Two weeks until surgery and I am starting to get butterflies in my stomach. I have been anxious and worried but now it’s getting worse.
The whole process of breast cancer therapy is daunting, never-ending (seemingly), a free fall and painful. It is physically painful and emotionally painful for a long time, and the fear of a recurrence never leaves our consciousness. The therapy process, once you understand it, is horrific in terms of anticipation and actuation, and yet we all seem to make it through. Surgery is disfiguring and painful and the loss of a piece of your body inculcates us, we will never be the same, we need to change our body image and if you already have body image issues this just becomes another one to add to the list. My hips are big, thighs are fat, arms are flabby, my neck is wrinkled, my hair is thin and now my breasts are… are… not there.
The mounds sitting on my chest as a result of a water balloon (commonly called skin expander) inserted and stretched to a size A/B are amorphous numb lumps that neither resemble my breasts, nor have any sensation at all. That is not true, the muscles in my breast are painful and weird in that they hurt and I can feel them move and flex when I do certain movements. When exercising and stretching the place where the fake skin is attached hurts and pulls. The chest muscles were cut at the bottom and attached to a piece of ‘processed’ skin and reattached then lifted to the skin surface to form a pouch. The water balloon is slipped in underneath the muscle into the pouch and filled with saline to the size you want, require or desire.
Any sexuality associated with sensation and my breasts is gone and likely will never return, never to what it was. What will my impending breast surgery afford me once finished? A facsimile of my breasts that will neither feel, look, nor function as before, although I do not need it to function as a milk station any longer. They will look like breasts, possibly feel like breasts, but they will not really be breasts, they will be “chunks” of stomach tissue, muscle and fat cut from my stomach area (obviously) and stuffed into the man-made pocket made by the water balloons. I think a lot about what they will look like, what will it feel like and what scars will remain. I currently have five-inch scars on each breast bisecting the breast side to side. I was quite taken aback when I first saw these scars expecting them to be much smaller and not quite so obvious.
I have spent the last year obsessed with breasts, scars, reconstruction surgery, before and after pictures, nipple tattoos, scar tattoos, blogs, websites and reviews of anything and everything to do with breast cancer, breast surgery, reconstruction of breasts and breast outcomes. To look at my history on the computer one might begin to wonder just what kind of gruesome disturbed person I am looking at all these things. I’ve watched mastectomy and reconstruction surgery videos over and over to become comfortable with what they will be doing and to better understand the process. Too much information is not always a good thing. Now I worry, what if I don’t like them, what if they are still uncomfortable like the water balloons, what if I am making a mistake and should just be flat, what if I don’t make it through surgery, or I have complications, what if what if what if. I need to go into this surgery with a different attitude, a Wonder Woman attitude of success, instead of a what happens if it is a failure?
Brent told me about a TED talk the other day: Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are. It talks about going into a stressful situation and how you go in shapes how you come out. For example a job interview: go in tentative and uncertain, not feeling adequate for the job and chances are you come out without getting the job. Go in confident, assured, knowing you can vanquish the world, go in like Wonder Woman and chances are you will get the job. Take a look at the Amy Cuddy video then think of me the day of surgery. Right before I go in, I will be standing there next to the gurney for 2 minutes, huge blue gown hanging down to my calves-open in the back-attractive paper cap on my head, IV hanging from my arm, gray socks on my feet, hands on my hips, standing like Wonder Woman, ready to vanquish the world!