I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to leave, but I didn’t know when I would get another appointment. It was hard to get the one I had. The scan was half done anyway, so I reasoned that I might as well have it overwith. I didn’t ever want to have to go back to that godforsaken place. Also, I was in complete shock, so it paralyzed my thought processes. I looked up at her face, and she was smiling like she’d just won first prize at a bitch contest. This was the first time I saw her smiling, and it confused me even more. What in the world was wrong with her??? How did she ever get hired? How was she able to keep her job? I was instantly reminded of the other ultrasound tech thousands of miles away in a completely different country, almost a decade before, who also mistreated me. I couldn’t help but wonder if the anonymity of the profession made it so that patients were more likely to have a bad experience with an ultrasound technician than with most other health professionals.
I didn’t report her because I figure she’s had a rough day, she’s working on a Saturday after all, and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle. I had bigger problems to deal with. I took the ultrasound films the next weekend to Dr. Enthusiastic.
Dr. Enthusiastic scanned my breasts himself before the procedure, and he told me my breasts are “busy” because they inexplicably create a bunch of tumors. He performed the cryoablation and also aspirates some fluid-filled cysts as well (these are new). He was very competent and his personality is reassuring and kind, but the procedure is nonetheless unpleasant: painful, scary, and humiliating. I had to be awake for it, which is part of why it was painful, scary, and humiliating. It took longer than I thought it would, and it left more scarring, though small scars, smaller than if I had had another biopsy. Unfortunately one of the new scars is now on my left areola.
This new procedure was done in a state-of-the-art facility in the U.S. However, Dr. Enthusiastic, a breast specialist, never once mentioned future lactation. Nor did any of the health professionals that attended me in the context of my cryoablation.
I had another cryoablation procedure done with him a couple of years later. It was about the same, but in this procedure, I had the added discomfort of having a drug representative sit in for it. She wasn’t a health professional; she was a salesperson. I don’t know why she was there, but she was and she got a first-row seat to see my mutilated, hypoplastic breasts, too. I don’t remember consenting to having her in there, but I may have, inadvertently.
Since none of my doctors ever mentioned anything about breastfeeding or lactation, I never thought to ask. I figured they were the professionals and if there was something important to say, they would mention it. It bothers me that out of the dozens of health professionals that came in contact with me in the context of my breast surgeries, nobody mentioned anything about lactation or possible problems in the future. For my part, I took for granted that I’d be able to breastfeed my future children, in part because of what my friend who had the breast augmentation told me, in part because nobody mentioned anything about impaired future lactation, and in part because it never occurred to me that I couldn’t. Also, whenever I would research breast surgery, on the internet or in books, future lactation or possible problems therewith were never mentioned.
I think the reason why lactation is never mentioned is a simple one: nobody thinks about it. Our culture takes for granted that babies get fed with bottles, so that if lactation should fail, there’s an easy safety net. Even if it did occur to one of the doctors attending me to mention lactation and possible future problems, they probably stopped themselves because it probably never occurred to them that it would be so important to me. “She could always feed her kid formula,” is probably what they thought to themselves.
That breaks my heart. As kind as most of the doctors I had were, it breaks my heart that in the end, I was just another faceless customer. No one special or important who wanted to provide the best for her baby. No one needing information which would have made a difference in what kind of care she would have demanded. I wonder how many of them opt to breastfeed their own kids? Probably a fair number of them, given that it’s the best way to feed a baby. Did they use the same high-quality standards for me that they would use for themselves? I don’t think so.
I’m hoping that by writing this out, as painful as it is for me, that I can help someone make better decisions for herself.
If you must have breast surgery and if you have a choice in the matter, talk to your surgeon beforehand, and don’t let the surgeon cut your nipple or areola. Try to make the incision as far away from this area as possible, so as to minimize the damage to your milk ducts and to preserve your future lactational ability. If I can spare even one person the pain I’ve been through by sharing my story, it’ll be worth it.
This is the last part of the Preamble. My Breastfeeding Saga may get written someday, if I have the time.