Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Baring the Scars and Bearing the Scars

Nothing prepares you for the first time you look at your mastectomy incisions.

Nothing.

No amount of preparation and looking at photos of other surgeries. No amount of love and support from your spouse and family. No amount of emotional strength (you think) you have.

When I took my first shower after surgery last week, I finally had the courage to look in the mirror. I saw myself as torn apart. Ripped. Ruined. And I cried. I gave myself permission to mourn the way my body used to look. But in the midst of the tears came another image.

The new smoothness of my chest reminded me of the days when I wore undershirts and camis. I remembered the cute little sundresses my mom dressed me in. There were no worries of bra straps slipping or too much cleavage showing. I could almost feel the golden California sunshine of my 1960s childhood.

It's not that I want my body to look like a little girl's - I'm having reconstruction done. But that fleeting image reminded me of two important things:  1) that beauty comes in many different forms and 2) my body has been constantly changing since the day I was born.

I recall when I was pregnant with my son. My body dazzled me almost daily with the changes it made to grow a little human boy. I am no less astounded by my body's ability to be up and walking mere hours after major surgery and that my use of my arms is coming back so swiftly. It is now working hard to scar over the incisions and heal. Amazing! Among the strongest parts of our bodies are the scars.

I am fortunate that the surgery went well. The sentinel nodes were clear and the margins were clean.

I have since spent more time with those incisions. They are healing well. I don't feel as troubled by them, and I know the scars will continue to fade. I have begun the process of reconstruction with a wonderful plastic surgeon. He told me from the start that I won't be the same. All I want is a little piece of "me" back. I don't think I want to fill out a D cup again. A little extra perkiness would be nice.

So, cheers to change. As my husband and I gazed at the new topography of my body he said,. "This is what healthy looks like."