Saturday, November 15, 2008

Breast Cancer: Blessing or Bane

I guess that real answer is that as a Military Retiree and Vietnam Veteran, getting to serve my country was an honor. As an Army musician, is had some great personal experiences that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Serving my country and receiving an Honorable discharge has had it benefits.

As a military retiree, I am entitled to use the military health care system. Their policies concerning what kinds of treatment they are limited to providing is very specific but the HMO is a good program. For example, they will not pay for gender reassignment surgery. But when I started to transition they approved the drugs for my HRT treatments. When I developed male breast cancer, they paid for my mastectomy; they couldn’t deny the treatment on the basis of gender. Since they paid for the mastectomy, they paid for my breast prosthesis and bras; they also paid for breast reconstruction and bi-lateral implants. No questions or raised concerns for these medical treatments.

However, because I developed male breast cancer ie, infiltrating ductal carcinoma which was treated with modified radical mastectomy with axillary node dissection; the cancer was estrogen receptor positive and the only acceptable treatment was with tamoxifen and monthly lupron shots. Lupron is used to suppress male hormone testosterone production and I would be required to take the injections for life. Having to get the monthly Lupron shot played havoc with my hormones, it was a rollercoaster ride with frequent and extreme hot flashes; especially when it came time for my next shot. The alternative to ongoing Lupron shots is to perform the bilateral orchiectomy , and since one of the benefits, (for me anyway), was the feminization of the body. Never mind that bilaterial orchiectomy is the preferred treatment when there is no anticipation that the Lupron can be stopped anytime in the future.

When the bilaterial orchiectomy was first proposed by my urologist and my oncologist; the procedure was immediately denied and the first appeal was also denied. It had to take a third appeal and a decision by a physician specializing in urology who was associated with MAXIMUS, a professional medical review organization to make the determination for proper treatment and overturn the original denial.

With all that said, because I have military health care as a veteran, it was only because I developed breast cancer that I was able to get a great pair of breasts and get genitalia surgery at a considerable reduced cost. The disadvantage of getting male breast cancer was the crashing of my emotions; loosing a piece of your body just when it was beginning to blossom. The months of physical recovery and knowing that you can never take estrogen in any form!

At my next appointment we will discuss the next procedure to reconstruct my nipple and the tattoo. I am very pleased with my new body.
Peace, Sarah

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