A full week has passed since my return home from an overnight in the hospital, the result of a bilateral mastectomy. Improvements felt imperceptible at first. I was unable to do much of anything for myself that first night at home. I slept a lot the first few days, in pain, and feeling sick and weak, I struggled to even get out of bed. Every day, there were greater improvements, though. Today, I am feeling much better. The nausea is gone, I’m walking more upright, feeling stronger, able to do more than just sleep. I am off the pain pills, for the most part, taking ibuprofen during the day and a muscle relaxant occasionally when I’m feeling uncomfortable.
Today was the first day leaving the house for yet another trip to the doctor’s office. Excited to get out of the house and eager to be rid of the drains necessitated by the surgery, I gladly got ready for the appointment. It felt good to breathe in fresh air, even if only 20 degree Wisconsin air. I enjoyed the brief walk outside.
I’ve never been a terribly vain person, and I like to think that I am able to take things as they come to me in life. Today would be a test of that, as the doctor prepared to remove the dressings covering my chest. Really, removing the tape actually is the most painful part of these visits. Kids, don’t let your parents fool you, it really does hurt! Looking down as the doctor slowly revealed the foreign landscape that was my own chest. It seemed surreal, not fully sinking in that I was looking at my own body.
Next was to determine if the drains could be removed. Good news! The drains were ready to come out. It was the most hebegebe producing sensation I’ve ever felt. Not painful, just alien. Imagine 4 rubber tubes inserted 8 inches into your chest wall being pulled out, 2 at a time. It really felt like a creature slithering out from within my chest, not quite as dramatic as Alien, of course, but odd. I certainly don’t miss the extra baggage one bit, though, so I’m glad for that.
That was it. That was the extent of today’s appointment. No more drains, no more breasts, no new dressings to cover my chest. Just me, in the doctor’s office, left to struggle with my clothes. I did take pause to view my newly altered image in front of the mirror. It is a dramatic change, less than an ideal look, but deep down, I still feel like the same woman I was going into this, and it is early in the healing process. Like so much in life, it will take time.
Maybe I should have been more vain in my younger years, because, for now, I will not have much to flaunt on the beach (I was intending to shed a few pounds before swimsuit season. Yeah. This was not what I meant…). I am okay with it, though. I’ve always been proud of my strong, athletic physique, but also quite modest, more of an introspective person. That being said, I had a pretty good run in my youth. My breasts have served me well, from that early, awkward adolescent phase when they first came to me, to later years when they turned a few heads my way. They fulfilled their ultimate function, too, nursing two babies to health along the way, a cherished experience of nurturing and bonding with my daughters that I’ll always value. But, I am not my breasts. Parting with diseased breasts is a small price to pay for the chance at a healthy future. So, farewell. Thanks for the memories.