Women facing the decision to have a double mastectomy come from many different directions and they also come from many different relationship statuses. Some have been through a cancer diagnosis and treatment, some have tested positive for a genetic mutation that puts them at a significantly increased risk of developing breast cancer, some have both. Some are very young, some are older, some are single, some are dating, and some are married or widowed. They each come to the surgery with a story. For those who have a spouse or significant other, the side of the story of what the other person experiences as a result of this life-changing decision is not often told. Even though we all know women are far more than their body parts, for most women, our breasts are a big part of our femininity and sexuality. When I learned of my BRCA1 mutation and I decided to proceed with a double mastectomy and reconstruction to reduce my 87% chance of breast cancer as much as possible, I thought a lot about how I needed to be here for my children and my husband, but I didn’t really invest much thought into how reconstructed breasts would fit into my marriage. At that moment, I was just focused on what needed to be done and I would deal with the consequences later. Thankfully, I haven’t had to worry, I love my DIEP Flap results and it never ceases to amaze me how real and natural they feel. My husband has been very supportive and always by my side through the whole process, but recently I asked him if he would share his thoughts and how my decision impacted him.
Here is his side of the story.
I received a call from my wife while at work, she was crying saying that her BRCA test was positive. After finding out her mother had breast cancer and knowing she had the same gene mutation that would most likely give her the same disease, I was driving home scared to death wondering if my wife would be ok. The thoughts going through my head were would my kids get to see their mother grow old, will my wife be ok, would I be ok. Over the next several weeks my wife became an encyclopedia researching her options and combing the internet looking for the best. I really never thought that this would happen and I had no clue what I could do. I didn’t want to help much in her decision-making process because of my own fears. My wife decided she wanted to undergo a DIEP flap reconstruction and I was all for it. Whatever it would take to get her feeling safe again was fine by me. I told her I didn’t need boobs, but I did need her. I didn’t care if she was taking them off for good or rebuilding, I just wanted her better. I am not the greatest about showing my emotions and this time in life was no different. I was scared of what do or say, so I just tried to ignore it, and roll with her choices. I got a call from her saying that there is a duo surgeon team in Columbus that also does the surgery in Cincinnati, they are the best of the best, and she had made an appointment.
The day of the appointment, we make the drive from Lexington, looking at my wife smiling again and hearing her laugh did a lot to calm my nerves (although I would never have told her I was nervous). When I met Dr. Ergun Kocak, I instantly felt relief (not for him, because I knew my wife had a million questions). My wife hit him with a few pages of questions and he hit every answer out of the park. to it. Then Dr. Kocak did something I had never witnessed, he gave my wife his personal email, telling her to contact him anytime day or night if she had questions. It was amazing to see a doctor that truly cared and to witness the smile on my wife’s face. After her appointment, we had a long drive home and my wife seemed to have a pep in her step, excited to have met them and begin the process to have her procedure.
The day of the surgery, I was scared to death having our four boys, my mother in law, and wife in a hotel was stressful enough, not to mention the operation that was about to unfold. We arrived at the hospital and my wife is hooked up to IVs and placed in the pre-op area. We kiss goodbye, I tell her I love her and the LONG wait begins. I stayed until they took her back then I drove to the hotel and picked up her mother and our kids and drove back to Christ Hospital. We waited forever, so long in fact that I had to leave the hospital because my kids were tired and needed rest. Leaving her there and not being able to talk to her, to know she was alive and doing well was the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. I was crying on the phone with the nurse trying to get an update. Hours later lying in the hotel room I received a call from her mom giving me the news that she was safe and out of surgery. The next day I got to see her for the first time, when I saw her, I felt so much relief seeing her awake and recovering. I got to spend some time with her only and witnessing what she went through was scary. She honestly looked like a victim from a horror movie instead of a patient from elected surgery, but t the best part was knowing the risk had been removed. My wife’s BRCA mutation was attacked by the best of the best, Dr. Manders who removed the breasts and Drs. Kocak and Dr. Pankaj Tiwari who gave her a brand new set. The next couple of days following the surgery were rough driving from Cincinnati to Lexington to drop off my mother in law and kids and driving right back to be with my wife. Until then our kids had only been away from us 12 hours, at the most. I was worried about them and my wife at the same time, but our family pulled together to keep our precious jewels safe and sound. The time finally came to leave the hospital and man was I scared. How was I going to take care of her, how was she going to survive the long bumpy ride home and could I handle all the kids, house chores and her needs by myself? We made it home and got her in a recliner resting, I drove and picked up her medicine and went back home as fast as I could. For the next several days it was a lot of drain emptying and packing her incisions and making her as comfortable as possible. It was overwhelming at times because life for my family and friends returned to normal and I was all alone with no help. I tried the best to do it all and I did, with a few breakdowns, but day by day she got better and grew stronger. I don’t really remember when I finally got to see the new breasts and at first was honestly scared to, would they look like hers, would she like them, would I? I have to admit that I was so scared to touch them to hurt her that I didn’t for a long time, but months after the surgery and after the nipple reconstruction, I can say without a doubt that the new boobs are just as good as the old ones. Seeing my wife happy is really all it is about.
To the doctors that performed her surgery, I owe my life. What they gave my wife is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. Knowing that my kids will have a mother that is healthy and vibrant for many years to come. I often praise the doctors for what they have done for my wife. Her new found love for informing people about the options for breast reconstruction. My stay at home wife began sharing her experience and spreading the word about women’s options and the amazing surgeons of Midwest Breast & Aesthetic Surgery. Her story has to give her a calling other than wife and mother of four. I tell people every day that I work almost 80 hours a week, but my wife works longer and harder. I really never tell her how proud of her I am and how she juggles more than I do, but honestly without her in my life, I wouldn’t know what I would do. She is my anchor.
To the men out there that have doubts or fears when your wife faces this surgery, the doctors that have been selected to help repair your loved ones are without a doubt the best in the world. They are going to perform miracles and after time passes and scars heal you will feel as I do. How could these people care so much for people that they don’t really know and have just recently met? I can’t answer that question, but I can say it is true. I feel as if they have had this calling from birth and that God put them on this planet for the sole purpose of putting air back into the lives of families that have had the air sucked out of them.