If You Knew Then

Most of us can find one or two things we might have chosen to do differently in our life journey, and breast cancer (or any cancer) is no different. There’s so much to learn, so many decisions to make, so many emotions swirling around in your head.

I can think of two things I would have done differently when I was diagnosed with DCIS, and I’m lucky they’re both pretty minor. The first one falls into the stress reduction category. I had never had a massage until my husband booked a couple’s massage  three weeks after my second-stage reconstruction surgery. I could not believe how relaxing it was and my first thought was, “If only I had done this while I was trying to figure out what to do.”

You know the feeling. You’re faced with treatment choices that range from poor to sad and your head is spinning like a caffeinated hamster on a wheel. I can’t tell you how many times I wished I could climb out of my mind. I think a massage or two would have helped calm the noise in my head. I’ve read since then that there’s evidence massages help reduce stress in people going through chemo.

My other “do over” has to do with biopsies. If I knew then what I know now, I would have skipped the stereotactic biopsy that identified my DCIS and had the surgical biopsy instead. 

Like everything else associated with cancer, this is a highly personal choice and takes a bit more thought than deciding on a massage. I decided after a 60-second chat with the radiologist who found the bad cells on my mammogram. I should have done some homework and talked to my doctor.

I’ve heard from women who wish they had opted for radiation instead of mastectomy, or wish they had known more about their reconstructive choices. Sometimes, like my biopsy situation, asking more questions in advance might have helped. (Which can be easier said than done, because we don’t know what we don’t know.) Other times, even our doctors couldn’t have predicted the outcome, such as post-surgery pain that’s chronic instead of temporary. 

The only comfort I can offer  is that we shouldn’t beat ourselves up. Instead, we can share our experiences. In doing so, we may help each other decide on a path. If we’re past deciding, at the very least we’ll know we’re not alone.

When you think of your own cancer journey, what would you have done differently?


2 thoughts on “If You Knew Then

  1. Hi Jackie, Generally, I try really hard to not look back and rehash what I should have or should not have done. Sometimes you just can’t help doing it anyway though. In my case, since I turned out to be BRCA2 positive, I wish I had been tested earlier. I knew my mom had the mutated gene, but I wasn’t pyschologically ready, or so I thought, to know. I thought I had more time to think about it since she didn’t get cancer til in her 70’s. Turns out I didn’t have time to think about it. So, that’s what I would “do over” if I could.

    • Hi Nancy,
      Thanks for commenting. I try not to spend too much time playing the “shoulda coulda woulda” game either. Don’t be hard on yourself for not getting tested sooner. That’s a big decision.

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