So last Monday I had my man made nipples and areolae tattooed. Amazing what can be done with a little shading and artistry. Nicole, the beautiful feisty cosmetic tattoo queen, is an artist. An empathetic, caring, beautiful artist who has blown me away with her skill, her confidence, her humour and her kindness. I love my weird, very scarred, oddly shaped yet strangely normal, made up of back skin and pelvic area skin, with different shaped nipples, one ten years older than the other, and with the odd short and curly and absolutely no sensation, boobs. Or foobs some call them. False boobs. One with an implant one without. Ok, not normal at all but I’ve got what I wanted. The smoke and mirrors. At a glance I forget. In fact I remember but I smile rather than grimace. The tattoos are healing and crusting so hopefully all goes as it should without too much touching up required. Okay maybe not loving the foobs, but loving the illusion. But please know as happy as I am, as accepting as I have learnt to be, as often as I show you and I will, I would still rather have your perfectly imperfect breasts. Your old, saggy mismatched boobs. Your breastfed my children and look at them now breasts. Your flat breasts, your large boobs, your inverted nipples, your stretch marks, your droop. This has been torture, not a choice. I will do it again in a heartbeat to be here. But still. Please stop telling me how much better mine are than yours. Even if just to be kind. And remember, as do I, to always count your blessings. Nothing, nothing lasts forever.
My last stay at the hotel not of my choice was as much fun as all the others. Doubly so because no rooms were available at the inn so I shared with a very obnoxious woman. Compassionately she was not dealing with the loss of her breast, I know this because she woke up and said I thought I’d be sadder than this. Her husband and her then spoke nonstop about their tesla, apparently it was broken into, their yacht, he needs more vit D it seems and half an hour on his yacht is not sufficient, their range rover. Anyway, it is annoyingly distracting trying not to hear when people speak as if you’re not in the room, but I felt my waning compassion return when it was apparent his life beyond that room mattered more as she said, stop arranging your social calendar, I just had my tit cut off. Harsh but true. He still only returned at two the next day. My returning compassion wavered a tad though as she treated the nurses like they weren’t there. But I did know two things. One, she just wanted to be seen. I am blessed with the presence of B. And I’m not meaning in a physical sense. I know how much pressure he is under and how much more pressure this puts him under and he is also who I rage against. Yet his presence is unwavering. And second, as my compassion welled up till I couldn’t breathe, she is at the start of a journey (still hate that word) I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Then again, I also relish the unbelievable learning opportunities she and her husband will encounter and hope it enables her to be seen and him to see her. And them to see others. The lesson in it all remains, see each other. Really see each other. And not only when times are tough. But at least then for fucks sake.
So, had my last surgery three days ago. I’m saying last on purpose with my middle finger up. My stylish Canadian plastic surgeon formed a nipple out of the back skin on my breast. It’s all crusty and enlarged and seems to be pointing in the wrong direction, but apparently it will shrivel and I must be patient. Some divots and dents have supposedly been filled in with fat from my tummy. My tummy is sore but I see once again no evidence of fat being transferred. To me my manufactured breasts seem unchanged but I know to give it time. I have a huge slash under my arm so I’m guessing that all wayward tissue has been successfully removed. I am biding my time. But I am done. Apart from some tattooing once everything is healed to complete the smoke and mirrors, I’m done. And in case I forgot all I’ve been through every doctor and nurse I encountered these past few days reminded me as I had to relay my history time and again. Some with dangerous head tilts. Some thankfully not. My goodness you have been through a lot, hopefully this is it. Hopefully it is.
It’s time. About fucking time actually. Bizarrely almost 2 years to the day my world turned inside out again. In my last post I mentioned on 13 December we would decide to expand or not. We decided I needed to decide. I decided not to. I want to go back to the size I was. Not who I was because fuck she was a handful, but so were her boobs. And those I liked. Anyhow she doesn’t exist anymore and nor do her boobs. I was told to go away and have Christmas with my family sans expansion and we would reschedule surgery for the new year. So I did as I was told. January was too soon healing wise, and in February my stylish Canadian plastic surgeon decided he needed a break. So 6 March it is. And not a moment too soon. Fuck me these past two extra months carrying around this uncomfortable unexpanded tissue expander in lieu of a boob has been a tad challenging. But also started to become weirdly normal for me. I became strangely ok with this is how it is right now. Every now and again my bikini top would slip down, not much to keep it up, and no I can’t wear a fake prosthesis cos the unexpanded expander under a very thin layer of skin is damn uncomfortable, or I’d catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, not often I might add, I keep myself hidden from myself. Just so I can forget for a while. You know that out of sight out of mind thing? It works wonders you should try it. Until I notice someone’s glance linger where there is nothing, well there is something, a weird crinkly something, sort of not nothing but not enough of something. Anyway I catch a glimpse, shudder and think damn must get that sorted. That is not attractive. Should really just have gone free and flat. Nope still not there yet. I like me some boobs. Even if they’re not really boobs. Smoke and mirrors y’all. Will be very happy to be a handful again. For now. No Evidence of Disease and a handful. Yay fucking me.
