“You think if you’ve got no uterus and no breasts, you’re still technically a woman?” Donna Jensen from the movie Erin Brockovich
Never in my life did I expect that by 30 I’d be living my life, fairly happily, without breasts, a uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. I figured at one point I’d probably get my tubes removed or maybe have a hysterectomy but I was thinking 50, not 30.
But then breast cancer came along and it changed things, surprise surprise.
Around chemo number 6, when I was tired and just over the whole thing, I began to research hormonal breast cancers and recurrence rates for women who had prophylactic (preventative) full hysterectomies. In the US there is a huge push for young survivors to just shut down their reproductive system with shots and medications and then allow them to restart at some point in 5-10 years (or sooner in some cases). And for the young survivors who were diagnosed prior to having a child I can see the desire to do this and have the chance to bear their own child(ren). Surrogacy and adoption is very expensive and a lot of people don’t have the financial means to take those routes.
However, for us it didn’t make sense. There were so many studies I found from Australia and England, as well as a few under publicized ones in the US, that show overall survival was significantly better in women (especially premenopausal women) who had prophylactic full hysterectomies (that is removal of all reproductive organs – uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes). To me just the word SIGNIFICANTLY was enough. It was enough for my husband as well. I asked him numerous times what his real feelings are (because I never want this to be something that felt rushed because of circumstances) and he always tells me “If I had to choose having another child and risking you getting cancer again, I’d choose you. What’s life with our children if their mom isn’t alive?”
Making this decision wasn’t one that my husband or I took lightly. It seemed fairly obvious though that my oncologist wasn’t on board. He actually told me numerous times leading up to my hysterectomy that doing the surgery was not necessary, was extreme and that there really was no issue leaving me on Zoladex shots (says the guy not getting his stomach gabbed with a huge ass needle every month).
Here’s the deal, my hormones have hated me pretty much my whole life, my cancer was hormonally driven and therefore what’s stopping my hormones from laying in dormancy for 5-10 years just to come back with vengeance and try to take me out again? No thank you, byyyeeee!
So yes, I will never be able to bear my own children again. But I also will never have to buy another box of tampons or track my cycle in order to avoid wearing my light pink jeans on the wrong day, so small victories. Just like Erin Brockovich says in response to Donna Jensen’s question, “you’re actually a happier woman because you don’t have to worry about maxi-pads and underwire.”