The thing about reconstruction surgery after a double mastectomy is the lack of feeling in your upper body. What’s interesting about reflecting on this part of my daily non feeling is how worried I was about this presurgery. Now that I live with it as a part of me though, it really isn’t that bad after all.

When I was at the beach this past weekend after a few week absence from my otherwise regular beach going, the ramifications of the lack of feeling became more apparent. It was a hot perfect beach day. Barely a cloud, barely humidity, just clear delicious New England sun and air. The water matched its perfection. Crisp enough to cool you off from the heat, but not cold enough to take your breath away. I took about seven dips to cool off from the heat and it brightened my soul each and every time I plunged in. A deep dive into the Atlantic is like no other, though my Danish friend, Ken would likely disagree as the very breath taking water off the coast of Denmark makes the Atlantic seem like the Mediterranean, but I am talking USA here. I dive in for my first dip of the day and as I stood up looked down (thank God) to see that my bathing suit top had plunged south leaving most of my new breasts exposed for the people at the shore to see. There is simply no sensation that the front upper half of my body is clothed or not clothed. This definitely adds a new layer of awareness as I need to constantly check in with my top half ensuring I am not fully frontal.

I am actually not horrified by this at all. My only concern is (no pun intended) full disclosure here that these bad girls I now sport that make their way out and available for the eyes that happened to be my way were forced on me because of cancer and not chosen because of vanity. And as I write that, who gives a flying fuck if I chose them or they chose me and why do I even for a moment care what anyone else thinks about my luscious upper half? I don’t know. I guess that is the organic hippy side of me, the human chick side I’m still working on. Mostly I don’t care, but sometimes I do and there it is.

Lying on my front after four months is still not super comfortable. Not sure of ever will be again, but like all of my projections and worries, it probably will be fine. You may think that because I don’t have any feeling, it would be a breeze. The rock hard super expanded tissue expanders that still reside in place of the more flexible silicone implants soon to exchange places have no give. So it still feels like rock hard bowling balls on my front and lying on them creates an odd sense of pressure that isn’t a feeling of pain, but is more a feeling of discomfort. If I am slightly propped up on my elbows and have a blanket of some sort snugly placed underneath, I can manage to read a book for at least a half hour. This is way more than I ever imagined even last month by this time so I will take the thirty minutes because there is nothing like a great book on your front side, bright hot sun warming our backside on a beautiful beach day. The first round of “we caught it early” breast cancer two summers ago, I couldn’t sit out in the sun because I was getting radiated for most of the summer. I needed an umbrella and lots of sunscreen. This summer is total freedom, how ironic. Ahh the trials and tribulations of beach going with new hopefully cancer free forever ta-tas.

I often wonder if the radiation did more harm than good, but as my almost 100 year old grandfather would say, “Be that as it may, it is what it is.” There are no regrets of my first decision to go the route of lumpectomies and ovary and fallopian tube prophylactic (aka preventative) removal. I think that it was a great decision for me and this is the thing about decisions, they are ultimately yours. I had the luxury of making them from the “we caught it early” rooftop, some people are not that lucky. Some people are in the dire place of deciding to continue treatment or not because the cancer has spread so much. These life decisions become relative to the bigger picture of cancer and my own experience. As my last few weeks of over scheduling myself have created feelings of being overwhelmed, I am reminded of how quickly things can change in our lives. As I adjust to my new schedule of working more out front of my wonderful business of beauty, I need to remind myself of this. I need to remember how quickly life can change and attempt to surround myself with only the tasks and lists that give me pleasure. I live the life I live because of the conscious choices I have made to live it and it is easy to go astray to the bullshit that sucks energy from me. This is when I realize I need to get out in the garden, pull some weeds, call my grandfather and be thankful for this moment. This is what the beach does for me and even though I can’t be there with the fervor and frequency of my previous work schedule, when I am there, I am reminded of the deep gratitude I have for my life.

Today my mission is to stay in the present, follow my lists so I can complete the tasks that need to be done before the weekend and to try to, in each moment, feel thankful for the privilege of being alive and healthy.

This is joy.


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