Thursday, February 28, 2013

Surgervercary... sorta...

I am going to continue to make up -versary words until I can no longer think of any.

So I am kinda celebrating the one year anniversary of my double mastectomy + reconstruction. I say kinda because if you've been following my blog I actually had my surgery on February 29, 2012. I celebrated a Leap Year by getting my breasts cut off! I don't mess around.

I think I feel a bit more emotional about this date than my cancerversary date. I'm not sure why. Maybe because I was so nervous and scared. Maybe because I knew it was so final, no looking back, no regrets. Maybe because I knew I had so many people cheering for me, both at the hospital and in spirit. I've never felt so sad, and angry, and pissed off, and supported, and loved, and cared for all at once!! It was exhausting!

My days at the hospital are a blur and come in little bursts of memories (thanks morphine and pain killers). I remember everyone visiting, telling the nurse I was convinced the morphine wasn't working, walking around with the catheter (unpleasant), trying to figure out who sent the flowers arranged as an adorable dog (thanks Shafran), calling the nurse twice in the middle of the night for more pain meds (as Kevin slept in the chair next to my bed the entire time), the PT making me walk up some stairs and declaring I don't need physical therapy (uh, what?), my roommate was lovely, and I emailed my coworkers to tell them I was high on painkillers but doing well.

Then there's this picture c.d. took of me the day after my surgery, March 1st. Yup. I'm super excited that the hospital offered Mrs. Dash in a packet. I can't remember what I put it on... meatloaf perhaps? This picture says it all. I just had my breasts removed and here I am surrounded by family and friends, loving life, and my Mrs. Dash packet.

Thank you to everyone who helped me remember to always keep laughing and smiling. I'm lucky to have you all around to make sure my sense of humor was not removed in surgery as well.

- J.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Stupid Sexy Double Mastectomy!

It was brought to my attention a couple of days ago that apparently Facebook deems mastectomy pictures porn. A courageous woman who runs the Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer Facebook page posted pictures of herself after her double mastectomy. One image shows her standing in front of a mirror after she was unwrapped, drains in place, scared and deflated. One image is of her and her husband holding hands, her chest proudly on display as she receives support from a loved one. Another image portrays a strong, beautiful woman holding her own chest as she accepts her scars and the battle she won.

This series of photographs really hit me hard. These photos were my exact emotions as I went through my own ordeal. At first, I wasn't even able to look at myself for days. When I was first unwrapped by my plastic surgeon I didn't even look. I couldn't! Pre-surgery, I researched photos online on surgeons websites and I was horrified at what I saw. I felt dejected. I felt scared. When I arrived home from the hospital I had Kevin take pictures of my chest. I wanted that to be my first peek at them. It wasn't so bad! I was lucky enough to be inflated a significant amount so I was truly impressed by what I saw. I was then able to look down for myself and come to terms with my new chest.

The next emotion I experienced and needed so badly, was acceptance from my loved ones. Kevin was a superstar and took care of me from day one. He tended to my drains, he made sure my bandages were not wet, he made sure there were no infections, and he made sure I was comfortable at all times. But then he had to go back to work. Who was going to take care of me now? Who could possibly handle the tragic deformities on my chest? Then I found out I was being quite overdramatic (shocking, I know). I asked my sister and c.d. if they would be willing to help me out. I gave them a long speech about how they could say no and I would not be offended. I mean, I couldn't even look at myself for days, how would someone else be able to? Without a blink of an eye they said of course! I needed help to cover my drain holes so they wouldn't get infected. I needed help to put on my tight, painful bra. I needed help putting on deodorant (which other friends also helped in that area, thank god for that!). I had a whole army behind me and I was so grateful.

All this support lead me towards my final emotion which was being able to accept myself. If everyone else could accept me so easily, why couldn't I? Over time I was able to look in the mirror and not flinch at my own reflection. I can now look at my scars and my different looking breasts, not as deformities, but as battle wounds that will constantly remind me of the fighter I am. I can even joke about my new breasts (they have a great sense of humor).

Now we shall come full circle with this post. Wikipedia defines porn as, "the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purpose of sexual gratification." I am pretty sure these pictures were not posted to satisfy anyone's sexual gratification. I know she posted these pictures to inform everyone that breast cancer is not a pink ribbon, it is not sexy, and it is not a silent, shy disease. She posted these pictures to let her fellow survivors know they are not alone. Since my breast cancer diagnosis and double mastectomy I certainly do not plan on staying quiet and fading in to the background. I have changed both physically and emotionally because of what I had to endure. Facebook will not silence what this disease does to us. We all need support from everyone out there. How dare anyone try to stop that!

- J.

P.S. You can also find the Stupid Dumb Breast Cancer blog here. It's great!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Implants Think Less of You

I had dinner last night with a friend of mine who I see sporadically throughout the year. She knows all about what I went through over the past year and it was a pleasant evening that included delicious beer and wings. As we were saying our goodbyes she went to give me a hug, hesitantly of course because I saw her a lot when I had my expanders and I always warned people to hug gently. So again, I mentioned that I'd prefer a gentle hug (as I do to everyone nowadays). She said, "Still? My stepmom is able to hug with no problems."

At first this offhanded comment didn't bother me at all. I just explained that I am still not comfortable with my implants and when someone hugs me too hard, or the wrong way, it hurts and feels awful. So, you know, hugs shouldn't feel awful, so I'd prefer a gentle one. Then on my way home I thought a bit more about it. Her stepmom had a breast augmentation not a double mastectomy! That's not quite the same. Her stepmom has the luxury of having breast tissue between her skin and the implant so she gets some cushioning. Me on the other hand? I have a sudo-hard implant hanging out just under my skin and muscle so I don't get any padding. It's not pleasant.

I've encountered a couple other people who just don't seem to understand what a double mastectomy really is, and that's fine. I didn't know what one really entailed until I had to get one myself. They cut off your boobs right? Then put implants in right? It's not that difficult right? They'll be just like new right? Well, not quite. I had one person think that my expanders were my final breasts! Oh my god! How awful would that be?! Those were the worst things ever and if I had to live with them forever like that?! I can't even. AH! Thinking about them again still gives me the shivers. Eek!

A double mastectomy with reconstruction is not easy. No one ever said it was going to be. I am sure a breast augmentation isn't all fun and games at first either, but I assume that once you have it and you are healed you feel pretty much like yourself again, with bigger boobs. Now, I know this post may sound a bit hypocritical since I've never had a boob job myself, but I'm just riffing here. I'm just making observations on people's perception as someone who has had a double mastectomy herself.

I just hope no one gets offended when I no longer hug you with the strength I used to. It's not that I don't love ya any more, it's just that my implants think less of you.

- J.