The Plus Side of a Mastectomy

This is going to be a very personal post. I will tell you right now it may also make you squeamish. It certainly has made me, but I figure the more that we can demystify this process and this disease, the better we will be at communicating and supporting each other.

I have been pretty flat since my mastectomy with my nice perky Nordstrom’s ladies strapped on each day. I skittered by the mirror with clothes clutched tight, no interest in seeing the giant lines that were my cancer bugs, that was my figure.

Last Monday I had plastic bubbles – for lack of a better  term – the scientific term is expanders – put under my skin and muscles and sewed into place. I had enough extra skin that they were filled over halfway with saline – in a usual procedure they are only filled a third of the way. Which meant that as soon as I was awake enough I had the chance to see a shape and a sight that I have not seen in six months. And that many of you ladies take for granted – cleavage.

I am small, but skin complains – stretched thin over the expanders it is shiny with the extra effort. It is more than I expected in terms of profile change. It is pretty uncomfortable as that skin moves against the plastic, against the stitches.

I am exhausted too because I am used to sleeping on my stomach – instead I now sleep on my back with a nightly advil run. This process will continue over the next few weeks. I will be pumped full of saline until we all decide I look like the right version of myself. Should I stay a medium? Move to a large? C? B?

But it’s such a weird conversation to have with anyone outside of this blog – friends and teachers asking me today how i was feeling said “I looked great” I know that means they looked at my chest. For so much of our lives that’s considered taboo. Is it still?

My male friends ask how I’m feeling – should I say that it feels like i have an extremely tight push up bra on all the time with some pain in the armpits. Instead I just say good, but tired. My body is exhausted after the last year and this is the last straw. But it’s also the first step up the end ladder. Toward the newest normal imaginable. At a size made to order.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “The Plus Side of a Mastectomy

  1. Okay…I went back and read all your posts…so I could get a picture of your whole journey. You’re the bravest person I know right now…surviving, and getting to write about it in such a real way…God bless you…and I’m praying you get to order the size of your dreams!

  2. Kate McAlister

    I just returned to work from having a bilateral mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction as a result of a second breast cancer occurrence. A colleague who is a friend of yours sent me the link to your blog. I am heartened and strengthened just by reading about the many fulfilling activities of your daily life. Your marvelous outlook is inspirational to me. Thank you, and keep writing when you can make time!

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