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Advice column aficionados Han and Matt re-answer the greatest questions from other advice columns and podcasts as well as fielding new questions (send your questions to hanandmattknowitall@gmail.com or anonymously at bit.ly/hanandmatt) with a little help from their cats.

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Aug 9, 2017

We have too many opinions to keep to ourselves! That is, we have too many questions and we'd like to answer more of them, so that's why you're getting Opinion Overflow. Whether you want it or not.

Listener Zelda asks:

I am being urged by a couple of physicians to have a mastectomy/reconstruction even though I do not have cancer because my mother had breast cancer very young and is no longer with us. I carry the BRCA2 mutation so my odds are pretty good for getting it. Also, my younger sister just got the news that her most recent mammogram is showing something that is "most likely cancer" and is going to have a biopsy. I have looked into the surgery and found a doctor that a friend went to and I feel comfortable with him. I've seen his before/after photos and that set my mind so at ease. I'm thinking of doing this within the calendar year, but my question is how to address this at work. I will need to take about four weeks off. I work in a school and I will have the sick time that I need for recovery. I'm talking with my union rep about the rules about sick time and FMLA.

But the basic question is this: I do not want to tell people what kind of surgery I am having. I don't want to get into it. I don't want to disclose to coworkers why I'll be out. I know that if I say that I'm having surgery and will be out for a few weeks, people will invariably say, "Oh, what kind of surgery?" To me this is very personal and I know that any discussion of it will result in me talking about my body, my breasts (I hate talking about my body at all...), my mother's illness and death, people wondering if it's the right/necessary measure to take, etc. I just don't want to talk about it and it's nobody's business.

If it adds any perspective, a few years ago I lost 75 pounds and people in my workplace (not the same one) were well-meaning and would not STFU about how much weight I lost and I felt like people were staring at me all the time, whether they were or not. So any attention on my body makes my skin crawl.

I already know that I will have to talk about this with my boyfriend's family (all very kind and lovely people but I still cringe at the thought of telling anyone at all) and my close circle of friends. My own family lived through my mom's trauma and will be possibly also dealing with it in my sister now so I won't get any shock or push-back there. So how do I shut it down so only the people who need to know what I'm doing know? If it comes down to it I will be blunt and say, "I won't discuss it," but I don't want to be cold. I just want to convey that this is a matter I don't want to get into. Is there a polite way to do it? Also obviously I'm not planning to say anything on social media and will ask close friends/family that if they want to check in with me to see how things are going, they do it in only private messages.

 

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