My Double Mastectomy Forced Me to Put My Son in Daycare During the Pandemic, And I'm Glad I Did

Having a double mastectomy while raising a 20-month-old during the coronavirus pandemic has been the hardest time of my life. Putting my son in daycare was the best choice for me.

selfie of darcy andersen and baby henry
Photo: Courtesy of Darcy Andersen

I had always wanted to be a mom and was thrilled when I had my son. But I couldn't have imagined the turn life would take seven months later. A hard, pea-size lump I felt while breastfeeding—a plugged milk duct, I'd assumed—turned out to be invasive breast carcinoma.

My descent into isolation—as a new mom, then a cancer patient—prepared me for quarantine. What I wasn’t prepared for was how this pandemic took what little control I had over my life. One day, I was blissing out while nursing. The next, I was being told where to be, who to see, and what needed to happen.

After a lot of thinking, I decided to have a double mastectomy and go flat, meaning no reconstruction. I wanted my breasts gone. No reconstruction meant I could go back to being a mom sooner. It was empowering to make that choice and have my husband, friends, and doctor support it.

Because of the type of tumor I had, chemo came before surgery. Shortly after I finished chemo in February, COVID arrived. My doctor said my April surgery couldn’t happen the way I wanted. They could only remove the breast where the tumor was or do a lumpectomy. Removal of my other breast—considered elective—would need to wait until restrictions were lifted.

It knocked the wind out of me. I’d gone through a lot to reach that decision, and for the moment, it wasn’t mine to make.

COVID-19 also robbed me of my support system. Family and friends who had watched Henry when I went to chemo or was sick from treatment could no longer enter our house—I was too vulnerable.

Fortunately, in May, I was able to complete my double mastectomy. The doctors told me I couldn’t lift anything over 5 pounds for six weeks, including my child. I agonized over how I would both parent and heal. My husband and I decided to put Henry in daycare. I was no longer as compromised from chemo, and my doctors felt it would be OK. Amazingly, the daycare owners heard my story and took Henry free of charge as I was recovering.

I’m happy to say that I’m in remission. This has been the hardest time of my life. But also the best because I have Henry. He gave me the motivation to get through this. I hope he won’t remember that I was sick, or this pandemic. I look forward to when we can go to a park and just have fun.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's October 2020 issue as “Breast Cancer in the Pandemic - Darcy Andersen, 34 Brookfield, IL” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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