When Richardson's first surgeon recommended a double mastectomy after her 2007 diagnosis of invasive ductal carcinoma, she balked. "I wasn't prepared mentally to deal with a bilateral mastectomy," recalls Richardson, then 50.
Richardson ended up having to have both breasts removed after all in June 2007. "I didn't want it to come back in the other breast, and I knew the cosmetic results [with reconstruction] would be better. My doctor said he totally agreed with me. His reasons were clinical and mine were emotional, but there wasn't a whole lot of emotion at the timeI felt cold and calculating about it, frankly."
Plan three: more chemo (plus radiation)
Richardson reinvented her treatment plan once again following an axillary node dissection in July 2007 that came back negative, when her surgeon pronounced her finished with treatment. "Then I went to my oncologist, and he said there wasn't any more treatment he could offer," she remembers. But Richardson wasn't done.
Richardson weathered the ups and downs of treatment after learning one crucial skill, she says: "Being able to adjust to each twist and turn is critical. I learned that the oncologists don't really know much about this disease. They follow a prescribed protocol and have little idea about the outcome beyond the published stats."