Dear Dr Ruth,
There I was lying awake in bed last night mulling over this issue of losing my breast and fearing horribly painful surgeries. Then I found your message in my Inbox! Perfect timing.  I am so touched by your help! I really appreciate your wealth of knowledge and experience, especially with regard to breast implants. My surgeon insists on doing a mastectomy and refuses a lumpectomy unless I agree to radiation, which I will not. What does matter is what I put in my mouth! So I continue to follow your advice and eat my greens – lots of greens!  By the way, after my husband read “A Race for Life”, he kindly referred to you as “his girlfriend” and asked me to prepare your yummy recipes.
Thanks again from the bottom of my heart! We love you and wish you the best of the best,
Dear J.Y.,
If I had it to do over again, I would have had far less surgery than I did. Back then, however, I was so scared, and, not knowing if diet would work, agreed to the most radical surgery — bilateral modified radical mastectomies.

I now know how powerful a low-fat vegan diet is!  I do understand, however, what a predicament you face. All I can do is encourage you to keep asking questions, try not to be intimidated by mainstream surgeons and oncologists (sadly, they STILL aren’t taught what some of us know), and remember, YOU are the boss!  You can tell the surgeon what you want and if he/she is not willing, then find one who is!

I’ve had to have my implants replaced twice so far, so I’m on my third set. They not only have a “shelf life” but contracture is a very real and common problem. I’ve had it twice and worry about when they have to be replaced again. Also, as you age, subcutaneous fat tends to disappear along with your skin thinning, so the cosmetic effect is impaired, making the implants far more visible. If that doesn’t bother you, then maybe a less than perfect reconstruction wouldn’t bother you, either. I was way too concerned about the cosmetic effect then and now focus on the more important issues such as general health. Pain isn’t the main factor as it can usually be controlled with drugs, except for tattooing unless done by an MD who can prescribe drugs.  I had the skin for the areola taken from the inside of my thigh, and it has always been the same color as the rest of the skin as I never bothered with tattooing.  All you see is the circular scar, barely!

So, if you can avoid a mastectomy, I’d strongly recommend it. So, good luck and whatever you do, I think it’ll be the right decision for you!

Ruth E. Heidrich, Ph.D., Ironman Triathlete
Author of A Race For Life, CHEF, Senior Fitness, & Lifelong Running