Because Reconstruction Has Become About Way More Than Just My Breasts

I have been desperately seeking that girl pictured above, and am finally finding glimpses of her again. It has taken a long time and a whole lot of work with much more work to come, but she has been in my presence again and it feels right.

It’s a tough thing to admit, that I have been so very low and lost. I have admittedly been conspicuously absent from writing – not because there has been little going on – but because I have felt so adrift that it seemed my writing would have little focus and even less inspirational optimism. Things are shifting and I am starting to reconstruct my life, slowly, but I am also needing to remind myself to be kind, gentle, that I have been through a lot and that I don’t have to expect so darn much from myself.

At the gym – it is somewhat frustrating to admit that aging 9 or 10 years has an impact on my body and it’s response to working out, my metabolism and it’s response to proper diet (and the motivation is TOUGH to stay on the wagon when I am not seeing the same results as once upon a time ago), and the fact that, yes, chemotherapy with it’s lasting physical side effects (perhaps the new problems with the cartilage in my knees) and that it did actually take a lot out of me and I do tire much more easily (especially while working my way back to working full time which has been exhausting in itself), and  It is trying to learn and understand where to push myself and where I need to be gentle and adjust my expectations.

At work – just like starting back to school or a new job, it has been exhausting. The fantastic part is that I am surrounded by great people again, however my little corner of the office has changed and two of my biggest “cubicle buddies” have moved on (through retirement or to another location). Just a reminder that life moves forward.

My circle of friends, support & loved ones. This is one of the toughest two to be certain! Although I know that my Mom is still near me in spirit losing her last summer was losing my ultimate safe spot. Last Thursday I was driving home from Calgary after my follow up at Tom Baker Cancer Centre. They are happy with everything, but because I have been having some abdominal discomfort and admittedly some new (and seemingly unfounded) fears niggling in the back of my mind that the cancer is somehow miraculously returning, they will be sending me for a CT scan in the next month or so for my own validation that things are okay. That, along with many other emotions that have been working their way through of late, encouraged me to begin to see the psychologist through the Cancer Centre. He is a very compassionate man and truly, possibly because of his work with the Ovarian Cancer Support Group in Calgary, I felt that he understood where I am and how I am feeling. He recommended a book to me titled “Picking Up the Pieces, Moving Forward After Surviving Cancer” by Sherrie Magee and Kathy Scalzo. As I read it I am getting a better understanding of some of what I have been feeling and it has some great tools that are helping me to move forward and reconstruct my new life.

In my counselling appointment Thursday we got around to the question that hit home hard for me…. “do you think if you let people see the whole Glenna, the sad Glenna, the less confident Glenna, the Glenna that is afraid, that they won’t like you anymore or want you in their lives?”. I realized then that even with my Mom I had hidden an aspect away – coming from a strong Catholic family the sexual part of me was never something I felt I was able to be open about. I spent all of Thursday in tears – likely a good thing that I didn’t get pulled over on the highway as I am sure they could have indeed ticketed me for impaired driving. And yet, once again, life/the universe / God / my guardian angel / Mom  provided for me. As I drove and thought and tears streamed down my face I felt like all I wanted was to be able to be held, without expectation, and just allowed to be, to let things go, to know that I had found a safe spot and was cherished and loved there. And a woman at work, one that I have always had a high respect for, one whom is a fierce force to be reckoned with and a whirlwind of drive to accomplish things, saw me, truly saw me and what I needed and took the time to take me into her embrace, hold me and rock me and refused to let go until I was ready. I had two options – I could decide that the work environment was not the correct place for this and push her away to pretend to be strong again or I could thank life for this opportunity and just soak it up. I don’t think I even realize that my prayer had been answered until the next day or two.

Of course, reconstruction includes the breasts, but it is not just a physical thing. I have felt disappointment as this process moves forward – it has been slow and also slows down my progress at the gym as I need to be careful about what is occurring underneath my pectoral muscles. There has been disappointment at the look of them (currently anyway though I am hopeful that they will get prettier), but there are batwings on each side, some strange tissue left in my cleavage and the scars along the diagonal centre itself make the globe of the breast look like it is rectangular and cut in two or I have a sports bra stuck halfway up. And of course there are the new and bright scars under each implant. 

But the reconstruction is even more importantly about self esteem. It has been rare in life that I have been happy and confident with my body and my sexuality; relationships that have broken that have left me feeling that for whatever reason I wasn’t enough physically. Friendships that seem to run their course, morph and change into something more acquaintance-like. Somehow I have not wondered “what is wrong” with the other individual or fully understand that sometimes life and people change, but always instantly wondered what was wrong with me and why I wasn’t enough. Some of this is a new awareness for me. some of it I thought I had addressed. But I suppose it is like anything in our lives – if I don’t continue to work at it and continue the work to understand myself and what I appreciate about myself how can I expect others to understand and appreciate me fully? That then becomes a shell of Glenna, one that lives in fear, and that my friends is not how I want to rebuild Act 2 of my life.
So where am I going with my rambling? I am here to say that it has been tough, that it is taking a lot of work, but that I am finding that girl pictured above one crazy adventure at a time. She was in the one that played hooky on St. Paddy’s Day with a friend, went shopping and actually spent some money on some clothes that she found that actually made her feel good about herself in her current physical state. She was in the girl that laughed and joked with her “sister”/”twin”/”mother” making the staff at the fast food joint wonder in laughter with them before heading to a musical – this same special friend that loves her as much in her tears as she does in sharing her laughter. She was in the girl pictured above at the company Christmas party – laughing, dancing, and being silly with her coworkers and their significant others – with no intention other than to have some fun. She is in the girl that is encouraged by the friend that has been puddle jumping with her barefoot in the springtime or come to stay with ger on a tough day, googling the infinite and almost overwhelming possibilities to move her life forward. She is in the girl that  reconnected to her curious and adventurous side and booked a trip to Las Vegas to check out a writer’s conference thinking that perhaps this is something to pursue. And she is in this girl before you, writing, sharing her tears, vulnerability and great imperfections, asking to be taken as she is and encouraged to fully be herself – even on those days when it is not all about her smile & laughter but instead about her broken or fearful heart and tears.

May you each have that safe spot in your life, and if you have that someone that can give you that physical comfort to hold you and allow you to be safe if even only for a moment, take it! Grasp it! Cherish it! And above all may you have the strength not to push it away.

With love,

Glenna

 

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