Rita Wilson is still recovering from a double mastectomy: ‘it’s an amputation’

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Last month, Rita Wilson went public with her breast cancer diagnosis and decision to have a double mastectomy. Rita wrote a moving essay for People Magazine describing her difficult choice, and explaining that she only learned of her breast cancer after seeking a second opinion. Rita’s first doctor gave her the all clear and she decided to consult another doctor after a friend, a breast cancer survivor, encouraged her. After all she went though, Rita wanted to get the word out about the need to take charge of your health care.

Rita has a new profile in The NY Times, following her return to Broadway in “Fish in the Dark” with Larry David. it’s a sobering look at what she’s gone through. It sounds like she’s recovering well and that she has a lot of support around her (particularly her husband of 27 years, Tom Hanks, whom she gushes about). However, it sounds grueling and tiring too. Apparently there’s an interim step between getting a mastectomy and have reconstructive surgery. I’ve never heard about this – it’s called a tissue expander and helps make room for the implants. Rita is in this stage and while it sounds very uncomfortable for her, she’s hopeful for the future. Here’s more:

Why she went public
She was ambivalent about this too. Among other things, talking openly about mastectomy seems to invite everyone to stare at and speculate about one’s postoperative breasts, and who wants that? (“But I guess people always look at women’s breasts anyway,” she said.)

“For me, this is about telling people, ‘You can get a second opinion — your insurance will pay for it, even Obamacare, God bless it, will pay for it,’ ” she said. “It’s so easy to say, ‘I’m just being paranoid,’ but you should trust your gut.”

She said she had been astounded and touched by the warmth of people’s response. In her Manhattan apartment building, neighbors she had barely met sent up little gifts — cookies, flowers, body cream. All four of her and Mr. Hanks’s children came to visit.

How her husband supported her
And before and after the surgery, the couple hunkered down at home, laughing, crying and watching movies. Luckily, they had a pile of Academy Award screeners in enticing DVD cases, begging to be viewed.

Neither she nor Mr. Hanks had ever been seriously ill before, so it was new territory. “Who knew it would make you even closer?” she said.

“You never know how your spouse is going to react in a situation like this,” she added. “I was so amazed, so blown away by the care my husband gave me. It was such a normal, intimate time…”

How she’s doing now
Though the cancer was detected early and she did not need chemotherapy or radiation, Ms. Wilson still feels exhausted. Her body is not what it was. Although Hollywood is practically ground zero for women with breast implants, Ms. Wilson had never gone that route.

“Let’s face it — it’s an amputation,” she said, of the mastectomy. And for people who do not know this, there is an interim step between a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, in which a device called a tissue expander is inserted into your chest to make room gradually for new breasts.

Right now, the expander feels hard and weird and looks nothing like what breasts should look like, Ms. Wilson said. She can’t wear a proper bra. For the time being, she is sticking to loose tops and layers.

But she is hardly at the muu-muu stage of life. When she does have the reconstruction, Ms. Wilson said, “I think it’s going to look awesome.”

[From The NY Times]

Kudos to Rita for both going public with the news of her cancer and being open about how difficult it is. She also admitted that she’s not always comfortable with public attention but that she wanted to bring attention to this issue. Rita said “I’m in public because of the nature of what I do, but I don’t feel it necessary to let the world know what I’m thinking, where I’m eating. I’ve always liked being on the periphery of things.” I loved how she joked about the speculation as to whether she’s had implants yet. “People always look at women’s breasts anyway.” She sounds so grateful for the help and support she’s been given by her husband and by the people around her. The public is definitely on her side too, and we’re hoping she’s fully recovered soon.

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18 Responses to “Rita Wilson is still recovering from a double mastectomy: ‘it’s an amputation’”

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  1. MrsB says:

    I love that she encouraged people to get a 2nd opinion. Physicians do make mistakes every now and then, and it is so important for patients to be their own advocate. Get well soon Rita!

  2. t fanty fan says:

    Wishes for a speedy recovery! Thank you for your openess and bravery!

  3. aims says:

    Breast cancer and all cancer, really is and act of terrorism on your body and life. It is unrelenting, unforgiving and cruel. It will take away parts of your body and life. It is absolutely necessary to insist on the best medical care possible. If you feel like your not being heard by your medical doctor, go to someone who will listen and take you seriously. You have the right to be heard, you have the right to not be dismissed.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      I absolutely agree. My first doctor (from our good, but local hospital) initially told me that I didn’t have breast cancer. He called the next day, and said he had confused two reports and I did have it. I know that could happen to anyone, but it just gave me a bad feeling, so I went to a nearby city and the fourth rated cancer hospital in the world. I loved my doctor there, and my confidence in him kept me sane throughout. A few days after I made the decision, I talked to my neighbor who had been treated for cancer at our local hospital. They misdiagnosed her rare cancer and had been treating her I ineffectively for two years. She had also switched to “my” hospital, and is getting treatment, but those two years were crucial, and they can only hope to extend her time a little now. If you have a gut feeling, get another opinion.

      I wish Rita the best in her recovery.

    • GoNatural says:

      Please everyone look into taking iodine supplements for breast health (and general well being). As iodine intake has gone down, breast cancer rates have gone up. Those countries with the highest iodine intake (e.g. Japan) have the lowest rate of breast cancer.

