Getting to Know You

I wondered how long it would take me to get a reference to a musical into my breast cancer blogs. Answer: not very long. Thanks King and I.

I’m about to be quite frank about my new boob and breasts in general. If this is the sort of thing that gives you the heebie jeebies, you might want to look away now. Click that little X in the corner and be gone. Consider this fair warning.  This post is where my boobsaurus is going to come into play though – so you might want to stick around for the lols. For those of you who may be facing a breast cancer diagnosis and are considering your options, I had a single, nipple sparing mastectomy with immediate implant reconstruction. I considered having a flap, but unfortunately, the size of my breasts and the ares of body fat I had on me didn’t match up – so I didn’t really have the choice.

I’ve always had an interesting relationship with my boobs. I was one of the first girls to develop at school, and as a perpetual tom boy, I was pretty cross about it. Not only that, but within what felt like seconds, I’d gone from being one of the only girls in school with boobs, to being one of the few who had developed rather large jumper stretchers. As I got older, they just grew and grew and grew. And while I can’t say they were enormous, they seemed unreasonably big to me.

All through my teenage years, I never appreciated my breasticles. I tried to hide them at all costs. For a while, naively, I thought wearing a polar neck would help cover them up. Alas, i soon learned that that’s like trying to hide Mount Everest under a napkin – almost entirely futile. Just makes ’em look more obvious and that is NOT what you want as a large chested teen. Even when I got older, I was never especially happy with my rack. It was there but it made running uncomfortable. And gave me back pain from time to time. They were largely a pain in my arse. And I never really appreciated them. I’d never really thought about the fact that these two lady lumps on my chest were a huge part of my femininity. I know how stupid that sounds. But it had just never crossed my mind. I never thought about that until I faced losing one (or both – still TBC) of them because my body had decided to betray me with a collection of poisonous little cells.

For me, having a mastectomy was never as big a decision as I expected it would be. When I got my diagnosis, I remember thinking to myself that if I had the choice, I’d just get them to take the whole thing away. Reduce the risk of it returning, get rid of the whole thing. It was a no brainer. Medicine is as such now, I knew I’d get a realistic reconstruction I’d be happy with and as the swelling has settled, that’s definitely what I’ve found myself with. Looking in the mirror the first few times was hard. I was still covered in marker pen and the scars looked angry. My nipple was bruised to shit and I generally looked like my knocker had had an unfortunate accident. I still had the drains in. And it looked so alien. If I’d written this post two or three weeks ago, I think I would have been bemoaning the surgery. But time is a healer.

And over time, this all settled down. The more I was able to wash myself, the blue marker pen, a stark reminder of the day I was in the surgery, started to fade. The swelling reduced. I got to know the scars and I began to see them as a part of my story. A victory. As the swelling subsided, the boob with the implant looked more normal, more like the one I’d grown up with. I was lucky because the positioning of my cancer and the skill of my surgeon meant that I was able to keep my nipple – which I think helped with the mental healing process quite significantly. Because I think having a mastectomy is as much about the mental healing process as the physical healing process.

I’m five and a bit weeks post mastectomy now. While I know that there’s still a journey in front of me as my boobs change over time and as I find out if I’m BRCA positive and need to have the other one removed too, at this stage I’m pretty pleased with the job my extraordinarily talented surgeon has done. I know my breasts are a huge part of my femininity but I’m OK with them as they are for now. I don’t feel hugely feminine at the best of times and I suppose that’s probably helped with getting used to the change. I know this probably won’t last forever and I know some days I’ll be heartbroken when I look in the mirror and see what I have lost, but for now, I am content.

I saw a tshirt the other day that said “Yes – these are fake. The real ones tried to kill me” and it made me think of the day I decided to have my mastectomy. I remember Chris said to me “I just don’t want you to look back in the future and regret making this decision. I don’t want you to look back  and wish you’d just had a lumpectomy”. I replied “When I look at myself in the mirror in the future, I don’t think I’ll look at myself and see a boob job that I regret. I’ll look in the mirror and say “that was what I had to do to beat cancer”.”

3 thoughts on “Getting to Know You

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