No cause for alarm, but tomorrow morning I am heading to the hospital for one more surgery. This has actually been a tough one to psych myself up for. To a girl that’s been through cancer treatment this surgery feels frivolous and rooted in vanity as it is a basically cosmetic to address some of my concerns and insecurities over my bilateral breast reconstruction. The other surgeries were relatively simple to say yes to (well ok, it did take over 6 years to say yes to the first one to have my ovaries removed as a “preventative” measure); they all had to do with choosing long life over (statistically speaking) a highly potential death.
When I look at my chest I see a bat wing on my left side that I shop carefully for to try to avoid it from protruding out the side of a tank top. I have, in the center at the start of the scar line a flap of skin on each side that feels like mini saggy nipples (which I no longer have) and gives my breast shape a square look, and the one that bothers me the most is the right breast as the scar tissue is tight resulting in a shape that both feels almost rectangular with a line all the way across that makes me feel like my reflection shows the breast being cut in half by a sports bra stuck halfway up. There is also a relatively large bump of tissue, left from the original mastectomy, on top towards the right armpit. And I find I am extra careful over my necklines these days because even a high sweetheart can show, if I bend over, some areas appearing almost concave because of the scar tissue.
I am certain friends would tell you I look great, there is no need to feel self conscious. And I am honestly somewhat embarrassed about feeling this way and shameful as during my upbringing I heard “don’t be vain”. One of the movie lines that has always stuck in my head is one of the last lines in The Devil’s Advocate by Al Pacino (spoiler alert) when he says “Vanity, my favourite sin”. And as I have tried to work through my feelings and insecurities about this I have often related in a new way to my Mom. She had a single mastectomy in 94 but did not opt for reconstruction, thinking there was no need for her to do so at that point in her life, and yet from then on she was always very self conscious about her necklines and had a hard time shopping because of it. I don’t particularly want to go through my next 50 or so years feeling the same.
I have been trying to find a way to relate this in a way to allow those reading to have a better understanding how I have been feeling over the last year. This is something I am self conscious about but no amount of proper eating or exercise will change the look of my chest and so surgery is the option I am choosing. Perhaps recall a time you wanted to look great for something or someone and had a bad hair day (or thinning hairline) that no amount of product could help, that first date or big dance when a great big zit appeared in the middle of your face that you couldn’t hide, a cold sore on your wedding day, coming home to find have had spinach stuck in your teeth since lunch time or having walked through a restaurant only to be told you had toilet paper hanging from the back of your pants. This only affects a part of you, there is much more to love than the one embarrassing thing and the right person won’t care, but it is not always about those around you but how it makes you feel in that moment.
And so I am hopeful that this surgery tomorrow is indeed the right decision and will help me to address the physical aspects of my cancer recovery while I continue to work on the mental ones. This choice doesn’t make me any less grateful that I am alive today and surrounded by loved ones. I do have a solid understanding that the way I look is not the be all and end all of who I am and this will not be a gateway to plastic surgery addiction. This is a way for me to be able to look at my scars proudly (yes, proudly) and remind myself of my inner strength and my relatively new resolve that I will no longer settle in my life but know that I am worthy, as is each one of you reading this today.
With love, Glenna