Why I waited 10 years to have breast reconstruction

Maybe I’m a late bloomer. After being diagnosed with triple-negative inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) in August 2007, I had a double mastectomy at MD Anderson. But I didn’t have breast reconstruction surgery until this March, almost 10 years later. Why did I wait so long? For many reasons.  Living ‘breast-free’ was an easy choice — initially For one thing, after a brutal year of treatment, I was told that breast reconstruction could be dangerous. I was happy just to be alive, so living “breast-free” was very comfortable. I was also deeply tired and achy from the chemotherapy and radiation, and I didn’t want to lose even one more minute of my life to cancer. As more time passed, though, I learned that I’d entered the “safety zone” for IBC survivors, which meant the risk of recurrence was lower. It also meant the recommended reconstructive surgery, called “DIEP” (deep inferior epigastric perforator flap procedure), would not endanger my long-term health. Suddenly, I had a choice.  New options bring quandary Now, I felt greatly conflicted. Was it vain of me to go through this massive operation to have breasts again, when they were not really mine or natural? Wasn’t being alive and healthy enough? Somehow, I felt that by even considering this, I was betraying all the “flat and fabulous” survivors I admired so much. I’d also heard stories about failed reconstructions: bodies rejecting flaps, expanders tearing skin and wounds not healing. And I knew that the skin damage I’d incurred from my own radiation treatments made similar complications more likely for me.  Lymphedema: what finally forced the issue Finally, something...