Watching and Waiting for Cancer

So I met all the doctors. What now? All the information and options were given to me, and it was overwhelming, to say the least. I was considering both preventive surgeries (full hysterectomy and preventive bilateral mastectomy (PBM) with reconstruction). I was playing the “odds versus timing” game in my head: “If I wait until I’m X years old, then I will... .” I could have ongoing screenings, but I felt like that would make me anxious. So I felt like I would be watching and waiting to develop cancer. I was 44 years old at this time and had my children, so for me there was not much upside to waiting around. I pictured asking women that were fighting breast or ovarian cancer, “What would you have done if you had this information?”

At this time, I also worried about my children and their genetics – talk about stressful! My youngest was not 18 years old, so she could not have genetic testing yet (she later tested negative!). My son decided to have testing, and he was negative! What a relief; he wouldn’t have to worry about having children that carried the gene, and his cancer risks were back to normal risk instead of high-risk. My middle daughter dragged her feet for a year before getting tested. I think she wasn’t ready for the information yet and she was watching what was happening to me.

I was contemplating my options one day, and my youngest walked into my room. I explained to her that I was trying to decide what to do (watch and wait) or commit to the surgeries. She just looked at me and said, “I need you here on Earth, Mom – you are having the surgery.” Period. Then she walked out. There’s nothing like hearing from your 17 year-old daughter that you will be having some major surgeries. In her mind, there was no other option.

So at this point, I realized it was just a matter of time before having the surgeries. I could not risk my children going through what I went through with my parents’ cancers. I had other things to start considering: When could I take off work? Could I get on the surgeon’s schedule? What about my medical insurance? What was my deductible? Could I even afford to have the surgery? Open enrollment is open twice a year for me… were there changes I should make to my policy before considering scheduling the surgeries?

Making these decisions was a complicated situation, with many people involved. For you, this all could depend on your age and life plans. So everyone has a unique situation when making choices.

I thought I was committed to my plan, but I later panicked and canceled one of my surgeries. I needed a little more time for acceptance, and to just let it go.

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