18 July 2013

Feeling Whole

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!


Hootnz said...

It's so lovely to read how this reconstruction has made you feel.....definitely worth all the worry and risk....its so amazing what surgeons can do....and awesome, a tighter tummy?? what a bonus :)))

Catherine said...

It's so wonderful to hear you are happy with the results! Woohooo for feeling whole! I'm so very glad that you are happy. ~Catherine

jacksta said...

At the end of the day you have to do what is right for you.
Love that you went for what you wanted and did it...even though it was super hard.
I hope the rest of your recovery is smooth sailing.


Anonymous said...

I am so happy with your recovery and the strength God has given you to go through this. Praying for you (in Canada)

Anonymous said...

Hi there. A long time reader of your blog (having recognised you from NZs Hottest Home Baker), I remember being quite shocked when I learned of your breast cancer. You're so young, but I loved the zeal and enthusiasm with which you embraced life. A month ago I received a diagnosis that has turned my well ordered and happy life on its head. I seem to be defying odds, but not those in my favour, and I'm sitting here recovering from a tram flap reconstruction. Over the past week I've questioned the decision to undergo this surgery, so it's reassuring to read your views. I'm 45, my cancer was picked up on my first mammogram, and I feel incredibly lucky to have such wondful medical care available. I'm not out of the woods yet, but have found such comfort amongst the words on your blog. Thanks and all the best with your recovery.

jjs said...

whoot whoot..I am grinning from ear to ear knowing the joy you must be feeling. It might be a lot to go through but many of us have signed on and would do anything to be where you are today. So happy for you

Miriam said...

cleavage and a flat tummy - what's not to celebrate!!! xx

Jaz from Treacy Family said...

Soooooo happy for you.

Bit jealous about the tummy ;-)