Four years ago today I had life altering surgery. I made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy because the cancer returned to the same breast after 3 years of treatment. In my mind, I didn’t want to deal with breast cancer again so I decided to have one breast removed prophylactic and the other because it had cancer. Today is a day I have talked about many times over the last 4 years. I volunteer for CancerConnection. I have talked to many women about breast cancer and have at times, shared my thinking in making the decisions I made. When I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy, my surgeon told me I would have 4 years to decide if I wanted to have reconstructive surgery. Basically it would take about 1 year to schedule the surgery and in BC the surgery has to be done within the first 5 years to be considered non-cosmetic. Today is that day. Tomorrow morning I have my 6 month check up with my doctor and if I decided I wanted to have reconstructive surgery I would have to let her know tomorrow. So today, I have spent some time reflecting on this decision.

I’ve been thinking about what our family has been through. How grateful I am to see our daughter graduate from one program and start university in another program. I have see our son return to university and is now getting close to starting his profession. I saw our nephew get married and our niece get engaged. We’ve also marked anniversaries that are more difficult but still filled with many happy memories.

I’ve also thought about what it was like when I was recovering from surgery and going through chemotherapy. My family was unbelievable supportive but I also had to watch the stress I was causing them as they worried about me. I witnessed people giving me strange looks and learned to laugh at some of the situations. For example, when I was bald, I had some people give me strange looks. I remember a very good friend declared she knew what was going on. She said people were trying to figure out if I was a man becoming a woman or a woman becoming a man. I had a t-shirt made up that said “Boobless in Kelowna. They tried to kill me.” I thought it was funny. However, I had one person approach me when I was wearing the shirt and tell me it was inappropriate. Luckily, more people were like me and laughed when they saw it. My husband and I use to think it was funny how many times I could be in the women’s washroom and someone would walk in and think she had entered the wrong washroom!

Today I have thought about whether I would want to go through surgery again. To be honest what I thought about more was if I was to have the surgery, how many times would I be judged again. I’m sure you’ve heard of other women who been through breast cancer and decided to have reconstructive surgery only to be judged on whether their breasts are real or not. Where I got the idea for my shirt was from a posting of a shirt a woman was wearing which said, “Yes they’re fake! The real ones tried to kill me.” So if I had the surgery, would I then have people judging me because they weren’t real?

Over the last 4 years I’ve learned to accept who I am and be proud of the person I have become. I have learned to accept my body just the way it is – boobless and all. This acceptance has been much easier because I have a husband that supports me unconditionally. He tells me daily how pretty I am. He constantly tells me how lucky he is to be married to me. In fact, this is something we debate over – who’s luckier? In my mind there is no question, it’s me!

In the last 4 years I have worked to stop judging other people. To accept people for who they are. I want people to accept me for who I am not for what I look like or because I’m missing body parts that are so often sexualized. Tomorrow morning, I will have my regular 6 month check up and there will be no discussion on whether I want reconstructive surgery. This is the right decision for me.