TODAY | December 05, 2011
>> good morning to you.
>> good morning, ann. it's great to see you.
>> you look really well.
>> thank you.
>> we know that you've had lumpectomies.
>> but now there's a new decision, a major decision you've had to make about your treatment. what is your decision?
>> last time i was here, i told you that i was getting the double lumpectomy and radiation. now instead of radiation, i'm going to go ahead and move forward with a double mastectomy.
>> yeah, and i think when you saw in that report, the next day we were going into the doctor hoping for some good news. unfortunately, the one breast they weren't able to clear the margins and get all the cancer out, so we were then faced with a decision to make. do you go back and do another lumpectomy and try to clean it out or do you go for a more radical procedure.
>> this is a very dramatic decision. it's a drastic decision. to what degree does wanting to have children play into your decision to go for a double mastectomy.
>> that was actually a big part of it. not all of it, but a big part. if i had chosen to just do another lumpectomy and then do radiation and then do anti-estrogen therapy, which means two to five years of medication, that basically puts me into early menopause , then i would have to put off having a baby for several years. so that was something we took into account. but to be honest, at the end all it came down to was just choosing to live and not looking over my shoulder for the rest of my life.
>> . that's really what it came down to.
>> and that isn't a decision we made lightly. we talked to as many experts as we could, we got the best information available to us. one of the other factors that came into play was quality of life . if she would have gone with the lumpectomy and radiation, then you have to go in every six months for the rest of your life getting mammograms. knowing giuliana , she's going to be worrying three weeks before the mammogram, waiting for the results worrying and you're always looking over your shoulder. so i think in this particular case this was the best option for giuliana .
>> and it could have come back more aggressively next time. so for me it was just very important to get the cancer out. that's what i wanted to do is just get it out.
>> what did doctors tell you about the chance of not ever getting it back? with the double mastectomy.
>> with the double mastectomy i have less than a 1% chance of getting it back. with another lumpectomy, radiation and medication, i could have seen 20 to 30 to 40% chance in my lifetime. and for me it just wasn't worth it. and like i said -- like bill said, it was a very hard decision to come to, but really in the end what happened was, you know, bill said to me, i think this definitely got me. bill said to me i just need you around for the next 50 years, kid. that's what he said. he goes i don't care what you look like, i don't care about the physical portion of this, i just need you around for the next 50 years, so let's just get you healthy. and that certainly helps me come to the decision.
>> beyond that, what do you want to say about how important bill has been, having a spouse who is supportive, who's there for you can be in your personal and emotional survival going through all this?
>> oh, my gosh. bill has been the world to me through this. i couldn't have done it without bill. even right from the beginning when we found out we had the option about mastectomy, we went in the backyard and i remember -- in typical bill fashion he pulled out a yellow legal pad and made a pros and cons list of the mastectomy. and he just -- he brought some laughter to the process, some light to it and just kept reminding me who we are as a couple and that none of this is going to break us apart or get us down or affect our love for each other. in fact it's just made it stronger. and i couldn't be more at peace with the decision, but it was hard. and i still break down some nights, you know, when it's quiet in bed. it's easy to just start crying and be very sad. but i'm okay.
>> i know from my own family's experience that it's also hard to be the spouse. what is getting you through this, bill?
>> well, i'm focused on the finish line, and i'm thinking our goal is to be done with this by christmas time and then we don't look back. my role was to make sure that she was armed with as much information and the best information possible so she could make the right decision. and i tried to take the emotion out of it a little bit, that's why i pulled out the legal pad and we put pen to paper and when we looked at it, it made the decision i think a little bit easier because in our particular case, and i think the message here -- there's no right or wrong answer, it's an individual decision that each person has to make for themselves, but this is the right decision for giuliana .
>> i tell you, i had to see it as well. i think that was very important. when they first told me mastectomy was an option, i said absolutely not. absolutely not. i am 37 years old. i don't want to do it. because to me the word was very scary and it meant i would be disfigured. and so a very, very wonderful friend of mine who actually has been on this show, she's in an organization called bright pink, she had a mastectomy in her early 20s when she found out she had the breast cancer gene. she said not only am i going to tell you what a mastectomy is but i'm going to show you what a mastectomy is. and when i saw it and she was wonderful enough to share that with me, i thought, okay, this is okay, she looks beautiful, she's healthy, she's vibrant and doesn't regret her decision and i think that is very important. that girls, women stick together and we share our experience with each other because that helped me i think more than anything was to get to the decision was to see another woman, similar age as me, who had been through it.
>> well, we found from our website and the e-mail that we've been getting about you, that you've been helping a lot of women. so coming up in just a few moments, we're going to call in a breast cancer specialist to join this conversation and sort of see what more we can learn that might benefit other women from your own personal experience , so stand