Sunday, June 8, 2014

Accepting The New Girls on the Block

"If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with. Love the one you're with."

(This quote is about your breasts, not your life partner)

So, when I had the double mastectomy, I was so drugged up, I really did not mourn my breasts and was just focused on resting, recovering, emptying my drains (gross!). Then during the expansion process, I was so uncomfortable for 5 months, I didn't focus on how I looked. I kept looking forward to the "exchange surgery" on April Foobs Day when the bionic boobs would be exchanged for the silicone implants. I was excited as that day signaled the end of a long and painful journey. The new me was about to emerge.

The surgery went great. My doc almost put the wrong size in though, and a courier had to drive to a different hospital to get the CORRECT size for me. That courier thought someone was playing an April Fool's Day joke on him by asking him to pick up someone's new breasts. No joke!

The day after I got home from the hospital, I took a shower.  When I looked down, suddenly I felt normal again. My doctor had fashioned a nipple from my own skin (go to youtube and search "modified skate flap" to see how it's done). Much later on, a tattooed areola will be permanently done by a man named Lenny with a patch over one eye and a tattoo on his forearm that says, "I love Mom".

I have to say that from my bird's eye view looking down that day, everything looked perfect. I couldn't see the scabs and the scars. All I could see were 2 real looking breasts and what looked like my old nipples. For a split second, I felt like the cancer and all that had happened in the previous year never happened. It was quite surreal, just feeling normal again. I felt whole again. I felt like there was hope for healing. I felt like crying, I was so damn happy.

And then weeks went by and the reality set in. I still felt like these implants, as permanent as they are, were just another temporary thing. It finally hit me that I would never see the old ones again.  Then I started feeling stuck and sad, hence the counseling appointments! (See prior blog)

In addition to counseling, I sought out the advice from my pink sisters. Chances are always great that someone relates to exactly how I'm feeling. Well, one bright, shining, half glass full girl named Amber looks at her new breasts differently. She said that her old breasts tried to kill her and she worked too damn hard (between surgeries, chemo, etc) for her NEW breasts, that she grew to like them. She's super happy with the way she looks and she views her breasts as part of her now.  Amber has moved forward.

However, everyone is different and to compare your emotional reactions to someone else's is not helpful.  It just puts more pressure on you to feel happy, causing you to feel like a failure.  Having said that though, many can learn from Amber and I am trying my damndest to accept my new breasts. 

One of my other Pinkies named Pazit, treats them more like an accessory. I call them their own entity. In fact, I have no problem showing people because technically, I feel like they're not really mine. Dear lord, I even showed them to my therapist last week (she's a woman, but still, I'm worried I may have boundary issues now). I may need to get a Groupon for all of these visits!

How do women come to fully embrace these new breasts? I don't know. Should I have some sort of ceremony for them? A coming out party? Should I faithfully tell them how much I love them every day? Should I find a good hypnotist?

Only time will tell.

One more thing. We feel guilty for feeling this way, you know. We always feel the need to say how grateful we are and lucky to be alive and that these things are just superficial. In fact, I was in the shower today and suddenly I heard the Bee Gees singing, to the tune of "You should be dancing":

"You should be grateful. Yah!  You should be grateful, Yah!"

Listen, give it a rest, Brothers Gibb.  We are grateful and we need not feel guilty for feeling sad about some very important body parts gone M.I.A.

In summary: As you can see, if you are struggling with the same feelings as moi, you can tell that I have not been much help. This whole experience is like on the job training. I've never done this before either. I'm like that awful waitress who keeps spilling coffee on your lap. 

But one of these days, I am going to get it right. I have hope that my coffee cup will be half full, just like Amber's.



Wow, thank you for sharing. The only thing that I can add is that I think that I know you well enough to say that you are getting it right.

Holly C. M said...

I have connected with everything you haven't written from your parents to your mother in law passing away from breast cancer. I was diagnosed 7-8 weeks after having my second child. Yes, my odds are over 90% of no recurrence, some days/weeks I don't think about it very much, but some days a black cloud follows me around and it has been 3 yrs. Love the blog, keep it up!