Celebrating my boob job and cancer language
Several women in the breast cancer blogosphere have commented on how inappropriate it is to say to someone with breast cancer that “at least you get a free boob job” or any variant thereof (see Reconstruction after breast cancer: It’s not a boob job). I agree. If you have never had breast cancer, you really do not understand how difficult reconstruction is – especially after your body has gone through chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments, which make reconstruction that much more difficult. It is certainly not a route that the majority of us would have chosen to go through. On top of that, reconstruction is also a difficult personal choice – to choose the physical pain of the surgery over the emotional well being and struggle with body image, a struggle that many of the women had even before their breast cancer diagnosis.
With that being said, as someone who is still recovering, but recently (Dec 17) had a double-nipple-sparing-mastectomy with immediate DIEP Flap reconstruction (a 12-hour surgery), I have the right to celebrate my new breasts (noobs). I am one of the luckier ones – I didn’t need radiation as part of my cancer treatment. I did neo-adjuvant chemotherapy, which meant that my reconstruction did not need to be delayed. I was able to get through the worst of the surgeries in two surgeries (I’ll have a third to clean things up once the current one has fully healed). Instead of years of reconstruction, I have a reasonable hope of being done with surgery before the end of 2015. The reconstruction surgery wasn’t 100% successful – in that I did loose some skin in the process. My nipples aren’t what they used to be – but they are still all mine and I won’t need to go through the process of nipple reconstruction. My noobs are perky – now that four weeks have passed I’m allowed to set them free. I can go without a bra. I tried one of my favourite shirts on, one that I always needed a bra to wear, and I’m quite happy with how it looks. It will look even better when I’m not wearing the abdominal binder. I need to wear the binder for another 4-weeks. It almost feelings like my original buddha belly – but even as the picture shows, I do have a slimmer profile (and I’m still a bit swelly overall from the surgery). I’m sure the post-cancer me will look ‘healthier’ and slimmer than the pre-cancer me – which is rather ironic really.
This brings us to another cancer language ‘trap’ as Nancy calls them – see Nine Cancer Language Traps. That of cancer being a ‘gift’. Honestly, I would rather go back to the pre-cancer me – the lumpy chubby me. The one that was strong, and growing stronger each day as I enjoyed regular 30+km bike rides. I may growth through this experience – as we grow through all of life’s experiences, but this last 8 months has been anything but a gift.
So, as I struggle through the aches and pains of recovery, I will celebrate how I look even when I’m not yet feeling great. Feel free to tell me ‘you look great’ … but don’t ever use the term ‘free boob job’ unless you too have experienced a breast cancer reconstruction, in which case, we can share that ‘insider’ experience.