  4. TheBizzla says:

    It’s great when celebrities share the gritty/unspoken about sides of these issues. Helps to normalize it and let people know they aren’t alone.
    My mom went through this a few years ago and it was a bitch. But she is cancer free and looking good in the boob department again. It’s almost like nothing ever happened but we are all so thankful. And also thankful she chose to have a double masectomy so that breast cancer wouldn’t be something we’d ever worry about again.

  5. Luca76 says:

    I’m happy she has such a great support system. I’m hoping she makes a full recovery.

  6. Lilacflowers says:

    There can be several surgical steps between mastectomy and reconstruction. There is also a whole lot of other stuff happening other than just appearance. Even a lumpectomy with a lymph node biopsy can cause permanent impairment in range of motion, nerve damage, and chronic pain. Additionally, depending on the type of breast cancer, mastectomy is not the only surgical option and a double mastectomy can be completely unnecessary – although, if I remember correctly, hers was the type that spreads through the breasts. Mine was the type that spreads to blood, bone, lungs, and brain so double mastectomy was not an option and lumpectomy was recommended because, as my radiation oncologist put it, this was going to go in a whole different direction.

    I wish Rita well and as comfortable a recovery as possible but I have to stamp my feet at her completely unnecessary and incorrect political sniping. Yes, Rita, Obamacare will cover second opinions, it also MANDATES full coverage, with no deductible or co-pay, for an annual mammogram, which insurers were previously free to deny coverage for. Be well and learn something

    • Pinky says:

      Thanks for your insight. And what an insane cancer you described! Are you saying that if you were to remove your breasts, the cancer would have just found another place to take root, like your brain or lungs or what have you, so the safest best was to keep your breasts and try to contain it there? I am dumbfounded. All good health vibes sent your way.

      • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

        I think Lilacflowers had the same type of cancer that I did, and I think we had the same treatment. If so, the cancer is now hopefully gone, but if it comes back, it will not necessarily be in our breasts, but could come back in any of the places she mentioned. That makes having a double mastectomy an ineffective way to prevent its return. The hope is, of course, that it will not come back at all, and our chances of that are quite good.

      • Lilacflowers says:

        Infiltrator ductal carcinoma of the breast, which is the deadliest form of breast cancer and one of the most deadly of all cancers, yet it can be fully treated if caught early. The cancer spreads into the lymph nodes in the under arm and then into other parts of the body, away from the breasts. As GNAT says, removing the breasts would have been ineffective AND also extremely painful and limiting. However, due to limited resources for other treatments and lack of good information, many women undergo double mastectomies who do not need them.

        Yes, I could get breast cancer again, but unlikely. Yes, it could, as GNAT said, could resurface again but in one of those places I listed, but not the breasts. It could also resurface in a retina but it usually hits one of the other places first. It it would carry the same markers as the initial cancer and they would be able to tell it was metatastic – it would be breast cancer even if the new tumor is on a lung. Also, because I had chemo, I could develop another type of cancer from the chemo drugs – liver cancer is the most likely there. And, of course, I could get something else entirely because my family is prone to cancer.

  7. Maxybabe says:

    Well done Rita for your honest account. You are a very dignified and classy gal!! I hope you continue to recover well. Props to you, and all ladies going through diagnosis and treatment. Absolutely the right thing to do, in trusting yourself and your gut. It is wonderful and unexpected when complete strangers lend support. I had the most amazing positive conversations with other women whilst waiting for radiotherapy, without their daily support I would have crumbled for sure. Once more, I send a virtual hug to anyone suffering with BC, wish I could reach out to you all xxx

  8. Yeses says:

    I just had a bad mammo scare with a whole lot of further testing, thankfully it all turned out benign, I really admire her for being so open about the whole mastectomy/reconstruction process. Here’s hoping she does great with Hanx by her side!

  9. V4Real says:

    I remember when we were discussing AJ’S mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. I wrote about a coworker who was going through this process. I spoke about her numerous visits to the doctor and the tissue expanders that are filled with saline, used to slowly stretch the skin and pectoral muscles.
    Some posters said I didn’t know what I was talking about. I wonder what they have to say now.

    Anyways I wish Rita all the best and a full recovery.

  10. Giddy says:

    My mother had breast cancer and I can’t say enough about the incredible professional, yet loving care she received. By the day of her last radiation treatment she was in pain from the burns and exhausted. She walked out of the treatment room to find all the staff lining the hall cheering for her and throwing confetti. At the end of the line was her oncologist to present her with a plaque with a quote from John Wayne, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” Bless those people for everything they did for my mother, and especially for that day.

    • NYC_girl says:

      I love that quote. Blessings to your mother! I would recite it when I met with my own surgeons; I had my bilateral last Sept. I am OK now but sometimes it feels like a nightmare I will never awaken from. I don’t have a loving husband and now have to start dating… what a shit show. Thankfully I am healthy and alive.

  11. kri says:

    I wish her a fast recovery. I am always grateful when a celeb speaks about these things and their experiences. Trust yourselves, ladies. If you think there is a problem, get it checked as soon as possible, and see however many docs you need to see to put your mind at rest. Take care of yourselves, everyone.

  12. nicegirl says:

    Best wishes for a full and fast recovery.