Bloody hell this healing process takes fucking forever. Its been two months now since my second breast was removed. It’ll be three months when all is healed so the tissue expanding can happen to make space for an implant if I so desire. Haven’t decided yet. Have been dealing with ongoing seroma, ‘a build up of fluids in a place on the body where tissue has been removed’. I seem to have a lot of it. Two weeks ago my stylish canadian doc aspirated 150mls. And i was left with a little pouch containing nothing but a tissue expander and some lat tissue. Hmmmm. Not sure that’ll make a boob. Latissimus dorsi flap breast reconstructions are traditionally done using your own tissue and an implant to give a more natural feel and the majority of patients (amputees, survivors, thrivers? Fuck so confused by what term to use) are happier longer term than those with only implants. At this point I start to think what are you bleating about you’re alive. Survivor guilt is a thing. But never let it negate you and your fears, issues, idiosyncracies. They are valid. Ok, note to self over. Annnd I have been ‘happy’ with my existing reconstructed breast like mound thingy. Just don’t remember it taking this long to heal, but then again there has been the onslaught of chemo etc. Reckon this body is holding up the middle finger right now. Anyhoo, the continuing fluid build up means it looks like I’ve got a boob still. Bit flippity floppity but oh well. Its quite handy when you want to go to the beach. That sounds flippant but its not. I have my very dear friend to thank. I was hiding as I had been, albeit knowingly, when she bullied me into her car and out for a coffee on the beach a couple of weeks ago. The sun was shining. It was glorious. Everyone was out and proud in their cozzies and worshipping the sun. My happy place. I was feeling grumpy and scarred and flat and confused. So she took me cozzie shopping. Fuck me. Not many people who can know what I need when i don’t even know. It all felt so normal as we found “busy’ padded tops that would disguise the fact that I was mishaped and that one side was primarly empty. I needed help doing my top up and she helped me. It was all so easy. I didn’t flinch once. She made it so. It was only days later that she admitted she had found it so emotional seeing me standing there asking if this is ok, with my scarred semblace of a boob, that it took her breath away. She hid it well. And it helped me so.
So on 13 december we start expanding or not. Then we schedule phase 2 and 3. Insert implant or not. Remove implant from other breast and reinsert new one. Or not. Reconstruct nipple from bit of back skin on breast like mound filling in for my areola. Tattoo both nipples and areolea to match. Et voila. Oh ja and follow up blood tests and oncologist check up. Just to keep it real.
I’m trying my damndest to say you go girl as I put mascara on my three eyelashes, two on one side and one on the other. It’s not working so I’m about to text my friends and say if either of you moans about not knowing what to wear I’m going to spew in your faces. Fuck fuck fuck. I have tried on five outfits. All my clothes are fairly classic and not frou frou at all, okay then borderline masculine, and yet in all of them I look like a fat bald chap wearing a dress. No offence meant but just not the look I was going for. Fuck fuck. And then I burst out laughing and never sent my text cos oh for fucks sake. Who really cares. It is what it is. I obviously get the big picture life blessing. But right now I’m having a little picture vanity moment. And to be honest its actually quite liberating because there’s not much I can do about it. I could have got false eyleashes I suppose but they’d struggle to stay pasted on with nothing to cling to, so for what. And I could continue to feel sorry for myself. But for what. Because I don’t feel like me. I don’t look like me. Fuck that. Who cares that my eyeliner smudges everywhere because there are no lashes to stop it from bleeding. Or spreading. Or whatever the right terminology is. Did you even know that was a thing? Me neither. But still, on goes that eyeliner. I’m quite liking this not giving a damn moment. But please don’t tell me I look great with that look in your eyes. You know the one. Just lean over and unsmudge me. It is what it is so help me be me. Because sometimes it’s a little hard. A little hard for all of us to be us in any given moment. So just lean in. Oh and you go girl.
