Mom to two little ones and mom.me contributor, Meredith C. Carroll will be sharing her experiences of her recent breast cancer diagnosis, imminent treatments and day-to-day living with the big "c" here on Mom's the Word. Please join us in supporting Meredith and wishing for the easiest path through this challenging journey she and her family are facing.
people will probably agree that the sound of your health insurance case manager’s
laughter is neither here nor there. However, when she’s laughing at the notion
that the insurance company will actually pay to remove both of your breasts,
it’s probably not as amusing to you as it is to her.
there were two things that I was sure of when I was told I had breast cancer on
January 6, the first was that I have good insurance coverage. The second is that
both breasts would come off. It turns
out I was wrong about the former, although mostly because the insurance company
sent us the wrong cards at the beginning of the year. Once that was
straightened out, though, I felt confident that I was fully informed how much a
year of a bilateral mastectomy, implant surgery and nipple reconstruction would
cost me and that the bottom line number wasn’t all that bad in the grand scheme
it turns out, the bilateral mastectomy wasn’t a home run, either. And by that, I
mean the insurance company had to think about whether they would pay to remove
my left breast at all. They had to rrrrrrrrrrreeeeeeeaaaaallllllllyyyyyyyy
think about it. For what felt like a painfully long time.
would you want both breasts off if
the cancer is only in one breast?” the case manager asked me in a tone I’m
accustomed to only as it relates to asking a friend with 100 percent
seriousness how it feels to be carted off in a spaceship by aliens. Which to
say: It’s not a tone I’m familiar with at all.
was too scared to respond—the word “preventive” seems like a booby
trap that’s code for “elective” when you’re talking insurance coverage, which
likely results in “denied.” I didn’t want to say the wrong thing. So instead, I
hung up the phone and wept.
I never thought I’d be at a place in my life where getting approval to have body parts surgically removed would be a good thing.
wept at the idea that I might have to spend each and every single future moment
worrying about a recurrence of the cancer in the other breast. I wept at the
idea that I would look like a science experiment with one fake boob and one
real one. I wept because it seemed like good news was something I once knew
something about, but not in a painfully long time. But mostly I wept because
even though no one has come at me with a scalpel just yet, if they were only
focusing on one side, I already felt lopsided, uneven and hopelessly unsexy.
something actually went my way.
covered! They’re doing it! They’re going to lop off both of my boobs!” I told a friend excitedly.
Then I stopped for a moment to consider what an odd thing that is to be
grateful for. I’m happy to be losing both of my breasts? Well, no. I’m not
happy that any of this is happening. But I’m fortunate that medicine and
science have advanced from even a few years ago so that the reconstruction
process will render me perhaps a bit better and more natural than had this
happened any time previously. And, OK, yes, I’m happy that if one is going, the
other will be holding its hand high in the air and driving over the cliff together
in a fabulous ’66 blue Thunderbird convertible. It just felt weird to be
thankful for something I thought was already happening—that surgeons and
oncologists told me should happen.
I’m finding myself most appreciative of, though, is that my diagnosis isn’t any
worse than it is. Since the cancer in my right breast appears to be contained
in the ducts, it is considered Stage 0. However, should they find during the
surgery and the subsequent pathology that it has traveled outside of the ducts
into the lymph nodes, breast tissue or even the supposedly unaffected breast, I
will catapult to Stage 2.
so, my understanding is that won’t be the end of the world. Or, more
importantly (to me, anyway) my life. So far I feel like I’ve been dealing with
the diagnosis pretty well. Had I been told my cancer was more aggressive or
advanced? I shudder at the idea. I don’t admire anyone with cancer simply
because they have cancer, but people living with cancer more advanced than mine
and still get out of bed, work, function like civilized folks? Wow. Just, wow.
never thought I’d be at a place in my life where getting approval to have body
parts surgically removed would be a good thing, but the alternative is so clearly
inferior. And the fact that I’m doing it under relatively positive
circumstances has given me the opportunity to see more half-full glasses nearly
everywhere I look.
a little light in the dark appears to be my new normal, which might just be one
of the best side effects of having cancer that I never realized would be