People, my oncologist included, keep asking me if I am going to get reconstructive surgery. It's been almost a year since my mastectomy and I still haven't decided. Not that I've been dragging my feet or anything. I wasn't allowed to get it done until recently because we had to let my radiated flesh (ewwww) recover. But I'm fully recovered now and, cheese and crackers, I still haven't decided.
Why is this so difficult? I am profoundly divided. Sorry, I don't mean that literally. Perhaps I should say I am of two minds. Part of me really doesn't want to do it. I can't stand the idea of voluntarily setting myself up for the pain and recovery time. I also can't stand the idea of facing the possible complications that arise once you start dealing with implants. Someone dear to me has had a very bad experience with implants. And her judgment is something I would never question.
But part of me wonders if surgery will help me begin to feel more whole. I don't like what breast cancer has left behind. I don't like the scar. I don't like the new topography. I don't like catching a glimpse of my sunken chest when I look down at a book, at a computer, at my child. And I really hate my breast form - it's not that it's uncomfortable, but it is not part of me and I find myself poking at it and banging my forearm against it as I go about my day. Then there is its, well, substantial presence. You know what, when you drop your bra on the floor, it shouldn't go thud. Not sexy.
People keep trying to help me. One of my nurses said, "Go for it - get the breasts you've always wanted." My doctor weighed in, "Oh you should do it - you're such a good healer." (At last, something I'm a natural at; it certainly isn't sports or navigation.) Then from someone in my family, delivered with a laugh and a shake of the head, "You can't be serious. You aren't going to do that are you?"
Let's be real. Since the cancer, I don't see the world the same way. Anything that smacks of vanity feels just..so..wrong. I have learned to accept my puff ball hair and puff ball face because, well, I know they represent a small price to pay for killing my tumour. Eventually my hair will grow and straighten, and my face will slim down. If someone is going to judge me based on my appearance, I get now that it doesn't have to mean anything to me. But what happens when the judge is me? I know I have not accepted what I look like. I'm 45, and it breaks my heart to think I will feel this way about my body for the rest of my life. And I honestly don't know what will change this feeling other than reconstruction.
Odd isn't it? In a world where 16 year-old girls are begging their parents to buy them new breasts, I have spent more time agonizing over this surgery than the one that took my breast away.