Cancer Is… Reconstruction
The past year has been tough. Partial mastectomy in September, followed by the disappointing and unexpected news that the pathology revealed malignant cells. So, back under the knife for a double mastectomy in December, culminating in reconstruction in April. While healing from my third breast surgery within the past eight months, I looked up the definition of reconstruction. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the act or process of building something that was damaged or destroyed again.” They also define it as “the process of putting something back into a good condition.”
As I adjusted my surgical bra which held a set of new boobs that are devoid of sensation, I thought about how my plastic surgeon transformed my scarred breast tissue less upper body into something that resembles perky breasts. After the bi-lateral mastectomy, four months of living with expanders, and painful, post-operative healing, I was physically the literal definition of being rebuilt.
Cancer is reconstruction. From the moment of diagnosis, life splits into the before and after. I’m making the conscious decision to rebuild on the fertile soil of the after. These new breasts are the outward, obvious sign that a body part has been rebuilt. The new twinkle in my eye and the smile that starts from deep within my belly and spreads to my cheeks are the signs that my soul has been rebuilt as well.
Cancer has a way of breaking even the strongest among us; it has a way of leaving you lifeless, hollow, and lost. It stole so much joy, made me question my mortality and taught me what it is to know fear intimately. It has also taught me what it means to be brave enough to trust that I can welcome ease, laughter, and hope back into my days. To believe that I, too, can and will experience wellness, serenity, and good news again.
My life before cancer is a distant memory. If I’m being honest, I’d found comfort in idealizing my pre-cancer life. It was reassuring to pretend there weren’t broken pieces, to dismiss all the ways I’d betrayed myself, to ignore how unhealthy I was emotionally. It is deeply freeing to rebuild my life into one that is fulfilling and affirming.
As I do my best to honour the lessons of my external and internal reconstruction, I continue to heal. Healing for me looks like establishing and maintaining boundaries, being unapologetic about taking time to rest, nurturing my interests, laughing with my whole body, and appreciating this life I’ve been given. I am now a member of the two-time survivor’s club; it’s time to celebrate my journey, anticipate miracles, run towards joy, and co-create with the Divine.
Managing my triggers, releasing the deep wounds of this life-altering experience and trusting that I am not defined by trauma while walking in the direction of my healing is a practice that is as critical as nourishing my body.
I lost a special friend last June to metastatic breast cancer; for her and all the beautiful souls who didn’t get the opportunity to reconstruct their lives, I will honour them while living mine by embracing radical self-love, radical peace, and radical bliss – moment by moment, breath by breath…
Kai McGee is a writer who frequently explores parenting, her journey through breast cancer, social-justice and self-care. She is currently working on her memoir. Connect with her via Instagram @onanaturalkai
Cancer Is… is a monthly Blog where Kai McGee explores thoughts on what cancer is and is not from her lens of walking the journey as a survivor, thriver and champion for Breast Cancer awareness.