Having had many surgeries, I am familiar with the feeling of seeing scars for the first time. Whether it was the odd bulge of the port protruding from my chest or the strange caved-in area on my leg where a large tumor was removed, I knew that it could be difficult to assimilate these things into my idea of myself.
But this surgery, this has been something much different.
Although I had looked at plenty of pictures of women who had gone “flat,” I suppose I wasn’t really prepared for how I would look after my surgery. Looking at my newly flat chest, I don’t see me. It’s someone new in the mirror now.
Regarding my surgery, I have been told many things by other women, including:
Well, you weren’t using them [my breasts] anyway, so it doesn’t matter, right?
You should just be glad to be alive!
You’re almost through with all of this, and then you can move on with your life!
At least you won’t have to wear a bra any more!
Just think positively!
Hearing these statements, I didn’t feel consoled.
Going through cancer treatment involves a lot of loss. From the first diagnosis to the last treatment, patients like myself must confront the continuing changes in our bodies and our lives. Even after one loss is accepted, another lies ahead. And for many, this cycle of scan, treatment and more can last a lifetime.
I agree with Nancy’s Point that women are often made to feel guilty about grieving after their mastectomy.
The truth? I miss the old me. I miss having breasts.
At this point, I don’t know who I am seeing in the mirror. My chest is mainly numb with some areas of shooting pain, neither of which helps to make a connection with the “new” me. There’s nothing I see in the mirror now that resembles myself.
Sparse hair sticking up out of my scalp, thinner after chemo, and a flat chest. That is what I see in the mirror. And there will be even more changes to come in the new year with radiation treatment, hysterectomy, and anti-estrogen therapy.
The rapid nature of diagnoses, scans, treatments, and surgeries provides little time to think about all of this. It often leaves you gasping for air, desperately searching for a break in the busy-ness of cancer. But there are always more doctor’s appointments, and always more shocks that must be quickly accepted, or more likely, pushed back into the darkness where they are often hidden behind a forced bravado.
The scars are beginning to heal, but it will be awhile before I can accept them as part of my new “normal.”
I don’t feel brave, and I’m not a warrior. Right now, I’m just tired.