Here I am, owning my body. MY BODY post-cancer. Not just owning it, but celebrating it.
Here I am, rejecting the norms of American beauty standards and likely making you all uncomfortable with my asymmetry. As part of my healing process, I chose to have a glamor shot taken, because, my body is (and always has been) beautiful.
I had a right breast mastectomy on October 15, 2018.
In truth, making this choice was not difficult.
My reverence for my breasts is mostly based on the fact that they provided sustenance to my daughters.
I’m also very lucky that I chose to have a full breast mastectomy, as I was able to achieve clear margins on my surgery, an ideal outcome in the treatment of Breast Cancer.
The first 12 hours after my mastectomy I didn’t look at my chest. I didn’t feel my chest.
When I did will the courage to have a gander, my first thought was: you’re a character in a horror film.
And within seconds, I told myself: no.
You’re not going to hate yourself.
In fact, you’re going to love yourself and this scar more than you thought you ever could.
You are beautiful.
In the days following surgery, as I drained my wound and worked on healing (physically and emotionally), I also thought very carefully about showing the scar to my daughters.
I gave them the choice the day I arrived home.
Each of them asked to see it within 24 hours.
I shared that looking at Mommy would be different. Forever.
While the human brain prefers symmetry, Mommy would always (at least when naked) be asymmetrical.
Instead, I encouraged them (and me) to focus on how very much of me is left.
Most of me.
In fact, all of me that really matters is left.
Managing and healing a mastectomy wound includes having a surgical drain. This means there are many inches of rubber tubes in your wound, and then a drain that you have to use to suction out the fluid multiple times a day. This drain and bulb hang from your body.
When coaching within days of my mastectomy, I got creative and taped it to my body and put the bulb into my pocket.
Getting the tubing out was a relief (this is an understatement).
Then comes the prosthetic.
Marlie and I went shopping for my matching breast and found the staff to be incredibly helpful. They matched the prosthetic to my remaining breast – both shape and size – and I’m able to utilize this daily – when I want to. I do not use my prosthetic when I work out. Instead, I am asymmetrical. This is just practical.
Now, to complain.
The bras, swimsuits, and attire that are created for a prosthetic breast seem to be created for the 65-and-over crowd.
Thus, I’m learning to be creative and to purchase clothing, swimwear, and undergarments that I can modify myself to fit my prosthetic.
Strapless dresses and swimwear are a thing of the past – and yes, I was still wearing those at 40.
So, I have some limitations on my fashion choices. If this is my greatest challenge in a day, then I have it pretty good.
There are so many messages about what being a beautiful woman means.
Women’s breasts are at the top of the list for beauty and sex appeal.
Breast implants remain the #1 plastic surgery, if that isn’t a clear indicator of the cultural messages about our breasts, I don’t know what is?
I did not opt for reconstruction. Due to my low body fat content, I would have had to utilize implants.
It seemed odd to me that I was going to remove something foreign from my body, and then replace it with something foreign.
Again, this decision took very little consideration for me. No thank you.
Most of the time, I love my body and my scar.
Most of the time, I feel comfortable with the emptiness on my right side of my body.
I am, like all on this Earth, am a work in progress.
All of the time, I’m confident in my surgical decision.
All of the time, I’m incredibly grateful to be alive.
All of the time, I am acutely aware that while my life might be asymmetrical, the very most important parts of me are in fact, intact, and that is what truly matters.