It comes in waves. The loathing, disgust, and desperation for what was. This absolutely was the best decision – to have a double mastectomy – for a number of reasons for me. BUT. That doesn’t mean it’s not hard mentally and emotionally.
Storms of grief and longing for what was, even though it wasn’t ‘perfect’. This subsides into a calm acceptance and resolution that this will get better in time. I am actively working on taking it slow getting used to the ‘new me’. It’s hard work. It isn’t something that anyone can truly help me through – although I do have a counsellor that I am grateful for. Ultimately some of the feelings come from the fact that it’s not fair that I should have to deal with this at all. It’s absolute crap that I have cancer.
Alas, I do have cancer. I am going through treatment. I am working on making the best of this situation, for myself and my kids. It doesn’t help to wallow in misery and longing of before. So instead I am trying to sit with these feelings; I don’t want to push them down or away, because I need to feel these emotions and deal with them. Just like I tell the kids that it is ok to feel all the feelings, I need to practice what I preach. This is the hard work.
Logically I understand why this is happening, and the rational part of me wishes I could just “logic” myself into acceptance. Wouldn’t it be nice if the new body image acceptance and love was directly downloaded during the surgery itself? Our society has some many different hang-ups on body image, especially for women and mothers, that I know I can’t escape these feelings. They have been hard-wired into me. I can work to change my perspective, not only for myself, but hopefully for my kids as well.
For me I think the hardest part isn’t that I had a double mastectomy, that I 100% wanted and believe is the right choice for me. It’s the thing that no one really explains up front – just how much tissue on the chest is breast tissue. It is an extensive structure that was removed and I wish I had appreciated the volume of it to a greater degree prior to surgery. Also because I had a mastectomy and will do a postponed reconstruction (radiation first!), I am what would be considered flat. No expanders, no tissue grafting.
So I sit in the swamp of feelings that no one really wants to hear about; hatred to my body that betrayed me, disgust and feeling disfigured. I don’t sit here forever, but I know that sitting with these feelings is important work. I also try to be honest when people ask how I’m doing – if it’s a day where I feel stuck in this rut I don’t want to lie. So I don’t. This can be hard for me and whomever I am speaking with. Remember – dark feelings are part of the journey and they don’t need to be fixed. Validating, listening, and accepting the swamp with me is so greatly appreciated. I also understand the desire to want to fix and help. Nothing is “wrong” to say so please don’t worry about what to say or not say.
Once I’ve had my time I make a conscious effort to flip the narrative: I am beautiful and healthy, made whole and well through subtraction, I am strong and complete, I am loved. I am grateful for my resilience, perseverance and strength of mind to re-frame the experience.
As my daughter says:
The thing that matters the most is love and family. No matter what someone looks like we will always love them. Even if they look silly