Personal Stories

Pam's Story

In the late fall of 1999, I was 45 years old and in the midst of one of the busiest times of my life, preparing for my daughter's upcoming wedding. That year, I might have skipped my annual mammogram had it not been for the fact that my doctor was pushing for a bone density test at the same time. That mammogram saved my life. Two weeks later, I had a left-breast mastectomy after a diagnosis of DCIS and IDC, ER positive, 1.5 cm, Grade 1, with no positive nodes out of 17 taken. Following my mastectomy, I had four rounds of chemo, followed by radiation and Tamoxifen.

I have been small and petite my entire life. I'm 5' nothing and weigh 102 pounds. The only time I had any breasts to speak of was when I was pregnant. 32A — that's me! Obviously, breasts have never been highlighted or an accessory for my wardrobe. My breasts or body have never defined who I am — I have more in my heart than what's on my chest. I am married to a most wonderful man who is just glad to have me alive and couldn't care less about a "substitute" breast. I don't think anyone who knows me was really surprised by my decision not to reconstruct.

During my post-mastectomy visit to the surgeon's office, reconstruction was discussed. I was told I didn't have enough back fat for a latissimus dorsi flap, and was told about other options that sounded equally painful. I was also informed that, per my insurance, I had two years to decide whether or not to have reconstruction (I know the laws have changed since then). I knew that day that I didn't need two years or two days to think about it. I was not going through any more surgeries or pain. It's such a personal decision, but recalling now how I felt seven years ago, I really doubt I would have done anything differently. For a mastectomy scar, mine looks pretty good, no dog ears, straight across and very taut. For me, that was good enough.

Seven years later (yay!), I've not regretted my decision. Through trial and error, I've found bras and some prostheses that work for me. I go to a great boutique for bras and fittings. Finding a place you like and feel comfortable with can make all the difference in the world. Some days, I go without my prosthesis. Since I'm small, if I wear a heavy sweater or layering, no one notices. One thing I have noticed is that if I go for too long without wearing my prosthesis, it's uncomfortable the next time and I have to get used to it all over again. I often think that if I had had a bilateral, I wouldn't wear anything at all. But I'm kind of vain, so I'm not so sure. I do know, I would still be a 32A. That's who I am.