This is a post I've been wondering about writing over the last few days.
I was thinking of how I would communicate the feelings I have about everything since my reconstruction surgery. So this might be a little long and rambly...
My feelings before the surgery were determined, if a little strange and ambiguous to some and it was really hard to explain to people why I was putting myself through it. One of my best girlfriends cringed when I told her the extent of the surgery and in horror exclaimed "why do you want to do that?!!".
I probably would have asked that too. Sure, it sounded barbaric. Having an abdominal muscle removed, strapped to my chest, skin and tissue removed and a breast shaped from it, part of a rib removed, hours spent under anesthetic while the surgical team painstakingly connect all the blood vessels and then hope like hell it all takes and doesn't reject from my body. Then there is the waking up and recovery from all that. They told me it could take 12 weeks to fully recover. Yikes, who would really put their hands up for all that pain just for one breast? Surely only someone really crazy.
Even Owen was dubious it was worth it. Especially when he was happy with the status quo (geez I love that man).
But I couldn't NOT do it. I just knew I had to do it. Perhaps its like drawing a line in the sand? Me before cancer, me during cancer, me after cancer - I feel like somewhere in all that mess I lost a part of me a bit and this was a way of finding me in that again. I won't lie, before cancer my D cup cleavage was a part of me I was proud of it. Afterwards the need to cover up so people don't feel uncomfortable looking at my lopsidedness was horrible. As for wearing togs...well it was a hassle and I've never felt more unattractive. No one told me I was, I just felt that way.
The other more important reason was I felt I could move on mentally if this was done. Like coming full circle and being able to say cancer happened and its NOT going to rule me anymore. Sure, anyone who has a breast cancer diagnosis knows the endless worry as we are never really 100% sure it won't come back 1,2,5,10+ later but we don't have to accept to live our lives with that in our minds. I'm choosing not to. This is my line in the sand. I won't be ruled by what-if's anymore.
This last few weeks has been testing in that area though - our Young Survivors group lost another two precious women shockingly and heartbreakingly fast to this disease...our 4th so far, and the same week our family lost a dear and beautiful friend who lived with her metastatic diagnosis for 7 years. It hits you like a smack in the face and for those newly diagnosed it is scary. It was important to remember that those women had their own story though - I couldn't let that get me down for too long. Life needs to be lived...and I know that all five of those women would agree with that.
So, if you had been there to see my face when I first bumbled into my bathroom in my hospital room and looked at my battered, bandaged rather wobbly-headed self in the mirror you would have known. Yes this is right. I couldn't stop grinning.
Looking down and seeing a cleavage, feeling a breast shape and knowing it was done successfully and skillfully just to make me feel whole is powerful. I had a whole amazing team of medical staff, not to mention amazing support from my family, a husband who despite his concerns has seen the positive effect this has had on my mindset and gets it, a cheerleading squad of relatives, friends, blogging friends, my YS and Shocking Pink sisters and even strangers. If that isn't humbling and powerful then I don't know what is.
I'm three and a quarter years past my cancer diagnosis. This road is a tricky and rocky one at times but I'm finally starting to move on and really get on with life properly. I have a lot of plans, the main one is to live till I'm an old lady.
*I did get the bonus of a flat tummy; with all that extra skin gained from the fluctuations of pregnancy to three children gone. The surgical team even gave me an extra bonus of tightening the remaining muscles for me and therefore a stomach I haven't seen since I was 22!
1. Hospital stay; tubes, IV fluids, grey skies outside and terrible food. Not photographed; awesome nurses, great room, friends to visit and new boob!
2. My array of meds and supplements next to the bed. Since getting back I've had coldsores, thrush, dodgey tummy and Owen is on a mission to build my blood up strong again.
3. My comfy spot on the couch
4. My favourite socks and wearing pj's all the time. I love the excuse.
5. Amusing myself with nail painting, making a cake, having my first coffee, flowers from my cousins and a quick visit to the op shop yeilding some cute results.
6. Reflecting on the death of three amazing and beautiful women from breast cancer in one week. Two young mums and a family friend for over 30 years. Remembering how far we've come and how blessed we are.
7, 8, 9. Gifts and loveliness from friends and family.
Love, laughter, gratitude and friendship has permeated the last few weeks once again.
Not the best cake I've ever presented...and it took me aaaages. But I made a cake (with plenty of sit downs in between and a long time reading and getting my head around the recipe, despite knowing it quite well already) that was edible and hit the spot. I'd been dreaming of this cake a couple of days beforehand and the craving could not be contained.
I've been cut open, stabbed, pricked, prodded, poked, cut open again, squeezed and refilled completely with blood. I had 11 days of hard work. But its done. And I'm home.
And I look down at my lady lumps and I smile so hard!
Short story is that I had a successful 7 hour 15 minute operation and got discharged a day early as I was doing so well. Three hours after being home though I developed a bleed and had to go back up to Auckland to have it fixed, so I had another 2 and a half hour surgery to stop the blood flow, then a blood transfusion and ended up in Middlemore for another 4 nights. I'm absolutely knackered, sore, sleep deprived. But I'm also ecstatically happy, grateful, blessed, loved and glad. Glad to be okay, grateful my kids had awesome care thanks to my mum and dad and Owen. Blessed with amazing staff and care and happy because my new boob does actually look incredible. Loved because so many people sent us thoughts, packages, prayers and kind words and also because my husband got to be at my side through all the tough parts and for that I am so grateful, he was amazing.
I'll be away from here a bit longer as my ability to sit at the computer is still not great. The words start to swim in front of my eyes a little bit and I need to catch up on a lot of sleep but I thought I'd check in and let you know I'm good! And to say thank you for your thoughts and prayers over the last few weeks.