So, today is the last day on earth living with my own breasts. Since the ones I was born with are trying to kill me, I’m trading these suckers in for a better, less lethal pair. They are OUTTA HERE.
This decision has been a surprisingly easy one for me to make. As someone who has never particularly liked their breasts (that’s putting it lightly-I HATED them), and given the fact that my spirit is not on board with chemotherapy, a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction seemed to make the most sense to me. I know that this is a difficult decision for some women to make, but I can honestly say as I sit here, looking down at my cleavage for one of the last times, I feel very much at peace.
I do anticipate that I may experience some grief post surgery. Grief for the loss of my own flesh, symbols of my “femininity”. But, this whole crazy experience has given me the opportunity to look at some of my beliefs about the world and about who I am. I’ve become aware of my understanding of myself as a woman being inextricably linked to my physical appearance. This isn’t the truth-the “who” in all of us is so much greater and more monumental than our packaging, but I know I’m not alone in this. And frankly, that’s a belief that I’ve subconsciously carried for so long without question that has not ever served me, and I don’t think it serves any of us. It is a belief that has caused me a tremendous amount of pain and suffering-periods of starving myself, skipping meals and smoking cigarettes instead (in undergrad, while studying opera. Yes, I thought I was reeeeaalllly edgy and cool), punishing myself at the gym in the hopes of beating my unruly flesh into submission, obsessing over scars on my face, not leaving the house some days because I felt so ugly and so unworthy–of what, I’m not sure. I’m saying this not to whine or evoke pity, but to highlight the pervasiveness of these thoughts and behaviors, because I know I’m not alone. If you are a woman, or you have women in your life, I’m sure you’ve seen some of what I’m talking about. And this isn’t just a female issue. We have a societal epidemic of self-hatred on our hands.
I’ve been forced to acknowledge my own vanity, and I am truly grateful for this. Because I believe my vanity has always served as a layer of insulation or protection, based on this core belief that who I am underneath my outer existence is somehow bad, or less than, or not worthy, or fundamentally flawed. So I have always put tremendous stock into my physical appearance for fear that the truth of my existence was actually rotten and needed covering up-with makeup and special clothes and accessories-identities to be put on and taken off like sweaters.
It has taken a cancer diagnosis for me to finally be willing to release this harmful belief.
I feel privileged being able to sit in my comfy bed, on my nice new laptop, pondering my existence with no real or immediate threat to my survival (aside from the pesky-rat-bastard-asshole currently residing in my breast and lymph node). I realize that my thoughts are indicative of my privilege because I have the freedom to consider these things, as opposed to where my next meal is coming from. It’s ironic that out of a cancer diagnosis, I am coming to know gratitude.
So, yes, I may be sad about my breasts being gone in the future. I may encounter fear around meeting someone special and what their reaction to my fake breast situation might be. But if thats whats important to that person, then they’re not the special one for me…
So actually, I am coming to know cancer as a hellishly beautiful liberator.
I may be sad later on, but I am at peace right now. And what could be better than that? All we have is right now, afterall…