Lumpectomies into Lilacs

Early in my career, years ago, I had done a lumpectomy on a patient. It didn’t look great afterwards. That happens.

She finished her radiation therapy, waited a few months, and then showed in my office with the lumpectomy scar incorporated into a swirling floral tattoo. You couldn’t see the incision. All my work (disappointed as I was with it) was  florally camouflaged. A bad scar into a work of art. I loved it. I wish I had taken a photo of it.

images-6Subsequently, I have learned that here are numerous examples of tattoos being done to cover mastectomy scars. Some of these are truly amazing works of body art.

When a patient needs chemotherapy, the first question they ask is whether they will lose their hair. In the interest of turning lemons into lemonade and knowing they will be seeing a wig specialist shortly, I ask, “Did you ever want to be a blond, a brunette, a redhead. How about going purple and punky? Have some fun with this.”

I don’t know if my clumsy advice on female hair styling has ever worked. And, I know the patients are thinking that this is easy for me to say, try being in my shoes.

But breast cancer is a disease in which cell growth isn’t controlled. Nor is one’s response to therapy under one’s control. It can feel like matters are spinning out of control. In these circumstances, seizing a modicum of control over the process has to help psychologically. This may be hard to prove, but why take a chance? And you’ll feel better while going through some hard times.

This attitude was best presented to me by a patient who came into my office with her head already shaved a week before she was going to begin chemotherapy. She had this determined, self satisfied look on her face when I asked her “why?”  She responded, “I am not going to let that damn chemotherapy determine how I look.”Unknown

I had to believe she was going to do just fine and would probably get henna tattooing of her bald head along the way just to enhance her look…