really, it’s just a boob

I used to sound very flip when I thought about losing a boob. Because, you see, I’ve known since the beginning of my treatment that I would be having a mastectomy after the chemotherapy. That’s the difference when you have Inflammatory Breast Cancer — it’s necessary to have chemotherapy first, then the mastectomy. I’ve often had people ask about that: “Oh, I thought they usually did surgery first,” or “I guess some doctors do things differently.” I typically didn’t want to get into long, drawn-out educational sessions about IBC so I would say something like:

With my kind of cancer, they have to do chemotherapy first. It is much more successful doing chemo first and surgery second.

Get someone who really pushes and you can be really blunt:

Well, with my kind of cancer, they used to do surgery first, but they had a 100% mortality rate, so chemotherapy first has really improved the success rates.

You have to be careful with that one, though. That’s a conversation stopper, so I really didn’t use it much.

But as I was saying, I was very flip at the beginning about losing a boob.

Oh, take it off, take them both off. What do I need them for? They’re a nuisance anyway. I always get food on them when I’m eating, I call them “the shelf” for food, I mean COME ON, they’ve never been used for their proper purpose anyways!

But you see, humor is one of my best coping mechanisms and can hide very great pain — even from me — so for the longest time, I didn’t think it bothered me at all.

In one way, it doesn’t. It’s being done to save my life, after all. So, take it. If they had to take both, that would be fine too. Take them. Living is more important than having one or two boobs. My goodness, I love my life, I want to live as long as I can. Take the breast.

It’s just not as flip and “nothing” as I once thought it would be. I’ve thought about it, I’ve seen pictures, and I will be disfigured. I will be lopsided until I get a prosthesis. I will be lopsided for real unless/until I get reconstruction done. It will be different, definitely something to get used to. Will I grieve my breast? I don’t know. For the longest time during treatment I’ve hated it. I’ve wanted it gone. As I said to my husband, “it tried to kill me.” Even writing that, tears well up in my eyes because in a way, that’s really the truth. I guess realistically, it’s not the breast that tried to kill me, it’s the cancer in the breast, but it’s hard to separate the two. The cancer in the breast has tried to kill me, so the breast needs to go. Why grieve it? Why not just want it gone, and as soon as possible? *The tears continue to fall.* The cancer in that breast spread to other parts of my body and gave me that awful Stage 4 rating. The cancer in that breast has tried to take me away from my son, my husband, my extended family, my loving friends, all of you here, the life I love so much, so many people that I love who love me. The cancer in that breast has to go. *Tears continue to fall*

When I put it that way, it all becomes very simple. The breast has to go. I guess the grief is for the previous breast, the history of the breast, the pre-cancer breast that was a nice breast, that didn’t give me any trouble except for getting food spilled on it when I was eating, thereby getting dubbed (by me) “the shelf.”

I guess it’s hard to think of any part of yourself being there at one time — on Wednesday morning there, and when I wake up later on Wednesday, it will be gone. But so will the cancer in it, so will the cancer. That’s what I have to remember, that’s what I have to focus on.

My wise therapist did tell me that it would be emotional for me. My wise and incredibly kind surgeon said that it’s an emotional thing for women to go through. My therapist said:

You don’t have to look at it right away, you may feel sad, and that’s OK. Even though you know that this is for the best health-wise, you may still grieve this loss. That’s OK. Let yourself. Frank and Nate may have some emotions around you losing your breast too. It may be a difficult time for your family.

Then she told me to call her if I needed to talk. I love my therapist. My surgeon? — I think I’ve hit the jackpot with him. What a kind, compassionate man.

So it’s all very mixed.

It has to go. I want it gone. I may grieve it; I don’t know yet.

I’ll rely on the love of my family, my friends. I’ll rely on prayer and good thoughts — mine and others. And as always, I’ll rely on my faith.

For God is with me through all of this — through the tears, the anxiety, and will be through the surgery. I can tell a difference, you know. I am anxious, but a different anxious than if this surgery had happened seven or eight months ago. I’m anxious, yes, but it’s not an out-of-control anxiety that I used to go to. It’s an anxious with a deep belief that God is with me every step of the way, and that ultimately calms me somewhat.

