Breast cancer and a TRAM

Posted by bernicky - July 14th, 2003

Vanessa Mae’s violin sooths the savage breast.

Listening to her Toccata and Fugue is an exercise in relaxation.

My wife has breast cancer.

There is no nice way to say that. It is not a nice breast cancer or a photogenic breast cancer or even a reasonable breast cancer. It is invasive and has disrupted our peaceful suburban existence in no uncertain terms. We have told our 9 year old son about the situation but not our 5 year old daughter. I don’t know why we decided to do that but that is how it played out. So much of what we are doing now is just playing it out. It is scary. It reminds me of the ancient Chinese curse: May you live in interesting times. Our times are now interesting.

Part of me thinks whether accurately or inaccurately that breast cancer is a condition for which there is some recourse that is very successful. On the other hand the surgery a mastectomy is radical and so is the tram reconstruction. The TRAM reconstruction is the part that gets to me the most. Breast augmentation of any kind has always been a case of silicon or saline in my mind. A TRAM is a horse of a different colour. You can read more about it here: but beware some of the pictures at the bottom of the page are not for the faint of heart.

So on July 24 my wife will go into surgery. It will be a long surgery between 8 and 10 hours long. The recovery will be 3-5 days. A little while after the chemo will start. She gets to bypass radiation therapy because of the complete mastectomy which I guess is a mixed blessing. I think all things considered a lumpectomy followed by radiation and chemo would have been preferable. That wasn’t in the cards though and you have to play the hand that is dealt you. My wife has been handling this whole thing very well. She has plunged herself into research on every aspect of her condition and the surgery ahead. It is impressive how calmly she is dealing with all of this. I wonder if it is just a veneer with inner turmoil or if she really is calm. Having two children does force calm upon you in almost all situations because you simply cannot afford the time to lose your head about anything. So maybe it is a combination of factors that has kept her calm through all of this. I somehow think that it will all come unraveled a little once the surgery is done and the kids are off to my mothers place for the last three weeks of the summer. She needs time to lose her head time to mourn.