ALMOST FIVE MONTHS
Since March, I have created an awareness of the upper half of my body also known as my boobs, breasts, rack, tits, tatas and whatever other slang words that describes. This of course is not because I have wanted to draw attention to the inevitable stares that naturally come my way because I have opened the proverbial floodgates, but to speak the truth of what was going on in my body, on my body, in my heart and on my mind during this last diagnosis. The stares and glares have come because it is just simply the natural curiosity and I have actually encouraged the gawks because it helped answer the questions that most have wanted to ask. What is it really like to go through a double mastectomy? What is it really like to go through breast reconstruction? What does it look and feel like? What happens physically, mentally and emotionally? How do you live through it?
When my sparkly team shows up for a meeting at my house, the first question I almost musically sing out with Oprah Winfrey like enthusiasm is “What business are we in?” The answer I am seeking is never “facials” or “spa” or “beauty” or even “service.” The answer I am looking for is “The Anticipation Business!” I love the notion of anticipating needs and satisfying them before the words can even come out of a client’s mouth. Often our mostly female clients will lie down on our facial beds for their first rest and self care in goodness knows how long and the thoughts of time, childcare, husbandcare and chores start spewing and interrupting their moment of peace. Mind chatter and multitasking thoughts start pouring in to their brains and we can almost feel their sense of unease at the misaligned feelings of selfishness for taking this little time to regenerate. It is during this time we anticipate these thoughts and attempt to put them at ease acknowledging that we know these are some feelings that naturally come up when the brain quiets and try to teach some simple breathing and awareness and most importantly living in the now. This is what I mean when I speak of Anticipation.
There is an awkwardness with cancer diagnosis and mastectomies when people don’t know what to say or how to say it, but are curious about the experience. They often don’t know how to approach the subject in fear of invading some privacy. My writing lets the bulls out of the gate and into the rodeo. I welcome the conversation because let’s face it, if it is not happening to you, it is happening to someone close to you at some point and the more information you can have, the less frightening this whole rodeo will be. Knowledge is power as the genetic doctor and my own doctor assured me when I was contemplating the decision to have my 19 year young son tested for the BRCA 2 gene. Yeah sure, when it is not your kid.. I wanted to say, but of course didn’t because I know their advice was solid.
I love when people say to me, “Wow, you look great.” Like they are surprised that this was even a possibility. I mean it is not like after your first baby when you are headed back to work and squeeze into your before baby pants trying to prove how fabulous you are. I am not trying to “look great.” It is just that the perception of post cancer visual is usually based on bald heads wrapped with scarves, and gaunt appearances. This is not because of cancer, but of chemo because of cancer. Totally a different experience as I have said on numerous occasions. I didn’t have chemo. I am so lucky.
Along with my upperbody, my hugging has also changed. If I get a hug these days it is usually not a full frontal chest on hug. My chest usually lags behind and it is more of a shoulder to shoulder hug. On the occasions when someone doesn’t realize that this is the boundary I have created and we go full on frontal, the surprise of the hard balls that land on their own front is startling. Of course I acknowledge the surprise immediately because it is shocking. When you have tissue expanders placed in the remnants of your breasts and they get pumped up with saline every three weeks to fulfill their mission of tissue expansion, the end result are bowling balls. Hard immobile, inflexible albeit temporary thank goodness bowling balls. This is cause for conversation because it is fucking bizarre that someone thought of this as a way to soften the blow of the otherwise alternative. The option-less alternative my grandmother had to take of no reconstruction because it wasn’t available in 1957. I love the excuse to talk about the surgery part of this experience because it is so interesting and valuable and so many people have no idea about the possibilities of this. I feel like my own science project going through this as the body is an incredible machine, repairing at a rate I never really gave it credit for. I have learned in this ALMOST FIVE MONTHS that I am in awe of my body’s mechanisms and of my own resilience.
Everything has changed for me in this last five months. My view of how I choose to live in the world, the way I think about my business, my friends and my future has all shifted in a variety of ways. Some magically and great and some self defeating thoughts have arrived that have surprised me. “Is this all there is?” “What is the point of all of this?” have reared their heads into my radar and I wasn’t really prepared for them because I love life and I love my life. So thoughts of what’s the point even though I know there is a great point to living juicy and fully, there is also a slight resolve and a numbness that seeps in every once in a while as I contemplate the decisions I choose in my life going forward.
So this is my ALMOST FIVE MONTHS commentary today as I approach twenty two days left until my hopefully last and final surgery on September 28 when I get to remove these hard balls of fire and have them replaced with a squishier more readily huggable version that I can live with. And living with is the goal so onward to my day and my life and the joyful appreciation of the life I have created.