As new bracelet states, to remind me always:

Never will I leave you or forsake you.
Hebrews 13:5


cross posted at Just Enjoy Him

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9 Responses to really, it’s just a boob

  1. halfmoon_mollie says:

    it’s easy for someone like me to say “it’s just a boob.” It isn’t happening to me. I read your blog – when you have time to post – and am totally amazed at the way you have handled all this AND let us come along on the journey.

    So. The only words I can offer are those of encouragement. YOu are an amazing woman, and I admire you very much. The very best of luck to you, but it seems luck really has nothing to do with this – you’ve taken the less easy path, and you’re a really classy babe.

  2. bcjenster says:

    I know I’m not alone here in saying how much I can relate. My circumstances were different – my mastectomy was less than a week after my diagnosis. I can tell you with a near certainty you will grieve the loss of your breast. It’s just part of the package. But you also have the same faith that has gotten me through to this point so I know you’re going to be fine. Sad sometimes. Angry sometimes. But fine, nonetheless.

    And the humor as a coping mechanism? Priceless!!

  3. throwslikeagirl74 says:

    πŸ™‚ I remember the first time I saw the surgery site. It was so shocking. But after a while, it becomes part of you. Ditto on the humor thing. If I couldn’t laugh about this I think I might break.

  4. imstell says:

    I loved my breasts. Far more of my self-image was tied up in my breasts than I am still comfortable admitting to. I grieved their loss intensely and privately as that was the nature of our relationship. I also loathed the sight of the bloated, single-breasted pseudo-woman who looked back at me from the mirror. I shuddered at the thought of what my husband’s true feelings must be if mine were so negative.

    Eventually, as with all mourning, I worked through the stages and reconciled my new outward self with the inner me. Just in time for reconstruction.

    I guess the biggest difference is that I never looked on my girls as the perpetrators of a crime but rather the victims of an immeasurable brutality – like myself. How could I hate that part of me which had nourished my babies, enticed my husband and filled out my clothes so nicely?

    Cancer took my breasts and my presumed immortality but it has given me much in return. A fair trade? I wouldn’t say fair… and I certainly would not choose to trade again. But I do not feel too cheated for all that’s worth, so I guess I didn’t really need those breasts after all.

  5. whymommy says:

    Hi, babe. It’s hard to know right now what you’ll feel after the mastectomy. You could mourn your breast, sure, but you also could celebrate the fact that IT AND THE CANCER ARE GONE.

    Honestly, I’ve never once missed my breasts. I don’t know if that’s because I had both taken at once, both turned out to be cancerous, or the cancer in the one was making me so miserable, but I really haven’t missed them a bit. I’ve been able to wear cute new styles of clothes that I couldn’t before (tank tops! junior sizes!), and I don’t have to bother with bras. Or sports bras. Ever. It’s a whole new world, and I just want you to know that it CAN be a GOOD one.

    I feel so liberated without my breasts. Honestly. It’s awesome. Particularly the fact that the cancer is GONE and cannot return in the same place.

    Thinking of you…

  6. Just want you to know that my heart goes out to you through what will be a difficult time for you. I haven’t lost a breast as I think all of you know by now! Still, as a woman, I cringe at the thought, it will take a lot of courage, that’s for sure, a lot of faith but as you have both in no small measure, you will come through this, out the other side stronger than ever and even though there will be sad times and angry times as one of the other women said, I believe you will cope and cope well and I know you will use what you learn and how you feel to help others. I will be including you in my prayers and if you ever want to talk you know you can email me at anytime, you are in a good place as far as support goes. Take good care hun and all the very, very best.

  7. I also find that faith carried (carries) me over many of the hurdles.

    Don’t hesitate to ask God for help with the little stuff too.

    πŸ™‚

  8. katbur says:

    I was the same way, cavalier, I had already had my babies, I didn’t need them anymore. I convinced myself that they didn’t matter but you’re right there is pain. You’ll mourn them. I have not yet had reconstruction, don’t know if I will. Be prepared for your new body, the cancer free one and hang in there.

  9. […] cross posted at Mothers With Cancer […]

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