while i've pondered the big picture for the past several weeks, the most intimate little concerns of the body have also been getting top billing in my busy brain. yes, i have been thinking alot about my breasts. those assets i took for granted for so many years.
i loved them, counted on them. my perfect breasts allowed me to look more kindly on my ample bottom and squishy belly. from the time my breasts first grew, i was proud of them. i had my grandmother's figure, the hourglass shape of old hollywood. i loved looking at photos of my grandmother from the 1950's, with her sweater-girl look -all red lipstick, waved hair and jaunty scarf. my identity as a woman, my sense of self as a sexual being, my confidence in pulling off a smart new outfit -in all these places and more, my breasts play a starring role. my breasts were more than just part of me, i often thought of them as the best part of me. speaking about strictly the physical, of course.
at the times i've spoken on this touchy subject with others, people are quick to point out that i am more than my body, that it's a warped culture that tells me i need to look a certain way to feel beautiful. that beauty, true beauty is on the inside. my heart, my mind, my spirit.
sigh. i know, i know. yet, i've harbored doubts about my surface beauty for years. it's not really even about how i look to others, it's how i feel about my looks. don't expect this to be rational.
here is the thing. i have never doubted my talent or my intellect (ok, i do have a bit of low self-esteem with math) or my compassionate heart. i know i am a good, smart, creative person. i know i am one of the sharpest tools in the shed. i know my ability to connect with others, to inspire and teach and learn, to make a difference in the world - none of that rests on my physical beauty.
except it does. it maybe shouldn't, but it does.
the truth is, i have been hiding in my house alot this past nearly 11 months. when i am out, i just want to be invisible. for many months, i wore only black, shapeless clothes. i have rarely gone out and only with very close trusted friends. (except for once -remember how disastrous my attempt at dating was?) how i feel about my body directly impacts my confidence in connecting with real, live people. how can a girl like me survive socially in a year when she lost her great breasts and her cute shoes? (oh that dratted foot again!) no wonder my circle of friends in the virtual world has grown. online, i'm just my words and my avatar from the neck up.
so, my friends, here is the unvarnished story. i feel deformed and disconnected. i wear a sports bra nearly everyday because my more flattering bras, with the pretty lace and encouraging underwire, they push painfully on the still tender tissue on my side from the radiation treatment. my ribs are sore on the side of my breast. and i wear a prosthesis to make up the radical difference in size between my two breasts. it's a strange silicone thing that looks like a raw chicken breast. it's a bit heavy and hot. every night when i take it off, my breast is warm and sticky from sweating all day under the prosthesis. my breast smells funny. at home by myself, i don't wear it, i can't wait to be rid of it.
that day is coming soon. the week before christmas, i am having another surgery. (thank heavens my sweet mom is returning to care for me) for weeks i have been reading, researching, crying, trying to sort out all the complex feelings. finally last week, i made a decision. all of the choices before me had risks and i was factoring in the financial piece too strongly. my mind had been clouded by fear, raw and frozen fear. i am tired of making important, life-altering decisions driven by the shitty health insurance issues and fears about money.
i have decided to give my cancer breast a break. to turn to my unaffected breast and reduce it to match. this decision fills me with sadness and i've been grieving. i am giving up my hourglass figure for something much more pear shaped. at my current weight (still 25 lbs from my healthy goal) these two smaller breasts will still look ok, i think. only time will tell what i have left for breasts at a lower weight. i try now to think positively. perhaps they won't shrink as much as i think they will, as much as they have in the past with weight loss. perhaps there will be benefits to smaller breasts i haven't considered or ever experienced.
and i have given myself permission at any point in the future to get implants in both breasts, if i don't feel good about how i look. but right now, my cancer breast is just not feeling healed enough to take an implant. there is a higher risk of complications with a breast that has had radiation. making a new breast from my own tissue would involve a way more extensive surgery with a long recovery time and there are risks, of course. and for a while, i need to close this chapter. i need to wake up in the morning and look in the mirror and not see cancer in capitol letters, with three exclamation points. over time, the scars will fade and hopefully i will learn to love my new breasts. someday, i'll feel good naked again.
i will never have back the body i had before cancer. i am accepting that now. can't change the past. can't keep driving myself crazy. i've got to move on to other things in my life.
making peace, and perhaps someday even love, with a new body isn't an overnight process. it took me years to learn to love the body i was born with, now i just want to get back that love. i really want to get back to feeling like me. the me that walks boldly through the world with a little snap in her step and sparkle in her eye. the me that feels sexy and at home in her body.
that's the girl i miss the most.