So Tuesday my stylish Canadian plastic surgeon will remove the unexpanded tissue expander and fill the space with a small implant and reduce my left previously reconstructed breast to match. He will also do what he does to fashion a nipple and areole out of the back skin on my chest. The only symmetry I currently have is the symmetry of absolutely no sensation in my chest unless I flex my back muscles, go figure. Now I just want them to match. To sort of look and feel similar, give or take 10 years and much scarring and different surgeons. I’ve given up all semblance of control, sort of, but I love symmetry. My stylish Canadian plastic surgeon reminded me that they can only do what they can do, but he knows I will be happy. Compared to now. His version of trust me I’m a doctor. Well I do and I know I can’t control any of it, but I will be thrilled at this finally coming to rest. Bar a blood test or three. And then I can get my next tattoo. ‘You can. The end.’
Don’t you hate how when you reach a place, a decision, mindfully and finally peacefully, it suddenly gains its own momentum? Mocks you for ever thinking it was on your terms. To back up a bit I last shared 4 months or so ago after a previous hiatus and promised I hadn’t been hiding. And I hadn’t. Really. I’d just gone in. But these last 4 months I’ve been consciously out, busy filling my life with normality. I realise now I’ve also been waiting. But less consciously. Waiting to feel strong enough to give my kind cancer surgeon the nod to cut away my remaining breast. And an equally kind plastic surgeon the nod to try his best to recreate some semblance of feminine normality from nothing. Nothing. Everything has to go. Breast tissue, skin, nipple. Everything. I’ve been waiting to feel peaceful about deciding to deal with the what ifs rather than the what is for the first time in this fucked up recurring reality. And I’ve been waiting to feel peaceful about doing what I know I must. The irony is not lost on me that my first cancer surgeon 13 years ago advised me if she were me she would have removed everything. To not live in fear of recurrence. Although she admitted she’d never been faced with that decision. You never know how you’ll be until its you. And I hope it never is. So I chose to deal with what was. What is. And have continued to. And I have no regret. I refuse to be led by fear. To live in fear. Who knows how different I would have been had I done something I was not ready to do. Or felt was not necessary to do. I have never been overtreated. We’ve just done what is reasonable based on what we were presented with. The fact that my cancer isn’t reasonable and that I insist on being a one percenter, noone could have predicted. It could have been different. It also could have been worse. So now my waiting is over. I have peacefully come to the place of readiness both physically after the toll of last year and mentally, to move forward. To do what is reasonable. And now necessary. So I went to see the plastic surgeon my kind and committed cancer surgeon recommended, and he was lovely. On the same day I had a bone scan. An ongoing follow up to see if there is any metastases in my bones. You really don’t want that. And thank fuck there isnt any. It seems that aborted chemo did its bit. I also had another CT scan and damn if those pesky lymph nodes in my right breast that bothered the radiologists last time, are still bothering them. Not my reasonable doctors so much. So nor me. But. Once we open you up to remove your breast, we can check them out with pathology and do what is necessary says my reasonable doctor. So the momentum has started gathering. Its becoming a little more urgent. And it seems the plastic surgeon is in huge demand, which I suppose is a good thing (therein lies another conversation altogether). It seems my surgery is somewhat complex, go figure, due to previous treatment and surgeries, so my cancer surgeon wants to work with someone well versed in autologous reconstructions. The only time my cancer surgeon, my plastic surgeon (don’t you love the ownership) and the anaethetist they like to work with are available together in the forseeable not too distant future is the 5 September. Not distant enough. Much sooner than I had planned. I’ve got stuff on. Fuck. So much for mindfully and peacefully. Shit now needs to get done.
