Every part of our bodies is special, even though some parts can be a pain, like breasts. Breasts bounce when you run, sometimes gives you heat rashes, and sometimes they get in the way. Many of us who are well-endowed claim we’d love to get rid of them. Oh, how nice it would be not to bother with them anymore! Not to have them knock your cereal bowl over or bounce like basketballs when you rush to the bus stop. It would be so nice not to have those sore itchy rashes under them. I even had the same thoughts until I had to actually decide to lose them or keep them due to cancer and a cancer-causing gene called the BRCA gene.
I heard all the comments before I made my choice: “They are just extra fat, it’s no big deal,” “You don’t need them they are just for men to play with,” “You’re lucky, I’d love to go braless,” “I bet you’ll feel ten pounds lighter” and “It’s no big deal to lose them; they just get in the way.” It’s easy to say these things when you’re not faced with actually losing them. I at times also wished I had no breasts, but once I had to decide to lose this part of my womanhood, they no longer seemed like a nuance.
Many things went through my mind while I tried to decide what to do. How will I look? Will I still be attractive to my husband? Will I lose some of what makes me a woman? Will people stare at me? Will I like myself? Will I still think I’m pretty? Would I still be able to look at myself in the mirror? I went over the questions in my head, and in the end I knew having a bilateral mastectomy was the best and safest answer.
Before the surgery I went through crying periods. At times I asked my husband, “Have I made the right decision?” Suddenly these big annoying things meant the world to me. I was going to lose a part of my body and a part that made me a woman. I couldn’t help but feel remorse. The tears came and my heart shattered. I had these breasts since my teen years and suddenly they were going to be gone.
I had the mastectomy on July 17. Once I was taken to my room after surgery, my mom and husband stood at my bedside and all I could ask was, “How do I look with nothing?” They both said I looked fine. The nurses asked if I looked at my bandaged chest and I said, “No, I can’t.” I just could not look at where my breasts once were. It was too hard. I could tell by my gown that it was flatter there, but I just couldn’t look beyond that. Even when I got dressed to go home, I couldn’t look.
It wasn’t until I was home a night or so that I looked at the stitched and bandaged chest where I once had breasts.
Tears filled my eyes, grief shook my body, and I looked into my husband’s eyes, “I’m ugly.”
My husband wiped my tears away and said, “No, you’re not. You’re still beautiful as ever.”
It’s now been a week and a half since my surgery. I’ve gone through periods of grief and I’m slowly finding acceptance. I must decide whether or not I want to get reconstruction, but I’m saving that until I’m healed. Right now the most important thing to me is recovery and dealing with the stages of loss. Losing my breasts is no joke. It’s hard to handle, but each day I am growing stronger. I’m learning to accept myself as I am. This is a big process. I had to learn to love myself while reaching for recovery from mental illness, and now I have to learn to love myself without breasts.
A friend told me the body is a shell; the true beauty lies within. She’s right. We can’t take our bodies to heaven, but our beautiful souls go on for eternity. So love yourself inside first then outside. No matter what flaw your body has or what you have lost, you are beautiful. Beauty is all around you and most importantly deep within you. Grieve your loss and learn to accept yourself as you are.
I’m still on the road to recovery from my surgery. I go in and out of phases of grief, but each day it’s getting easier. I’m listing the positives to my loss and looking at each day with a new light. The best part is I’m now cancer free. In time I will stand in the light of recovery from cancer.