I’ve become a little obsessed with soft pull-on bras with removable pads. I admit I’ve bought about a half dozen of them in the last couple of weeks. As I continue to heal, my shape continues to change, but these bras work around that. When I wear them, I feel like I have real breasts, I don’t feel half-formed, as I most certainly am.
It’s a strange thing, almost impossible to explain, but I think women who have had my surgery would understand: I am tempted to keep my breasts as they are, to leave my reconstruction where it stands. I told my husband that there is a part of me that wants to wear these scars forever. I don’t feel compelled to erase every mark the cancer has given me. I’m glad I have time to decide. Maybe in a few months, I’ll feel differently, but right now I’m content to leave well-enough alone. Right now, I have no choice but to leave well-enough alone. I’m still healing. Physically, and emotionally. My doctors say it’s too soon to move forward.
I’m surprised by so many things. I have no feeling across my abdomen — just an incision that runs from hip bone to hip bone — but I am so sensitive to touch that I can’t stand to wear clothing that doesn’t have any give. I spend my days in yoga pants, only switching to jeans or cords for short outings. Why, if this area is numb, am I so sensitive to touch? It is a bit of a mystery. My breasts are still swollen, and I am entirely numb under my arms (shaving is a bit of a crapshoot). I can lift my arms and stretch them over my head — higher and higher as time goes on — but the bands of muscle that run from my underarm down my side are tight. When I lift my arms, I feel as though these bands are going to rip apart.
I’m surprised too that I no longer have neck or back pain. The only thing I can think of is that my breasts are so much smaller now, there is less weight, less pull, less strain on those muscles. Before my surgery, my left shoulder ached all the time. Sometimes my arms would tingle and get numb. I’d wake from a heavy sleep and have to open and close my fists repeatedly until the feeling came back. That doesn’t happen anymore.
I am getting used to this new body, my changed self. At times I find it hard to remember what I looked like before. I am drawn to dresses with peek-a-boo backs and halter tops, things I never could have worn before my surgery. There is a part of me that wants a whole new wardrobe, but when I am out, in a store, I don’t have the nerve to try these things on. I have one foot behind me and one in front, I haven’t found my balance yet.
I was talking to a friend yesterday, trying to explain how weird it all is. It is taking time for me to believe that I’m really going to be okay, but each day it gets a little easier. In one week I see my oncologist again. I’m ready now to start the Tamoxifen — all the pre-testing and prep is done. I still wish it wasn’t necessary, but I trust my doctors. They are committed to this path.
In 11 weeks we will be in California. I can almost feel the warmth on my skin. I have never needed my family more, never wanted so much to simply be there, to put these months behind me. To embrace all that is mine.