I’m a bit fragile at the moment. Definitely feeling a little vulnerable. And a bit prickly. I’ve noticed it by having to take a deep breath as I get out my car, or sending Jem into Coles so I don’t have to go, or yesterday when I met my beautiful friends for coffee. I texted to make sure someone was there so I didn’t need to walk in alone. And bald. Yip it’s the bald thing. I know it’s a choice (well yes and no because whilst I hate the wigs, beanies, caps and scarfs all irritate my head too) but shooweee sometimes I just can’t rock it. I suspect it might be due to the allergy I picked up resulting in big swollen red eyes too. Bald head I can do. Bald head and fanny eyes is just too much to ask of anyone. Anyway the eyes are better but a little fragility was left. And sitting having coffee with my friends, a lady I know came over and chatted to us all, and didn’t say anything about me sitting there bald. And we were discussing her new hairstyle, which made it all even more awkward. I got a bit prickly about it afterwards, especially when my friends defended her by saying she probably didn’t know what to say or how to to say it, or whether I would want it to be acknowledged. And I get that. I do. But I really don’t want to be the elephant in the room. The fact that I am out there in the public domain, bald, naked, please acknowledge it. And me. I promise it’s harder for me. I can’t walk away. And it makes me feel better to be seen. Really seen.
I don’t have a lot of friends. Real friends. And I choose it that way. I am social and gregarious but yet guarded and uncertain. Fuck off, I am. Even more so in this wildly accessible world we operate in. I seek authenticity. I hurt easily. I can shut down in an often imperceptible way. I expect a lot and I give a lot. My best friend in the whole wide world is B. He holds my heart, my soul, my fragilty, my me’ness with such tenderness and such honesty. He softens me in ways only he can see. And me him. I trust him with my thoughts, my heart, my truth and my life. I choose him above all else. And then there’s my family. Who know the worst and the best of me yet love me still. And I them. Deeply. But it’s the friendships forged over life stages that didn’t need to survive or count that I want to honour. That handful of beautiful exquisite fuck the world women who see deep into my soul and past the pretense. We are all so different, such different ages, we live all over the world, we are connected by blood, by marriage and by nothing at all. But something binds us. Something so raw and honest. Something called truth. I need you to know I see it, I am grateful for it, I protect it and I thank you for it. Especially right now. Fuck, it keeps me sane.
I promise it’s not you. It’s me. I know sometimes it must be hard to be there for me when I block you at every turn. Especially your offers of companionship. You see when I’m alone I don’t need to be brave for anyone. It’s that brave face for the world thing. For my kids thing. Because what choice do I have thing. And it’s not a lie thing. I am that brave face you see. Because it’s in those moments within me that I find the strength to be the person I need to be. It does help to share but some things just can’t be shared. This cancer fight is fought late at night when I rage with the world and cry my ugly tears. And not because Im fearful. I know my outcome is good. I know we got this early enough and we will manage it. But the worst thing already happened. It came back. Or it never left me. And that is what I need to face on my own. With your help. But mostly on my own. It’s where the fight is fought and won. But please don’t stop offering. I love you for it. And sometimes I do get lost inside my mind.
So for those who asked, preliminary biopsy results of my right breast were good, but they aren’t all in. They’re being processed further? Whatever the fuck that means. Anyway I remain quietly confident taking my lead from my brilliant kind surgeon. Today I meet with the oncologist, who my brilliant kind surgeon promises will have all my results, so we can agree how to keep this fucker away. Or blow it to smithereens.
15 January. My final grateful, gotta love a leap year. I am grateful for a final contemplative moment. For a weak wireless signal, so I found myself on the balcony desperately seeking connection. To no avail. But an imperfectly perfect end to my 366 gratefuls. I am grateful for real time and real connections. They are all that matter. And for them I will never ever stop being grateful. For love. And for this glorious imperfect life.
14 January. My mother-in-law is an inspiration to me, and to anyone who meets her. At 85 she has more energy, a sharper wit, a better handle on a manual vehicle, a keener mind, is better read and more informed than many her junior. In fact, that’s all got nothing to do with her age. She simply is a woman to behold. And be loved. I am grateful she is in my world, to inspire me daily, to guide me and to give me hope. And always a new perspective.