By Kiana Wooten
In May 2019, I went to the doctor for a routine checkup. As the doctor was doing a normal breast exam, she felt a lump. I had felt this lump months before and paid no attention to it. Ever since I was a young teen, I had always felt small little lumps in my breasts, so to me it was normal. She proceeded to tell me that she wanted me to get a mammogram. I laughed because I thought, “What for?”
At the time, I was only 34 years old and I know the typical age that a woman is supposed to start getting mammograms is around 40. I was not too concerned with it, so I just took the script and brushed it off.
Fast forward to 3 months later, I started to have a lot of pain in my left arm and chest area. I was rubbing on my chest area and I noticed that the lump was still there, and it seemed bigger and a bit tender, which was a symptom I had not had before. It had not bothered me all these months, but now it was. I called my doctor and they urged me to go and get the mammogram as they had asked me to do before. Still, I did not think much of it. In my head, I honestly thought it could be a cyst.
I finally got an appointment to get the mammogram done about a week later. While sitting in the radiology dressing room, a feeling of panic came over me. What if it was something to be concerned with? What was I going to do?
Once they took me back to the room for the actual mammogram, I got nervous. The test took about 15 minutes. After the test was done, they bought me into a room. The technician informed me that they needed to do an ultrasound as well. Since this was my first mammogram, I thought that maybe this was a normal process after having a mammogram.
Once she finished, she told me to get dressed and the doctor would be in to talk to me shortly. Well, that was different and unexpected. I have had tests done there before, and never has a doctor came in to talk to after. As soon as the doctor came in, my heart felt like it sank into my stomach. I just really started to feel sick. He looked at the images for a minute and said to me, “By the characteristics of the images, I am about 95% sure that you have some form of cancer…” I felt numb. I could not process what he was saying to me, so I sat there in silence for about a minute. For them to know exactly what it was, they needed to do a biopsy.
So, I scheduled to have a biopsy done for 2 weeks later. The process did not hurt. I was more anxious to find out the results. On October 1, 2019, I received the phone call that would change my life forever. It was the doctor who performed the biopsy. As soon as she said the words, “I am sorry…” I knew something was wrong. She informed me of my diagnosis. I had something called Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, meaning the cancer was growing at a fast pace and I needed to seek treatment immediately.
The following week, I saw a surgical oncologist. She assured me everything would be okay and what my options were. Before she could say anything, I said, “Take them both off.” Over the course of the next few weeks, I had appointments with her as well as a plastic surgeon. They kept asking if I was sure I wanted to remove both breasts (bilateral mastectomy). My answer never changed.
On November 11, 2019, I had my initial surgery. In addition to having the bilateral mastectomy, I had tissue expanders put in to stretch the skin for when it was time for me to get my implants. Everything seemed like it went well until a few weeks after the surgery. I started not to feel well and developed a fever. My right breast area was sore and swollen. I went to the hospital, and it was discovered that I had an infection as well as a seroma (fluid buildup). This happened 5 more times over next 3 months. During this time, we were in the mists of the coronavirus pandemic, so it was super scary! Being hospitalized each time and having to put drains in on my sides to drain the fluid! NOT FUN! The last time it happened, my tissue expander tore through my muscle and skin, and I had to have emergency surgery to have them removed.
On April 28, 2020, I had my tissue expanders taken out and they put my implants in. Everything seemed okay with the implants for about 4 months. On August 10, 2020, while at work, I started not to feel well and was in a lot of pain. Later that night, I developed a fever, so I knew that was not a good sign. I called the surgeon and they instructed me to come to the emergency room. Once they came in and examined me, they said right off the bat there was another infection and they needed to take the implants out. I was so devastated. I felt like I had already been through so much. I told them to take them BOTH out and I DID NOT want any other implants put in. As I tried to sleep through the night, I wondered if I was making the right decision. How would I really feel about not having any breasts at all? I also knew that mentally and emotionally, I was drained. I could not bear anymore.
Well, its been almost 3 months later, and I feel AMAZING! I honestly wish I had made this decision to begin with. I thought I would be severely depressed about it, but I am not. I feel a lot more confident than I had in the past and this was indeed the best decision for me. My smile is bigger and brighter! I feel healthier and more in tune with my body. My real boobs changed my life. My implants changed my life. No boobs changed my life. No pair, don’t care! I am alive and living my best life!
Connect with Kiana on Instagram: @the_breast_decision_
Thank you for allowing us to share your story, Kiana! SBC loves you!
SurvivingBreastCancer.org Resources & Support: