Over the past year I have been cut open, had body parts removed, replaced, and lost again and again. I have had tubes installed and taken out of my sides so often that having a drain or two coming out of my body has become the norm. I have gotten out of shape, transformed my body into a body builder, only to be forced to take two months off from the gym! Now I find myself in the same place I was 9 months ago, healing from the loss of another expander with a drain coming out of my side. But this time it’s different, this time reality has set in, and I have to accept the fact that having breasts again may not be in the cards for me.
The wonderful Dr. Seuss once said “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” I am not ready to smile just yet, I’m still in the crying stage. It’s funny how an article of clothing can trigger so much emotion, I just walked into my closet and found a cute low cut negligee I had bought as a Valentine’s Day gift for my husband. The realization I will never wear it was just too much for me; I had to turn my head away from my son as I sobbed over the loss of my breasts AGAIN! I had been saving all these cleavage revealing clothes in the back of my closet to wear when my reconstruction was complete, now I will never wear them. It may sound silly,or vain but having cleavage again was something for me to look forward to.
Let me recap the last two months of my life. After healing from the loss of my first expander on my left “breast” that included intense weight training at the gym; my doctor decided I was ready to try again. As soon as I got my second expander put in it did not feel right. You could see the edge of it poking and stretching my thin skin and trying to poke its way through. The skin remained red and shiny for two months but because it never swelled up my doctor just said to give my skin time to thicken up.
The pain kept getting worse, I even gave in and started taking those nasty pain pills. Last week a little spot of the skin on that “breast” broke open. I went right in to see my doctor and we discussed alternative methods of making me new breasts, just in case this does not work. He said “I am not saying this will fail, but it is better to discuss this now while you are calm rather than if you are crying with a gaping wound.” Little did we know that this very scenario would come true a few hours later.
Later that afternoon, I took a pain pill and laid back to do some work on my laptop when I noticed my shirt was all wet; I knew right away I was leaking fluid and this was it, the expander had to come out. My doctor called and agreed that it would have to come out on Monday morning and I was to go directly to the hospital to be admitted and pumped with lovely antibiotics to spend my birthday/mother’s day weekend in the hospital.
I have been on an emotional roller ever since. I decided that I AM DONE! I just don’t think it’s worth the risk. My doctors want me to attempt to make breasts out of an apparently otherwise useless muscle and fat from my inner thighs. They tell me “it’s like a thigh lift.” But, the thing is, there is NO guarantee that this exact thing that happened the last two times they tried to fix my breast won’t happen again. I do not want to put my family through any more worry, my body through any more mutilation, I just want the other expander out so I can get on with my life! As my husband says,”There is no such thing as minor surgery.”
That being said, I am still mourning the loss of my breasts. I have barely slept in a week and a half so needless to say my emotions are all over the place! Every time I take a shower I notice another bruise or scar from being poked, prodded or cut open. They remind me I definitely need to stop all this! Everyone keeps telling me I don’t need to decide anything yet, I can always reconstruct later but I think putting myself through such hell just to have breasts is sending a bad message to my teenage daughter. Throughout all of this, when I would ask her if my uneven breasts looked OK, she would always answer “Mommy, it doesn’t matter.” She is at such an impressionable age when her body is changing daily. I would hate for her to think that breasts were so important that it was worth intense pain and health risk.
There are many types of loss: the death of a loved one, the end of a relationship, the loss of a material object but the loss of something which has defined you as a woman is a whole other type of loss entirely. It can cause you to lose your identity and force you to humble yourself. I have always had a “nice figure” I have always kept in shape and although my 34DD breasts had seen better days after three kids I still looked pretty damn good. Now, I have to come to accept the fact that:
I may not be in the best shape right now but I WILL bounce back and I can still be beautiful without breasts. The most important thing is I am healthy. Recently many women with breast cancer have reached out to me. Hearing their stories really put things into perspective for me. I spoke to one woman who has breast cancer and AIDS, one that is finishing up her Chemo and about to have a bilateral mastectomy and has no health insurance. Another woman’s breast cancer has moved into her bones and an old friend of mine has been fighting cancer for SEVEN years! I have to realize that I am blessed. I will just take it one day at a time!