Nancy Greenfield is a writer and professor at Everest College in Dallas, Texas. When she awoke one morning with a pain in her breast, she and her husband decided to see the doctor immediately. It was fortunate she did. She was 39 years old, and hadn’t had a mammogram since she was 35. After the mammogram, Nancy waited in the examining room as the doctor compared her first mammogram with the new one. The radiologist matter-of-factly gave her the news, “It looks like breast cancer.”
Nancy had a lesser form of breast cancer, which is made up of microcalcifications. Scattered white particles dotted the darkness in the picture of her right breast. Biopsies were done and the diagnosis was confirmed, Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. Her right breast ranked 9 out of 10 on the index, and her left breast was at 4. Unlike tumor-based breast cancer that can be removed by a lumpectomy, Nancy’s microcalcifications were scattered, making it difficult to get a clear margin of healthy tissue around them. Thus all of the beast tissue needed to be removed, including a gateway lymph node, as well as the nipple.
It was clear she needed a mastectomy on the right breast immediately, but the left breast only had a 4 rating. She could wait and watch, but decided why have breast cancer hanging over her? Why put her family and friends through this trauma all over again? Her course became clear – a double mastectomy.
Now there were other considerations. Her doctor brought up reconstruction. She was unsure, so began frantically researching the subject. This was not a medical issue, but a personal and emotional one. She weighed the pros and cons of silicone versus saline, and made her decision to create the breast of her dreams – Breasts that would allow her to jog without discomfort. And with tattooed nipples and a smaller size, she’d actually have the freedom to go braless. The back-to-back mastectomy and reconstruction was scheduled – the right being done first, and then the left two weeks later. No cooking, shopping, cleaning, driving or taking care of her husband and two young children for 6-8 weeks.
What Nancy never expected was such an outpouring of love from family, friends, school parents and neighbors. The flowers, the constant delivery of food and prepared meals, the emotional support, and wonderful feeling of being a part of a truly caring community. Nancy appreciates the beauty and comfort of her new breasts. She has grown to love them and thinks of them as her “consolation prize.”
Something else positive came out of this life-altering tragedy and personal journey – the inspiration to write a book for all the children of breast cancer patients. During Nancy’s illness, her daughter had endless questions about breast cancer – and Nancy didn’t know the best way to answer them. There were no books available that explained about the physical and emotional aspects of the disease and mastectomies. So after her surgery and recuperation, Nancy, already a well-known published author, created a book called “When Mommy Has A Mastectomy.” Now every mom can share this experience with their kids, in an age appropriate book. After her implants, it’s the thing closest to her heart.