Anyhoo. I thought I might share this next phase too. Not just because it helps me, but it seems there are those who think a mastectomy is a boob job. Best I tell them otherwise.
I think I’ve been hiding. Well not really hiding but maybe licking my wounds so to speak. Reflecting. And not aloud. Trying to get my head around last year. As in, what the fuck was that? Building strength and in particular replenishing those inner reserves so I can keep on keeping on. I realised in January there were just none left. In fact I never even realised it. B did. And my friends. Who wanted to know where I had gone. And not only physically. But my presence had gone quiet. And they were worried about me. Its well documented how consciously fighting, dealing with your reality, treating it, makes you feel like you are doing something positive. Something conscious. Something noble to help yourself heal. And unconscious too, by being present in the everyday and just willing your best self to show up at each and every shitty little moment. And sharing with you all, made sure the best person was there, with the presence of you. Truth be told, I wasn’t worried about me, in fact I was that caught up in my inner being, I never even realised how far in I had gone. I think its called regrouping. So, its been a year and a month since my life as I knew it turned out to be a big fat lie. Well part of it. And I hate lies. Despite my thinking otherwise I’m only now truly accepting of it all. Not of the lie, but of the big beautiful truth. The truth of how blessed we all are. How blessed I am. How life is about suffering and illness and beauty and ugliness and lies and truth and fucked up ness and exquisiteness and what makes us unique is not how fabulous our lives are but how we don’t let the fabulousness or lack thereof define us but rather teach us, and help us find a new way of being. That isn’t rooted in ignorance, because as much as we think it is, ignorance ain’t bliss. We are all scared to know because then we can’t hide. I knew I couldn’t be guaranteed of being cancer free, but I chose to believe I was, to hold onto the words I wanted to hold onto, whilst deep down I knew this would always be my story. And whilst I said it, I never accepted it. So, now I really do know, and I’m living my life knowingly. Accepting that life and it’s difficulties are not battles to be won or lost because how then do we excuse ourselves if we lose no matter how hard we fought? Did we not fight hard enough? Were we not worthy of surviving? Bull crap. We are all worthy, we all just have a different story. And mine is no worse or better than yours, its just mine. And I’m going to live it the best way I can, because only I can. Fuck cancer, fuck everything that is shit in the world, and the best way to do it is to reframe it into our own unique stories that make us grow up and be grateful for every little moment. I hate the always positive shite as you know, I think I’m too much of a realist, although sometimes I don’t want to hear sad stories, because it breaks me inside a little more each time. And no, its not called denial its called acceptance. Stuff exists I can’t fix. Stuff exists I abhor. Platitudes piss me off. But truth and love and being present. Being honest. Being there. Just showing up and sharing the suckiness that life is sometimes, is what matters. It really just is what it is.
So, what is my current reality? I remain NED. I see my oncologist and my cancer surgeon every three months interchangeably. I’m still not mad about her but hey she’s good. I continue on my meds for the foreseeable future. I have surgery ahead of me to remove my right breast in totality. I need to schedule that because as with anything we are the ones who decide. No one else. And I will do it. I’m just liking being me for a bit. Stuff will be dealt with. And that’s so not hiding.
That’s what Kate said I was yesterday. And the funny or not so funny thing is, I was. And I am. In fact I am completely unplayable. I also always have been. A bit. It’s what makes you love or hate me. I have always ignited quickly. And often irrationally. And I can be a real bitch. But I had learnt to breathe a bit. But all this fucking around with my hormones has just sent me off the charts. It was already happening before this last recurrence due to Femara, my previous aromatase inhibitor, and my ‘mood stabilising’ meds no longer being effective. But now with all the new crap we have serious lift off. I react to everything with absolute venom and anger. There is no momentary recognition, ok this is annoying but really nothing to react to, there is just simply ape shit fucking hell hath no fury like a woman on Aromasin angry. The thing that really pisses me off though is not that I’m not given some slack for not being me. Or for being the worst version of me. Nor even that I have to humiliate myself by constantly saying, seriously guys cut me some slack here, I mean cancer. Even I’m bored by that. And the eye rolls indicate so are they. As we all are. The thing that actually pisses me off is that we are even having to be in this space. I have to be on this medication. It makes me impossible. Okay, more impossible. And I know I’m being impossible. But knowing doesn’t change a damn thing, psychobitch cares less. Then I think maybe you can stop doing what you’re doing that makes me become psychobitch even if it doesn’t seem fair. Because fuck it, none of this seems fair. But why should you. And who knows whats going to set me off. So I feel squarely fucked. I have to be on these meds. I knew the side effects were going to be beyond challenging. I never really thought they would create a chasm between me and those nearest to me. They are prescribed to give me more time before the next recurrrence and to reduce the risk of new cancer. And I like time. But if we all end up hating each other, is the time worth it. And then there’s all the other shit rattling around in my brain. Psychobitch feeds off that shit. Anyhow before you all wonder if you need to call for help, I’ve recognised I need to. I need to dump all my anger, grief, disappointment, stress, insecurity, unworthiness, uncertainty on someone. Someone who doesn’t love me and really couldn’t give a fuck what I say or do or think or believe. It won’t help me not be psychobitch, I need more meds for that. But it might make her a tad more tolerable. In the meantime, you have been warned. Psychobitch coming through.
