attractive woman behind the desk and clapped my hands. “You’re definitely right handed so it has nothing to do with your mother or daughter.” she stated. What the hell does that have to do with my lump?
LESSON: “The Pessimist Sees Difficulty In Every Opportunity. The Optimist Sees Opportunity In Every Difficulty.” – Winston Churchill