In my opinion, life is way more important than looks

Published12/31/2007 12:14 AM

A recent report from the University of Michigan told us that women with breast cancer decided on lumpectomy vs. mastectomy based on which one would look best after reconstruction.

I must admit I was floored when I heard it repeated all day on WBBM 780-AM, my favorite all-news background-listening radio station.


I still vividly recall my own reaction when David J. Winchester, my surgeon at Evanston Northwestern Hospital, said, "The good news is that there are no lymph nodes involved; the bad news is four of six margins are not clear."

Chuckling, I responded, "Then lop it off! It's just a breast."

After he recovered from a serious case of shock, he managed to tell me he'd do that after I healed from the lumpectomy.

I never gave a single thought to which one would look best. My concern was life -- not looks.

In my opinion, the time spent on research on the topic was time ill-spent.

Today, we have many different reconstructive options after surgery. We can do nothing. We can opt for implants. We can use wonderful stick-ons of various sizes to fill dents or irregularities. Or there's flap-reconstruction, which uses tissue from your abdomen or back to shape a new "breast."

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After my mastectomy, I chose to have an implant, which was gradually expanded to match my remaining breast. My choice had nothing to do with how I'd look afterward.

It had everything to do with how well I'd live after my surgery, even before I knew I'd have a recurrence.

Hopefully, I won't need to make the same decision again for the other breast. But if I did, I'd choose to do no reconstruction and have the implant I already have removed. Eventually they lose their shape anyway.

Looks? I think I look just fine. If others do not, that's their problem.

My goal, each time I walk into the hospital for a blood test or a scan, is to relish the opportunity to see my friends on the staff; to share what's new; and to be grateful for what they have been able to do to enhance and maintain my quality of life.

That quality is not measured in an implant. It's measured in life itself.

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