The roller coaster of emotions I’ve been on since June 1 is evident by the way my house looks right now (like a tornado came through), the piles of lists in every room, the started and unfinished “projects” and the amount of Xanax I’ve consumed. I have never freaked so much in my life. It almost feels manic, and that alone freaks me out. I’m normally very level-headed and precise, but I’m aware of coming unglued. It’s so weird.
I always bite off more than I can chew, and when I scheduled my surgery for Aug. 6, I knew there were specific things I needed to accomplish beforehand: make a reconstruction decision (top priority), get to Maine with my family (we’ve gone almost every summer since I was born) and get to LA to visit my brother and his family, to hug my beloved nephew Arrow and his new little sister Rio. Somehow, over the last two months, I did so much more than those three things. I’m proud that I did. I’m kind of shocked I did it, I have no idea HOW I did. But now, and as of Aug. 1, the lists have been checked off… and there’s been nothing left to do but wait.
And now surgery is here, and I cannot help but feel slightly terrified.
In early June, I woke up from a dream where I’d had my mastectomy, and I felt it… this hollow, empty, numbness where my breasts had been. This concavity, almost like my heart was gone too. No aching, no feeling at all. Just nothing. And I sobbed the whole day. What the hell is this going to feel like? The unknown is so scary.
I mentioned in my previous post that many women have been kind enough to sit with me, to lift their shirts, to let me REALLY look at their reconstruction, to feel them. Many of them said, very casually, “Sure go ahead, I don’t feel it anyway.” One woman actually said, “I’ll show anyone because I really don’t feel like their mine.” That comment in particular struck a chord. I would hate to think that after all of the work I’ve done to make the right reconstruction decision, they wouldn’t be “mine,” even if they feel like nothing.
No matter how tough you are when dealing with cancer, and overcoming it, there’s something very personal about what cancer robs you of. When I was a child, I had a head of long, blonde curls, from age 3. Goldilocks. Hair everyone talked about and wished they had.
And when I had chemo, I had to watch it fall out slowly, as if in order to be cured, something has to die. When I couldn’t bear to watch it anymore, I asked my brother, a metal head, to shave my head… he couldn’t bring himself to do it. And so my poor mother had to. I put my head down over the sink and just sobbed. And it’s just hair, it grows back. To be honest, I loved being bald. When I was finally able to look at myself in the mirror, I felt relief. I never wore a wig and rocked a great shaved head. But in that moment, those few minutes with my mom and the buzzer, cancer won. Cancer stripped me of part of my physical identity. I think that moment was worse than the 9 weeks of chemo I had. Because it was heartbreaking.
And now as I sit here, and think about what it’s going to feel like to not have any feeling at all in my upper torso, I’m furious and devastated. I have no doubts my new boobs will look great. I’m sure I’ll love that they’ll never fall like my real boobs have already started to. They will look like mine. But that’s not what this is about… they won’t feel like anything. They won’t get in my way like they always do, I won’t notice them when I’m walking up stairs. I remember what my skin felt like after my biopsy as a teenager, and what my neck felt like after my thyroid was removed. It’s like when you go to the dentist and they shoot novacaine into your mouth and you play with your lips for hours afterward. Except that feeling never goes away.
I’ve been strong and positive up until this point, and I still am. I’m confident the surgery will go well. I’m blessed with thousands of friends, and friends of friends, who have come out of the woodwork to wish me well, pray for me and think of me surrounded in white light. I’m going to be just fine and I’m eternally grateful. But I think I deserve my moment to mourn my body. Like any other unknown, this one is terrifying.
We spend so much time focusing on our physical flaws and striving for perfection. You really don’t know what you have until it’s gone. Cancer taught me that a long time ago. Let this lesson be to love and honor yourself. Take care of the body you were given. Stop being your own worst critic. Stop criticizing and judging others’ appearances when you have no idea what they are struggling with. There are men and women who have lost limbs or who’ve become disfigured due to illness, accidents and combat. You should be so lucky you aren’t one of them.
This will be my last post before surgery. THANK you for thinking of me, for reading my thoughts, for sharing them with others, for sharing your own with me. I’ve had my moments of weakness. This has been a big one I’ve carried for the last two months. I’m ready to let it go and focus on being brave (sing it Sara…)
See you on the other side of surgery ❤