I've had this blog in a draft for over a year, partly because I am forgetful at times and partly because I've been a little scared to publish it. After a week of hearing about more recurrences in my friends who've already had breast cancer and a few newly diagnosed in my circle, I vowed that I wouldn't post this or ever, ever complain about my Foobs again because I should be grateful to be alive. However, it all needs to be said, even though I feel guilty about it (must be the Italian in me!). And yes, I am grateful, all the time, even for the stupidest shit like grocery shopping, laundry and taking out the trash. So, if I sound like I'm complaining about my life, I am not. I have a great life but the reality is that cancer and mastectomies change you forever and this all still needs to be said. And there are people like me who need to hear it so that they don't feel so alone on this journey.
So here goes:
Once in a blue moon, I have a serious emotional meltdown about my Foobs. It seems to come out of nowhere and almost always happens in the shower. I just cry and cry and cry. I let it out and then I move on.
When I was faced with a double mastectomy, my plastic surgeon outlined how the surgery would be done and it all looked very simple and in the end, I'd have some perky new boobies. He had pictures of women who had endured the same surgery and I felt really confident that all would be hunky dory in the end. I would be normal again.
I was wrong.
Don't get me wrong, my doctor is a superstar and did a great job. I adore him, his staff and the phenomenal care he gave me. What I didn't know about having this surgery is that I am stuck feeling like there is something stuck on my chest (ha, maybe because there is). I am still numb on both sides under my arms and into my lat muscles. My nipples are gone. I get occasional itches on (or in, who can tell?) my breasts and while this sounds very exciting, if I try to scratch, I cannot find the itch to save my life. I have very little feeling in my new breasts. They are constantly cold to the touch and yet, they have the ability to sweat underneath. When I am cuddling with my kids, I feel like there is something in the way and I have actually knocked my little one down a time or two.
Reconstructed breasts are NOT what people think they are. The majority of women I have spoken to about this have agreed that their new breasts have little, if any feeling and are definitely not any source of pleasure. They do enjoy the way they look in clothes but they, too get annoyed by the constant feeling of something stuck on them and the way they bump into things.
And then there is the disturbing feeling that I can no longer or will never feel my own heartbeat again.
No one really wants to talk about sex and their mate's feelings towards their new breasts. Let's just say that the top shelf is just overlooked and no one's buying anything up there! If you want a tell-it-like-it-really-is version of what it's all like, click here for Ann Marie Otis' blog of Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer fame. She is my hero for her honesty and candor!
For those women who had their own tissue and fat transferred into their new breasts, the feeling may be a little more natural but again, there is still no sensation up there. No one's buying.
This all kind of reminds me of Marie Barone's beautiful plastic covered couch. You can look at it but you canNOT sit on it. Ever. It's all for show!
Trying to look "whole" again, comes with a great price including numerous surgeries, anesthesia, time out of work and life and emotional healing. When we do finally achieve the look, we still feel freaky. I feel like a prisoner in my own body most of the time. I want to jump out of my skin and run far away, but I can't. I feel trapped and to remove the implants would mean yet another surgery and I just don't have the energy to deal with more emotional upheaval. I, too, like the way I look in clothes, for the most part. But is it worth it? I'm hoping that over time, I will adapt more to these implants.
Will this ever get easier? It's been 2 years. And that's why I have these random crying meltdowns before getting in the shower. The low grade discontent, day after day, week after week rears its ugly head. Almost like a pimple waiting to pop (if you need to laugh, click the link).
Some women (and more and more) choose to be "flat and fabulous", opting for zero recon. Some of my friends have opted for this and their doctors have questioned them and just assumed that they would automatically want recon. These women are sometimes criticized for their decisions and made to feel less feminine. Shame on the doctors who chastise a woman's right to go flat and fab. However, one friend noted that she feels like a joyful child without any breasts. Just writing that made me smile so big.
These feelings of guilt just make me feel worse so I'm here to tell my sisters; feel shitty, cry, scream, run far away from that bathroom mirror if it makes you feel better. Get therapy when you are ready, be kind to yourself, love yourself, do something that makes you feel good and remember that you have every right to your feelings.
As for me, I give myself permission to cry and grieve and realize this is normal. And I will continue to count all of my blessings and move forward. I try really hard not to let these things wear me down and stop me from living.
I'd love to hear from anyone who has gone through reconstruction and how you feel several years later. Please comment below if you feel comfortable. I know I can't be the only one feeling like this!