Friday, May 27, 2011

Into the Void

The past two days have been rough, really rough. In them I have learned a couple of things, the most important being that perspective is everything. I'd guess that people talk the biggest game about the upcoming bungie jump until they peer over the platform and nearly lose their load. I am here to tell you that a mastectomy covered in bandages is the equivalent of the bravado that happens on the ground. The bandages come off and your guts are in your throat. Facing things head on in this space rocks your world.

So all of these silly things have been floating through my mind for the past couple of days. I know it sounds really bizarre, but I feel like I am saying goodbye to a part of myself that has been incredibly important to me. "What?" people say, "they are only breasts! Who cares as long as your are healthy!" *

I care. Let me make it clear.

I do care. I care that I am healthy, but I also care that I have lost a part of my body that meant a lot to me. At the risk of sounding completely vain, before having children this was one of my, ahem, better attributes. I was known in college as the girl who had the Vogue model breasts. So, pardon me if I seem shallow, but I am bummed that they are gone. I am a woman through and through and I loved that aspect of my femininity. (side note: we all know that this was like 20 years and 100,000 miles ago...yes, the warranty had expired and they needed retreads...but let's not mar the story with the addition of unnecessary facts).

And I am really bummed that I had to explain to my kids that I don't have breasts anymore. That is a fucking hard thing to explain to child. How does a child work that around in his/her brain? And when I give my kids hugs now, their little heads strike hard muscle instead of the softness that they have known since the moment they were brought into this world. I remember snuggling up to my mom as a child, the softness, warmth and her smell enveloping me. I know this is important to my kids too. And I know they will deal, but it sucks for them too. So much suckitude.

And there are countless other things to be mad at. Things I can't begin to consider and things that I hope will normalize. I am trying not to hunch over. I am trying to look at myself in the mirror. I am trying not to feel like a freak. I have met a handful of women who have gone this route and have done it with incredible grace. They have found that middle ground and I am reaching out to them and learning from them. As I sit here one month out from the first surgery, it's like starting all over again but not feeling prepared. I had written off this branch of the decision tree, remember? It's not forever, but it's for 6 months which is a really. long. time.

I'm trying to find the humor. I'm trying to find the thing that sticks for me about this experience and is the gem I take from it. A friend told me that maybe it's my Amazon heritage come to fruition. I kind of like that idea. Or, this is the prism through which to see life for while (I could totally pass as a man...hmmm). Or I just play it off as well as I can with Aunt Pat's advice about always looking fabulous as long as you have red lipstick and a Hermes scarf. If you can't fix it, feature it, as Joanna always says. But push it away with humor or bring it in with anger, it's wounding in a way that I know I will survive, but that I need to honor.

*I also want to say that in the not-so-distant past I was very cavalier with a friend about this very subject. I have a couple of friends who are BRCA positive and have been grappling with whether or not to do elective bilateral mastectomy. In talking to them (before my own BC diagnosis), I think I was really preachy about preserving health, yada yada and all with the "they're just breasts" kind of talk that makes me cringe now. It's a BIG decision. One that I would make again, absolutely, but I wish I had been more sensitive then given what I know now.


  1. I too was cavalier until I got my test results. Sure, no problem, I'll just get them removed. Um, right.

    And for the record, you never came off as preachy. Just as a concerned friend. Love you!

  2. Fran, I completely understand, it must be so hard. Loosing any part of the body is never easy. Hugs, I love you, you always amaze me

  3. Hey, I haven't been reading your blog. Just because honestly can't handle it. But wow I can't imagine. And I'm a person who has wanted a reduction for years but it's next to impossible to jump through all the hoops of insurance needed to get it done. ugh So sorry and rough to read at least for me. I can't imagine. Have you read that book, "Room"? Just curious. Your comments about the kids reminded me of it.

  4. ugh, major suckage. it's so true, our breasts, they are connected to so much of our developing life. waiting for them to "come-in" the glory days with them, then the change in them with age, children, to this, what you face - the loss of them. i do think it's something to mourn, i can see why you care. it isn't your essence, clearly, yet it is something that envelops your life on all the levels you beautifully describe.

    all your anger, fear, sadness...all of it still adds up to an incredible woman that i admire beyond belief. hugs to you friend.