Up until this point, I’ve been telling the story of my April 11th prophylactic double mastectomy on Instagram, going photo by photo and post by post describing the day-to-day feelings and happenings pre and post surgery. I wanted to expand upon every little thing here and throw it all down on paper, or screen. I’m typing a million miles a minute because I have so much to say, but it doesn’t seem to be coming out in any kind of order. Instead, this is my stream of consciousness, feelings and information bursting at the seams to get out.
My boobs are gone. I think that comes as a shock to everyone but me. Don’t get me wrong, I was stunned the first time I saw my bare chest during a FaceTime call the day after surgery. It looked like I was in a vicious bear fight where I definitely lost. Maybe even died. My boobs aren’t even really boobs right now but more so lumpy, scary renditions of their former selves. My nipples look like they’ve been placed in either a space bag where all air has been sucked out or in a dehydrator. I really don’t know how else to describe it. I suppose I’ve also described my upper half as corpse looking, but I also believe that explanation does a disservice to my surgeons who are total rock stars through and through, so I prefer not to use that comparison as often.
I’ve come to terms with the fact that I no longer have a body part that has grown with me since birth. Think about that. My boobs have literally grown with me and have seen me at my good, my bad and my ugly. We’ve quite literally had our ups and our downs as we traveled through junior high puberty, high school inferiority, college OH MY GOD WHERE DID THOSE COME FROM HELLO FRESHMEN FIFTEEN, and on to adult-life settlement. Hell, maybe it’s a good thing they’re gone! Time to start over with a clean (read: flat and scar-filled) slate. To all my 2nd base boys, it was a pleasure.
I’ve only cried a couple of times: once before surgery and once after surgery. A couple of nights before April 11th, I became sentimental. The little guys that took up residency under my nose for 29 years were leaving. I was breaking up with my breasties, and I was sad. But hey, I was never fully invested in them to be honest. Those little suckers could barely fill out my Victoria Secret 34B padded bra. I was never a boob girl. I’ve got an ass that commanded control way back when my mom had to buy me elastic waistband jeans as a kid. My B(maybe even sometimes A)-cup never stood a chance.
Post-surgery, I cried, and it hurt so badly I had to stop immediately. So much outpouring of emotion comes from your upper body, something I didn’t really think about until I couldn’t actually outpour any. Your chest heaves over and forward, almost collapsing on itself and WHOA. That doesn’t do a mastectomy body good. Looking back, it was actually a pretty comical realization. I started tearing up since I was feeling sorry for myself, something I’m sure every woman who has walked this path has experienced. That pity party ended soon after pain trumped sadness. Once the pain subsided, I was glad about the short circuit. Crying is a workout.
Now a days, my definition of exercise consists of differentiating muscles groups between upper and mid-body. To sit up, I have to mentally prepare my abs to work while telling my pectoral muscles to chill the F out, or else. I think everyone tends to flex both of those groups when getting out of bed. Well no sir, not today, not for me. If my magical mind control fails, it feels like my upper half detaches from my body and BLAH that just gives me chills thinking abou tit. Ha. Tit. I’m not even going to correct that typo. It’s just too timely.
The above photo shows a photo from The Last Workout. Ah. I miss them like I miss hiking in Patagonia, sweating my ass off in the humidity of Southeast Asia and even freezing balls in Canada during ungodly hours of the night while shooting the Northern Lights. Moving, fast-faced, go-go-go. I like that stuff. My Twitter bio used to read “Everything all the time.” I felt that it described me pretty well. I replaced it a couple of days ago with “BRCA Previvor.” I feel like that fits me better right now. A year ago, everything was different. I was rock climbing up the side of a mountain to sleep in a capsule that overlooked the Sacred Valley in Peru with a man I thought I was going to marry. If you would’ve told me then that I’d be having a prophylactic double mastectomy a year later, I would’ve laughed in your face. It’s funny to see how much can change in a few hundred days.
Above photo & feature photo by University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences
I think best on planes, not here at home on my kitchen counter. My creative space is 40,000 feet off the ground and lately, inside my unconsciousness. My dreams have been wild and vivid recently. I found out yesterday that my first trip post-surgery would be to Europe. My dreams last night consisted of me frantically packing a bag and being late leaving for the airport (ok, that’s actually not far from reality). In my dream, I repacked in a carry-on because I was already under the airline time limit to check a bag. I was more stressed out than ever, wishing and hoping and thinking and praying I’d make it to the airport on time. As my taxi arrived to the terminal, I woke up. I have no idea if I made it to Europe or not in my dreams. As a psych major, I’m dying to know what this dream means about my current reality. Maybe it means I’m stressed. Perhaps I have an itch to travel. Both are probably true.
The hardest part about this experience is not pain control or grieving a body part. It’s learning peace in stillness. I’ve been inside these same four walls for over a week now, a rarity for me. My new uniform consists of pajamas. My hair resembles a rat’s nest on most days because I can’t lift my arms high enough to do anything to it. My poor legs are starting to feel like a forest because I have been instructed to abstain from baths, and apart from very quick rinses since surgery day, proper showers are few and far between. Bottom line: hygiene is hard and staying in one place is a learning process.
I think back to March of 2014 when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I got the call one night when I was living abroad in Argentina. It was my dad on the phone who said it first. “Your mom has breast cancer,” was what I heard and immediate fear and tears were what I felt. You never want to hear “mom” and “cancer” in the same sentence. Just three weeks later, she had her double mastectomy on March 31st, 2014. She has always shown me how to go through life with grace, making sure it was always chock full of fun and laughter. It’s no surprise, then, that she’d be my role model as I go through this journey almost three years to the day after her, hopefully exuding her same grace and positivity. She’s been my rock since Day 1, and now, many of my readers have followed in that role. I’m blown away at how open women are today when sharing their stories with me on Instagram, through email, in DMs and other platforms. It drew me to tears a few days ago as I scrolled and scrolled through the most positive, inspiring comments. After watching horrifying news clip after horrifying news clip in today’s world, this entire experience has restored my faith in how beautiful humanity really is. Thank you for loving me the way you do. Girl power to all.