My Post Mastectomy Thoughts
“I wish I could just cut these flaps off.”
That’s the script that runs through my head when I see myself naked.
When I had my double mastectomy, I was told that I couldn’t have immediate reconstruction because my lymph nodes needed to be sent off to pathology and at that time, my oncologist was just thinking about the cancer treatments which could have been delayed by the healing from reconstruction. My surgeon knew that I wanted to eventually have reconstruction and so (without speaking to me BEFORE surgery) left me with skin so I wouldn’t need spacers when my reconstruction was to happen. In the days and weeks following my mastectomy, I began to see what she had meant about leaving skin behind, and felt confusion over my dislike for what I had been left with. Surely, I was just happy she got all the cancer out, right?
This brings me to the purpose of this post. Everybody, whether going through a cancer journey or not, experiences vanity. At some point they’ve mentioned parts of their body they dislike, or wish looked differently. And yet, why is it as someone on a cancer journey, we disqualify ourselves from being ALLOWED to feel vanity? Instead squashing those thoughts with the repeated script of “but at least you’re alive.” Or, heaven forbid, we hear those words from an outside source! The thing is, we are bombarded with two polar opposite opinions in today’s society. It’s either you love yourself, there’s no need to change, and who cares what everyone else thinks. Or, work damn hard to get to a size zero, with an airbrushed face and a thigh gap or else you’re sub par. I find myself in a strange middle ground where no amount of dieting or airbrushing will change my chest, and yet, I don’t love my body and how it looks.
“At least you’re alive” does nothing to reconcile this situation. Recently, I posted some snaps of my family and I out for the afternoon, and shortly after, I received a private message saying “silver lining, looks like you just got a reduction!” This message wasn’t sent to hurt me, or belittle my experiences, but it shook me deeply. And here’s why. I didn’t WANT a reduction!! I loved my DDD breasts, pre-cancer, and a reduction wasn’t on the cards! And yet, I feel like what my surgeon has left me with, is to blame.
These skin flaps are difficult to dress, look strange under clothing, have zero feeling, and still on occasion give me under-boob-sweat! And I HATE them! And dare I say it, I would RATHER be flat, than have these. This story doesn’t have a nice clean ending, since I’m still over here with my skin flaps, and a reconstruction not on the cards until 2020. However, I am becoming more aware, each day, that the hardships we face in life, can either break us or make us. And if telling my story allows another breast cancer fighter to know it’s okay to not like your body! Well then, maybe just maybe, there would be purpose in these skin flaps after all. – Shaaron Zach