Hey there. This blog post is a bit hard for me to post but one I feel passionate about and one I feel needs to go live. It is about cancer, recovery and ‘going flat’. Last year, on June 21, I had bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. And as you might imagine, my thoughts, feelings and memories are swirling around me this week and it is time to let them go.
My treatment protocol dictated that I have neoadjuvant chemotherapy (chemotherapy before surgery to shrink the tumor and get cleaner margins), surgery and radiation. In some ways neoadjuvant therapy is a blessing because it gives you time to think through your options. And by options I mean, needing a mastectomy and deciding what type of reconstruction or lack thereof . Surgery is often the first thing women (and men-men get breast cancer too) have to go through after finding a lump- and at that point everything is happening so fast that it can be daunting to make a decision that is right for you. So I had some time to think and to decide what would work best for me.
I chose against reconstructing my body for so many reasons, the number of surgeries, failure rates, and the fact that there is no sensation and that reconstructed breasts are reported to ‘look good in clothing’. Luckily I found photographs of another woman whose body I could relate to and who made it seem as though this would be a choice I could wrap my head around (they are beautiful photos).
One year ago today, I still had my breasts. I miss them, I grieve the loss of my breasts. Do I regret my decision? No. Is it an adjustment? Yes.
Why am I telling you all this? First and foremost, because I bet there is a woman out there who is making this same decision, and I want her to know she is not alone, this does not suck, we are a tribe. Beside which, this decision is just as valid as wanting to reconstruct, no matter the societal pressures related to femininity, breasts, appearance and gender. In facing this anniversary, this change to my body, I want to acknowledge the particulars and to release my body past.
Tomorrow my new body will be one year old. Welcome! I live in a world of firsts right now, first anniversary after surgery, the next treatment related anniversary will be one full year out from my last radiation (August 25) and boy are these welcome. It feels good to move away from active treatment, to put time between me and the immense pressure of active treatment. Thank goodness. Glad that’s over.
I like being flat. I like owning my choice, my body. I am amazed at how resilient the human form is and I prefer to stay centered in this new place. This new landscape. This new me. So let’s celebrate!
Tomorrow I will choose the winners of my book, Dreaming from the Journal Page related to this post (I have been remiss in doing so and tomorrow seems a good day to give stuff away).
Phew. Thanks for reading this far.
And hey! I gave my mother her Jelly Roll quilt this weekend, looks great, huh? Very beachy.