Doctors worry that Angelina Jolie's courageous decision to go public with her preventive double mastectomy will prompt more women than necessary to opt for the radical procedure.
I worry that the medical community hasn't found less barbaric treatments for breast cancer.
Conventional medicine has three ways of dealing with cancer -- cut, burn and poison. I endured one. I refused the other two.
I was supposed to have a lumpectomy and a few radiation treatments. All the expensive tests said the cancer was non-invasive. There would be no need for chemo.
All that changed after the lumpectomy. Turns out that the cancer was invasive. I'd need a mastectomy and chemo after all.
I was barely out from under the anesthesia when my surgeon shared the news. She made it out to be life and death. Her look scared me. So I agreed to the mastectomy.
Then, she offered to remove my healthy breast, too.
Why would I do that? I asked.
To lower the chances of getting cancer in that breast, she said.
No thanks, I told her. I'd like to keep as much of what God gave me as possible. I couldn't wrap my mind around letting her cut off a breast that had done nothing to offend me.
Good thing, since I had no idea what a mastectomy entailed. I hadn't done any research, because I wasn't supposed to be a candidate for that drastic a mutilation.
Twenty-four hours later, though, I was under the knife again. I emerged with one less breast and 16 fewer lymph nodes. I have no feeling under my armpit or in the area where my natural breast used to be. That will never change. There's a painful tingling in my bicep that constantly reminds me I've been through something. As if the many scars aren't enough.
The reconstruction process, which I'm still undergoing nine months later, has been no cakewalk.
I had the same procedure as Ms. Jolie. There were days when it hurt to breathe, let alone move, because of the tissue expander, or temporary implant. I also developed an excruciating surgical complication.
As I contemplated chemo, radiation and wigs, I decided to be a lot more informed than I'd been about the mastectomy.
Chemo and radiation both cause cancer and a myriad other ailments. Doctors call them side effects, but the effects are pretty major.
One oncologist wanted to treat me with Adriamycin. "Good Morning America's" Robin Roberts had just revealed that she was suffering from leukemia caused by Adriamycin used to treat her breast cancer years earlier.
That did it. No Adriamycin for me.
Blood cancers and heart disease are just two of the drug's side effects.
Even the holistic doctors I consulted recommended chemo. My tests showed an aggressive cancer that scared them.
I was scared, too, but I had to go with my instincts. No chemo, no radiation and no toxic drugs.
I switched to a primarily raw, vegan diet. I occasionally enjoy a cooked meal and a piece of fish.
I juice, meditate and detox daily. I take herbal supplements, think positive and exercise.
I also focus on healing mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically.
I applaud Ms. Jolie for sharing her story and encouraging women to get tested for the genetic mutation she carries that exponentially increases breast cancer risk.
She urges us to be proactive and take control of our health. That's great advice.
There are many ways, though, of doing that.
Many call the natural path I have chosen unorthodox and radical.
I believe it's far less radical than cutting off our breasts, burning our tissue and poisoning our bodies with chemicals.
I would encourage women faced with breast cancer to do your research, ask your doctors lots of questions and record their answers. Choose the treatment that's best for you, whether it's conventional or alternative. Don't rush your decision or make it based on fear. Let your instincts and your body be your guide.
Choose doctors who recognize they are partners in your treatment plan. They advise. You decide.
I chose an oncologist who said she'd be my doctor even if I chose natural healing. I appreciate her open-mindedness.
When I told my plastic surgeon I wasn't doing chemo and radiation, he was concerned, but responded, ''You're the boss."
Yes, I am. And so are you. Our health is our responsibility.
Rhonda Swan is an editorial writer for The Palm Beach Post.