Saturday, January 7, 2012

What it feels like...

A survivor friend posted this recently and to me it sort of sums up how you GET through the whole losing a breast thing...

You have to picture me as a little girl, and a teenager and a young woman. I used to change into my clothes UNDER my Lanz nightgown. Let's just say, I was modest. I wasn't ever comfortable with people seeing me, at least that way! Back in college was the first time I recognized that there are times when you simple have to throw modesty out the window.

I had a friend ( a sorority sister ) whose family owned a truck company outside Stockton. She lived there with her mother in the house that sat outside the chain link fence. I had had one of those days. I missed a plane, had to fly to a different airport and take a bus back to Stockton. The bus broke down. When I got to my car it had a flat tire. Yup... one of those days. I got home, got dressed and headed out to see my friend Carol. She had told me about their guard dog "Champ". Champ as a puppy had been hit by a car and he had a head injury.

Ok right about now you are thinking ... she is making this day up.... but I am not.

As I walked up to Carol's house here comes Champ. His head was down, his teeth were bared. He was growling , "Good Champ..good champ"... I said as I backed toward my car. Then he lunged for my neck. I jumped back and he landed on my right breast. I was wearing a halter dress and immediately the dress was soaking in blood. Carol came out and grabbed the dog. Her boyfriend and she took me to the hospital. The doctor on call was an orthopedic surgeon. I don't think he spent much time with 20 year old breasts. He seemed intrigued as he put in 11 stitches. And so did the other doctors in the ER who poked their heads into the room as I sat there with my breast exposed. Somewhere between the dog bite and the 2nd young doctor poking their head in... I started to laugh. And no, I wasn't on drugs. Later my Mother cried and siad "Now you'll never get married!" I laughed then too.

When you have breast Cancer and you are going to have a Breast removed, you are unavoidably unnerved. You feel self conscious and worry you will be unattractive. I have never had reconstruction, which was a choice I reached in a way out of a moment similar to the cartoon above. Before my mastectomy, we went to see the surgeon. He had me strip to the waist. He examined my breasts and proclaimed, you have very nice breasts. Somehow that isn't what I wanted to hear when I was ready to lose one. Then he said. You should lose weight. I wouldn't want to do surgery on you at the weight you are. You can treat the reconstruction like a gift to yourself after you lose weight.

Ahemmmmmm. Really? My husband and I left the doctor's office, and I broke into tears. He looked me square in the eyes and told me he loved me with or without breasts and it truly didn't matter to him. After all this time the fact that I didn't have reconstruction doesn't hurt me, the insensitive comments of this doctor still do.

For the first few years I was very nervous about what I looked like without a breast. As I get older though I think... what the hey. There are times when I would like to wear lower cut tops, and then I discovered camisoles. I wouldn't mind being like my reconstructed sisters who can go braless with their improved versions. But honestly I have no regrets. I am alive. I didn't have to have the sometimes painful process of reconstruction.

There is something that happens when you have a breast removed. Sometimes what happens is you lose a breast but you gain something more important. For some, like me, you gain a true sense of who you are. And that .... that I am happy to flash at any excuse. GOT BEADS?!