Yes, that’s my title. That’s my topic. This strange journey began with a bilateral mastectomy on May 16, 2011. At that time, I can’t say what I really expected. I remember what the people around me were saying – trying to reassure me that I would still be beautiful. I was more focused on “get the cancer OUT” than I was on the lasting changes to my body. (And while most people were reassuring me, that two-legged tumour was making references, of course, to the movie “Saw.”)
In the weeks and months that followed, there was a little start of shock every time I saw myself naked in front of the bathroom mirror. After a while, I sort of stopped looking at myself. The blankness of my chest, and then the chemo-induced baldness and associated nakedness of my face without eyelashes or eyebrows were just too much for me. I couldn’t stand being repeatedly startled by it all. Although, the day the eyebrows started to go was actually kind of hilarious. I had just taken a shower and was drying off in the bathroom, looking as normal as I looked in those days, you know? When I raised the towel and GENTLY dried off my face, half of my right eyebrow came off ALL AT ONCE on the towel. I shrieked. And then I started laughing, because seriously HALF OF MY EYEBROW JUST FELL OFF! So I called Lara, and told her the story, still mostly soaking wet from my shower and giggling non-stop. I wore my headscarves a little lower over my forehead after that.
Expansions were ongoing during chemo, so my chest was constantly changing shape and size but looking quite bizarre. Once chemo was over, it was time for reconstructive surgery. In November they put the implants in, and when they were unveiled they were an amazingly beautiful example of reconstructive surgery. I had perky, youthful breasts again. I could see the muscle differences from the side that had had cancer to the side that hadn’t. I was still, really, recovering. My body had been dramatically assaulted, and I could tell every time I looked in the mirror.
But I kept saying (and I meant it) that I wasn’t quite as shocked by my appearance any more. I even said I could probably just stop right there and not complete the other steps and stages of reconstruction.
Yesterday, I had the second reconstructive surgery: creating new nipples for my new breasts.
I have one of the best plastic surgeons of all time. He was head of plastic surgery at Loma Linda – he was even one of my GP’s teachers. He was the head of that department out here as well, before he went into private practice. My oncologist told me, right from the start, that he was a detail-oriented perfectionist: words you REALLY want to hear about your plastic surgeon, believe you me!
Today I had my follow up appointment. Today, the Doctor took off the bandages that were covering my new nipples and unveiled them for the first time. I don’t usually consider myself a vain woman, but I must have some degree of vanity in me. When I got to look down and see my chest, stitches and all, I burst into HAPPY TEARS. They are so PRETTY. I can’t believe my boobs are so pretty! And, as the doctor pointed out, we aren’t even all the way done yet – I still have one more stage of reconstruction and then they are going to be even more pretty and real looking.
I’m so excited — over boobs. No more blank chest. Slowly but surely the visible damage of the last year is being rebuilt into the new me. I’m still crying a bit – relieved and thrilled and…looking like me. 🙂 So grateful to this amazing medical team of mine, that has cared for me from day 1.
Wanted to share, so you could all giggle or laugh at me or be happy for me, as the case may be. Lara found me beautiful every single day of this – but I don’t think she had ever seen me fully “get it” until those bandages came off today. Perhaps this sounds like a silly reason to be excited, and maybe it is – but I look like a girl again. And I can’t stop grinning.
Blessings to you all…xoxo