By: Rocki Adams
I am truly happy being flat and am an advocate for aesthetic flat closure, but had I not stopped having mammograms, I would probably still have my breasts – or at least part of them. To understand why I stopped, which I absolutely do NOT recommend, here’s a brief back story…
For almost 20 years now I have been dealing with multiple health issues – some are chronic and life altering and others just flat out annoying. I had a hysterectomy at age 29. I had Stage 1 Melanoma at age 41 and multiple skin cancers since then. I’ve endured traumatic events and other life crap, like a lot of people. This did not happen all at once, it was one after the other. Some in short spans and others years apart.
You know that saying “I get knocked down, but I get up again”, right? That’s me. In fact, it was one of my doctors who tagged me with “Little Rocky Balboa” and ever since then I’ve been “Rocki” (I changed the spelling).
Anyway, I was on a ‘doctor merry-go-round’ for many years. I finally got sick of doctors to the point that I swore I’d never see another one again. So I took my healthcare into my own hands. Which I still do, but I’m smarter about it now.
So back to the mammogram. Because I had Fibrocystic breasts (mine were lumpy, thick and painful) at age 40 I had to start having yearly mammograms. At age 46, I stopped after a really bad experience. Let me say here that at that time in my life I was still timid and afraid to speak up for myself.
What happened at that mammogram was insulting, embarrassing and painful – physically and emotionally. The woman who performed the mammo was rude, aggressive, lacked empathy and unpleasant as hell. She should’ve chosen another career. Anyway, I left there crying and told my hubby that I would NEVER have another mammo done again! I know… not smart, but you have to understand where I’ve come from and my mindset at the time.
Fast forward five years to 2012 – age 51. While sitting on the couch watching a movie with my hubby I scratched an itch on my left breast. In doing so, I felt a lump. However, I was used to those as my breasts were full of lumps and bumps anyway. I must admit that I did not do monthly self-checks, but did do them periodically. Anyway, the more I felt it the more it seemed different than the others. So I mentioned it to hubby and he said I should get it checked out. I thought about it, but decided not to because of all the above. I know, I see the head shakes and hear the groans.
A few days or so later after hubby’s constant urging me, I decided to make an appointment. I’m very grateful for my loving hubby and I tell him that all the time. If I remained stubborn about it, life would have turned out not so well.
My GYN doc is awesome and I respect her. She felt the lump in my left breast also, but because of my Fibrocystic breasts it was hard to tell what it was. She felt nothing abnormal in my right.
She then ordered a mammogram and off I went to schedule it. I really didn’t want to and felt that it was just going to be nothing at all, but I did.
Appointment day, in short as I was there for a few hours. I had the mammo done by a very nice tech and was sent to a separate room instead of being told to change and go home. Then another tech took me back for an ultrasound, where she focused more on my right side than the left. Back to my little room. Then a second mammo and back to my little room again. Finally I was told to dress and wait there. I’ll admit that I was rather nervous at this point. So the doc came into my little room and she told me that my left breast was okay and that the lump was basically nothing (good ol’ lumpy breasts). Then her demeanor changed and said “however, your right breast is the problem.” She proceeded to explain what all was found, how it was throughout my entire breast, showed me the scans and said that I was being scheduled for a breast biopsy. And to wait in my little room. I did not like that little room.
I sat there and waited. My mind was whirling, I felt dizzy and sick. I was kicking myself in the ass for stopping the mammos and not doing monthly checks. And here an itch on my left breast is what led it to be found in my right one. It was just so surreal. I then noticed the missed calls on my phone from hubby and knew he was concerned, but I was unable to call him back until I was out of my little room.
With everything scheduled I walked out of the office and tried to hold back from crying. I couldn’t. I had already been through so much crap in my life that I didn’t think I would break down like that, but when you hear the word “cancer” in any form, that turns your world upside down. And even though I had dealt with Melanoma and a continuation of multiple skin cancers… this hit me harder.
I sat in the car and called hubby. He left work and came home. We discussed everything about what we knew so far and at that very moment, even though I didn’t know what the biopsy results would show, I told him that if it comes down to my breasts having to be removed, then I did not want reconstruction. He didn’t flinch at all and completely agreed with whatever I wanted to do as it was my choice. I love that man!
Fast forward past the painful biopsy, two days of waiting for the results, the gut wrenching dreaded call from my doctor telling me I had breast cancer in my right breast and to the surgeon at the Breast Care Center who explained the rest.
The surgeon explained it all to us in detail (hubby was and is always with me every step of the way). I had High-Grade 3 Ductal Carcinoma In-Situ (solid type/necrosis) in multiple locations throughout my right breast and that this type of DCIS is aggressive, fast growing and more likely to return. There was a list of other results, but that’s the main one. He said I was “lucky” that it was discovered at that time and that this type of breast cancer typically isn’t found on a breast exam or have symptoms. The surgeon explained the options to me, but said that due to it was widespread and the locations, a single mastectomy with lymph node removal was recommended and that I could have reconstruction. I chose a double mastectomy without reconstruction. (I wasn’t aware of the term “aesthetic flat closure” back then, but thankfully that is what I got).
There’s much more to share between all of this, but lets fast forward past more tests, my surgery of choice (lymph nodes were clean, but more DCIS was found), those damn drains and the recovery process, etc. I am thankful that my surgeon gave me the flat closure that I wanted and, maybe because he used staples (69 total), I’m amazed at how the scars are barely noticeable now. Not that that would have bothered me as my body is full of scars from skin cancers anyway.
It has now been a little over 8 years and I can honestly say that this experience, on top of all my other health crud, has made me even stronger than I was before. But living flat 24/7 has not only given me the confidence and bravery which I never had before, it has also given me freedom. Unconditional freedom to be who I am, unapologetically, wear whatever I want and live happily flat out loud.
You can find out more about me on my IG @livingflatoutloud where I’m trying to do my part as an advocate to show in a variety of ways that an aesthetic flat closure is normal and a viable choice. And also a friend to all of the breast cancer community, no matter what the diagnosis or stage is, we are all in this together.
Peace & love,
Rocki Adams @LivingFlatOutloud