An Ode to My Breasts
By Rethink Contributor September 27 2018
By Aislinn Harmston
Today marks three weeks since I had my left breast completely removed. I have now replaced it with a removable firm piece of rubbery plastic. I’m writing this in memory and honour of my breast. (Sorry gallbladder – I feel bad that I didn’t write anything for you because I know how important you were to my body, too.)
Cancer killed my breast
You know those t-shirts that breast cancer survivors wear that say ‘Yes, my breasts are fake! The real ones tried to kill me!’ I don’t feel that way. My breasts weren’t trying to kill me. Cancer killed my breast and it was going to kill me, too. In a way I feel like I let my breasts down, like I should have somehow been able to protect them better. I feel like I let my body down.
“Hey, losing one boob is better than losing a life” is a common remark us breast cancer warriors hear from others. I’m not even sure how to respond to that. Fearing and mourning the loss of my breast is just as valid as fearing the loss of my life. And, yes, I’m quite aware it’s the lesser of the two.
The last couple weeks before surgery, I was constantly soothing my breast, almost comforting it, for what was to come – even as I laid on the operating table. Constantly apologizing to it, asking for its forgiveness. Even three weeks later this brings tears to my eyes as I type. I cringe to think of my breast being torn apart and dissected into thin slices like sandwich meat, like it had no value.
To the outside world I put on a brave front, but when alone, there are tears. Many, many tears. Also, so much anger. “How dare you cancer, how f***ing dare you.”
I do believe it’s important to mourn the loss. They have been such an integral part of me since such a young age. They were a team member and played a part in my life’s journey. I never realized how much they meant to me until I knew I was going to lose them. This was the end of their journey with me.
I want to thank my breasts for all they have done.
Although I don’t attribute my value as a woman to my breasts, I do want to acknowledge how attractive they helped me feel once they started developing when I was a young teenager. I remember sticking my chest out before puberty and imagining what it would be like to have breasts.
Later, when I started nursing, they took on a whole new, very important role. They exclusively fed my daughter for six months. They continued to feed her until she was 15 months old when I abruptly had to stop as I started chemo. They were sucked on, bitten, cracked, leaking, and engorged. But they did something real and irreplaceable – they gave life to my daughter. I will forever be so grateful and proud of them for that. I only wish I could do it again.
I smile thinking of the times I sprayed my daughter in the face because my breast was so full, the pressure so high. I smile at the thought of me leaking milk so much it was running all down the front of me and through my shirt. What I would do to experience that again.
What I would do to experience my husband grabbing and caressing my breast. I will never experience that again. I will never experience that sensation again.
I’m not done mourning my breast yet.
Today I filled the space with a rubber plastic breast. I closed my eyes and held my ‘new’ breast. It will do the trick but my real one will always be far better (even though they no longer look like they used to as teenager.)
The morning of my surgery I looked in the mirror at their sagging form. They were like two great redwood trees, perfectly normal on the outside but one was infested with termites and disease. It would have to come down to prevent it from infecting the rest of the forest. In a way, it’s like it took the shot for me, and they are also taking this dive into the unknown for me. They are sacrificing their existence for the continuation of mine. Somehow saving me.
Thank you for the heads up. Thank you for alerting me to the cold, and tolerating everything I put you through! Well done faithful breast! I’m really going to miss you.
In about seven months time I will say goodbye to my remaining breast just the same but I know it will be even harder. Everyday I wake up wishing this was all a nightmare, wishing I could go back in time and stop this from happening.