Before coming to this conclusion, I went through one more angry, rebellious period where I was willing to do just about anything to save my boobs. I was pissed because DCIS is such a stupid, tricky little disease, and no one could tell me how dangerous it actually is. Although one must take internet research with a grain of salt, it seemed as if a lot of the problem with DCIS research is that it’s really skewed by older women for whom it showed up on a routine mammogram, and this seems to be the population for which it is a lot less dangerous. Apparently women with palpable lumps have a greater chance of future invasive cancer than those who just found it on a mammogram, so it's hard to guess the future for a 38-year-old who has had two palpable lumps in two years.
Speaking of invasive cancer, if I have to look back and point to one moment that really sealed the deal for me, it was an Instagram post from another cyclist who recently had a double mastectomy. I don’t know her, but a friend referred Frank to her IG account when I got my diagnosis, so I’ve been following her progress. Her case is pretty similar to mine, except that her cancer was just a smidge more aggressive/advanced than mine, but luckily still very small in size. When I saw that she’d recently found out that her margins still weren’t clear after her mastectomy and would still need radiation, it was the final push I needed to cash out of the cancer casino as soon as possible.
|This is so much better than a pink ribbon.|
For now though, I’m just coming to terms with the fact that all of the gnarly things that I outlined in my last post are about to become my real life. I’m also terrified about unlikely but possible complications like losing my nipples or having to have unplanned radiation like I mentioned above. At this point, my biggest concern is just getting past those milestones safely.
Of course, when I’m not freaking out about that stuff, I am also concerned about when and if I’ll be able to race bikes again. Barring unforeseen complications, the current estimate is that I can have my second surgery about 12 weeks after the first, and then maybe a couple more weeks to heal from the second surgery. At that point, I should be cleared to return to “normal” life, but I don’t know how long it will actually take to get back to my pre-surgery self. Fatigue and poor recovery are things that I have trouble with already, so I can’t imagine they’ll get any better after this. Pectoral muscles are also kind of a big deal when it comes to rough, aggressive downhill riding, so there may be a big time gap between being “able to ride” and being able to ride the way I want to. On top of that, I’ll now have the extra worry that if I go crash and slide several feet on my chest across rocky terrain as I did at Blue Mountain last summer, I’ll now pop an implant instead of just having a few scrapes and bruises that heal in a few days.
A big thing for me lately is wanting to talk to an enduro or downhill rider that has successfully recovered from a double mastectomy with reconstruction and made it back to the level at which she was riding before. It scares me a little that I’ve done a lot Googling and put feelers out through a few channels and still have come up with nothing. I realize that although female gravity riders and mastectomy survivors both seem pretty common in my world, that they are both still relatively rare in the general population. So maybe it’s just a problem with how those small population cross over in a Venn diagram. Regardless, if you’re reading this and know someone who fits the description above and is willing to talk to me, please send them my way. Otherwise, I suppose my posts over the next few months will be here for anyone desperately searching for “downhill mountain bike mastectomy”, “enduro mountain bike mastectomy”, or “park rat mastectomy” as I have been lately.
Okay, never actually tried the park rat one...
I’m going to try and keep up with at least bi-weekly posts over the next few months to track my progress towards what I hope to be a glorious comeback. This should help to keep me motivated and hopefully continue to shed a little more light on this journey for anyone else who has to go through it or wants to support someone going through it.