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After the Mastectomy: Unveiling and Staging

The Phantom Breast
The days that followed brought extreme fatigue. While I experienced surprisingly little pain, I wasn’t particularly comfortable and had lots of weird sensations. When I moved a certain way it sent a tugging or prickly feeling to my nonexistent nipple. The feeling was powerful and if I didn’t look down, I felt as if I still had that breast. Even so, my skin was, for the most part, without feeling.

The Reconstruction Question
My surgeon strongly advised that I hold off on thoughts of reconstruction for a while. Not getting that process started during the mastectomy meant that reconstruction would be a bit more involved for me. After some research on reconstruction, the risks and expense began to sound more and more unappealing. As much as I appreciated balance, I felt as though reconstruction might be more trouble than it is worth. As a younger woman, my feelings likely would have been very different. A good prosthetic might do the trick for me.

As for my husband, the answer was clear:

“If you do consider reconstruction, just know that you will be doing it for yourself, because I think you look beautiful just the way you are.” I am a fortunate woman indeed.

Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series
#1 The Lump in my Breast: Meeting the Enemy
#2 Most Breast Lumps are Non-Cancerous: Would mine be?
#3 The Mammogram, the Ultrasound, and ‘the Look’
#4 The Biopsy and Breast Cancer Confirmation
#5 A New Twist: It’s Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
#6 Before the Mastectomy: Planning for the Future
#7 Mastectomy Day: What it’s like to lose a breast

Access the up-to-date Living with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Series

Take Action! Sign the petition: We can end breast cancer by 2020

Author’s Note: This is article is part of a series chronicling my first-hand patient perspective of life with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer. Without being overly self-indulgent, I hope to convey the raw emotion that comes with such a diagnosis… and the process of living with and beyond it. Entries will appear in Care2 Causes and in Care2 Healthy & Green Living. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo

For More Information:
Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation
American Cancer Society


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12:00PM PDT on May 7, 2011

Are they still doing this?? How barbaric! It has been almost forty years and BILLONS of dollors later since my aunts went through this. WHERE is that cancer money REALLY going?

10:24AM PDT on May 4, 2011

Thank you for so eloquently sharing your story. I will use your comments about your "team" and how the nurses' attitudes and compassion were of help to you when I teach my nursing students about the art (vs the science) of nursing. I will also think of you if I ever get breast cancer myself. Thank you for many things.

8:51PM PDT on May 3, 2011

My admiration and respect for you wonderful women who have had to experience this awful disease and have displayed such strength and courage. My admiration and respect also for the partners who have honoured the 'through sickness and health' part of their vows; bless you all, you are an inspiration.

2:56PM PDT on May 3, 2011

*** AMMIREVOLE *** *cat

10:32AM PDT on May 3, 2011

I guess you can say that I am very lucky. They found my breast cancer at stage 1 with clean margins and clean lymph glands. So, I had a lumpectomy, radiation and for 5 years, a medication called Arimidex. I have to see the oncologist and the surgeon every 6 months for life.

9:28AM PDT on May 3, 2011

I wish I had the support you had. It's been 5 years since my double mastectomy, chemo, radiation, and yes, I'm glad to be alive. However, my boyfriend at the time couldn't look at me when my bandages came off, nor ever after. Of course he wasn't around long after that. I realize that was his problem, not mine, but emotionally it scarred me worse than the 16 inches of physical scars across my chest. My family lives 3,000 miles away, and the only thing that got me through all this is my cat, Radar. Animals are amazing! I consider myself a warm, outgoing person, but I still won't open my self or body to a man. Yes, I've been through counseling, but nothing seems to help. It seems that I only read about wonderful men who help women through breast cancer. Does anyone have the same story as me? I know I'm a stronger and better woman now, but it's been a lonely, long journey. One of these days, I'm sure I'll have a relationship again, but right now, after 5 years, I'm finally happy alone, but not lonely.

8:22AM PDT on May 3, 2011

Living with a scarred and misshapen body is not an easy adjustment, but you seem to have handled it wonderfully well. And you are very lucky to have a husband who is loving and supportive. I have not gone through what you have (and count myself very lucky for that!), but I have experienced surgery and an iliostomy that I thought would totally turn my husband away from me. Never once did he falter! His love and support are what got me through. I imagine you feel the same way about your husband.

7:21AM PDT on May 3, 2011

I had my left breast removed 2.5 years ago. I had cancer cells in my "sentinel" lymph node, so lost 18 lymph nodes as a precaution. I did not have reconstruction. I'm glad to be alive of course, but I still don't like seeing myself in the mirror. Horrible disease, on so many levels. Thanks for sharing your story.

7:13AM PDT on May 3, 2011

Also, women need to get rid of amalgam fillings. They are extremely toxic, being 50% mercury. Mercury vapor escapes the fillings, gradually accumulating in your body. When you eat a little is scraped onto your food and then is ingested, and absorbed by your digestive tract. Find a good, holistic dentist experienced in mercury filling removal. Cilantro and organic vegetable juices will help remove the mercury from your body, or you can do chelation under a doctor's supervision.

And avoid root canals as well! Root canals harbor very toxic bacteria, more toxic than botulism. This anaerobic bacteria lives in the dead tooth, in tubules so narrow white blood cells cannot enter to kill them. Also, root canals contain metals that interact with mercury fillings, making the mercury far more toxic!

One study of breast cancer patients showed 98% of them have root canals!

Root canals can be removed, but it must be done very carefully by an experienced dentist. I believe there are also treatments that can be done by a dentist, to kill the bacteria safely, but you would need to check on that.

7:04AM PDT on May 3, 2011

It's lovely your husband is loving and accepting - but then husbands should be - " in sickness & in health " right?

It's such a shame so many women these days are having their breasts amputated. Breast cancer used to be very rare 100 years ago, now it's 1 out of 7 get it in North America.

And after amputation, the docs offer radiation and poison. Chemo drugs kill healthy cells, permanently injure vital organs, destroy immune systems, the very things you need to fight cancer! Getting chemo increases a person's chance of getting leukemia by 5 - 10%. And the original cancer has a good chance of returning in some other part of the body. Then what - the docs offer more chemo - or send you home to die.

We cannot avoid getting a certain amount of toxins into our bodies with the world being so polluted these days. But there is much we CAN do - eat only organic food, wear organic clothing, detox our livers and bowels, take supplements, avoid stress, meditate and/or pray. Also, we can avoid bra-wearing so that our lymph systems can more easily drain toxins out. Constrictive bras, especially underwire bras, are closely related to high risk of breast cancer.

Cancer is BIG business. Big Pharma makes billions on it every year. They don't want a cure. They like things as they are.

Take charge of your health. Investigate how cancer works, how it can be prevented, how it can be defeated with natural means. Read Cure Your Cancer by Bill Henderson.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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