I thought I’d let things fall where they needed to this past month or so. Heeding the advice of many that whilst things feel like they’re falling apart they’re not. They’re just falling into something different. And ain’t that the truth. Bugger is I was quite happy with the before. But growth is something I welcome and change something I’ve learnt to. And we do grow and even transform when we have huge obstacles to overcome. Into something new. But I just can’t quite settle into the new me yet so I’m still letting things fall in to place. Or further apart. And then hopefully back together again. All I do know is, I am not who I was. But dammit, this new me needs to get her shit together soon. I’m feeling far more vulnerable now than when I was kicking cancer’s ass. I was focussed. I was determined. I was a warrior. I had a purpose. I had an army. I was positive. I was not needy. I was not uncertain. I am not fearful, nor am I negative. And I am so very grateful. But just a little hesistant. A little uncomfortable. A little do I just carry on like nothing happened. Like everything is not different. Forever. Do I live every day like its my last. Do I bother. Do I doubt it all. Do I celebrate it all. Do I just be. Do I love the different me that looks back at me. Obviously I know the answers and hopefully I’ll do exactly that once things all fall into place. And they will. And then they won’t. But universe, no more growing needed. I’m all grown up now.
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.
Home. Dammit I love this place. Am still on some serious cortisol steroids and am a little out of character at times. Read unplayable. But no oompaloompas here anymore. It seems I had a particularly severe reaction to the chemo drugs. That severe that they will not risk giving me anymore. So that’s it for me and chemo. That’s not it for treatment however, there will be aromatase inhibitors going forward, probably a prophylactic right side mastectomy, an oophorectomy, which is a removal of my ovaries and heaps more in store. Who knew turning fifty was going to be this much fun. Anyhoo, let’s focus on the good right now. I probably will not lose the few lashes I have left and my brows have been hanging in, albeit thinning. And believe you me right now anything is cause for celebration. I have struggled a tad, I will not lie, with the inability to complete the chemotherapy regimen. Then again if you know me you would know that. But my doctors have been incredible in their choice of words. In their certainty. In helping me deal. I preach acceptance so now is my time to dig deep. I was so strong and able going in, and kicked some serious chemo ass, that I got done what needed to be done sooner than expected. And then my body said that’s it. No more needed. So that’s their story and I’m sticking to it. I have done what I must. And what I can. And to be honest, I can’t anymore right now. So next wednesday I meet with my oncologist again and no doubt will cry and question and laugh and fight and get some more answers and some more reassurance. And maybe even a gold star. And then on thursday, there will be no chemo.
B shaved my head this morning. Not much can beat that for a truly intimate, I see you moment. You see nothing in life is ever perfect. Your hair doesn’t fall out neatly all at once. Each chemo session ravages you a little more. Bit by bit. But it also allows you a semblance of control. Of ownership. I have huge bald spots. I would look like coco the clown on a really bad day if what still remains grew. Or something from a horror movie. Actually I’ve always hated clowns. Anyway. How strange our new normal is. Yet how beautiful. The girls wander past the bathroom. Not even pausing, just smiling. It is what it is. We do what we must. Another 21 days are nearly done, which means it’s chemo this week again. Damn time rolls around fucking fast. Feeling less vulnerable, but still prickly. Just trepidation I think at what this week holds. And sets off. And at my fragility. It slowly breaks you down. Bit by bit. Thank fuck I’m halfway. It really is all up from here. Time for some red lippy methinks.