So, it’s been 8 days since my surgery. I’ve been sort of reluctant to write-mostly because I am processing a lot on an emotional level, and that’s a full time job in and of itself . It also hasn’t been super comfortable to sit up (or lay down) so sitting myself in front of the computer for the length of time to write one of these things hasn’t seemed too inviting at this time. I also haven’t been emotionally ready to write about all of this because frankly I feel bad that I don’t have more positive things to say at this point. I think I may be afraid that I’m disappointing other people or letting them down when I’m unable to see this shitty situation through rose colored glasses. This does not mean that my previous posts that were more uplifting and lighter than this one are any less authentic or real. Breast cancer is a fucking roller coaster. There are a lot of beautiful shifts occurring within me as a result of this cancer b.s. But, I will be honest in saying that this part of the process has been the most challenging thus far.
It is strange to look in the mirror and see big purple incisions and flat, lifeless-looking mounds where there once was nipples and buoyant flesh. It is difficult to embrace this look, considering that breasts are so caught up in our cultural understanding of what it means to be a woman. My drains from surgery were removed at my doctors appointment on Thursday, and I was given the o.k. to shower the following day. Seeing myself in the mirror after stepping out of the shower was one of the more horrifying experiences I’ve had in my life (I could probably consider myself lucky for this, but I’m emotionally not there yet. I’m having a more difficult time accessing gratitude post surgery than prior). I screamed and sobbed “I LOOK LIKE A FUCKING LINEBACKER JESUS FUCKING CHRIST I WISH I HAD NEVER DONE IT”. The process of healing is hard. I definitely had my fit yesterday. Several, actually. I cried a lot. And I think that was necessary, just like working through the despair after the initial diagnosis was necessary. This cancer shit isn’t linear. At least for me it hasn’t been. I probably can’t speak for everyone else that’s ever been dealt this fucked up hand, but it doesn’t seem like any aspect of this follows a steady course- emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually…. none of it is neat and tidy. There are lots of ups, and a shit ton of downs too. The positive aspect in all of this is that the way my body looks currently is not the way it will look forever- I will begin the reconstruction process as early as next week. And nothing in this life is permanent. It seems like incorporating the Buddhist principle of “non-attachment” might be helpful here. But it’s really hard to eradicate feelings of inadequacy that occur after traumatic body events, as my friend pointed out to me in a conversation earlier this week. And it’s even more challenging when you already believed you were inadequate to begin with… and that belief is what I’m forced to address through all of this.
So maybe I’m not quite ready for the Buddhist approach. Maybe I’m not ready to be zen about this. Maybe I need to have my shit-fit and cry and feel sorry for myself a little longer. This is a lot to deal with. Being 26 and kissing your breasts goodbye. Not to mention the physical pain and temporary impairment as a result of surgery. Or the fact that my life has taken a hugely inconvenient turn and I’m not starting grad school this August like I was supposed to. Somehow not having breasts seems to have made everything else more real. I’m actually pretty fucking PISSED about this whole situation.
(And I’ve heard from many people that “that anger will help you!”, and every time I’ve heard it, I’ve kinda been tempted to punch them in the throat. Just because.)
Clearly I’ve got a lot of anger that needs processing and dealing with, and I’m determined to work through it, just like I have been determined to work through everything else. So I’m just going to say that my inner mean girl (Regina George) is responsible for this post.
To be clear, I don’t regret my mastectomy decision. I still believe it was the right thing for me in my situation. I was aware that I may confront some grief around my new virtually chestless (for now) body, but that grief is not something I could really prepare for, aside from being open to the fact that it may occur.
This is a process, and I know I will be on the other side of all of this someday, but I have to accept myself where I am right now. Foul-mouthed and pissy. And still hopeful.