JENNIFER'S JOURNEY - CHAPTER 1: THE FIRST STEP

3/23/2018 1:47:00 PM

JENNIFER

How did I get here? Well, there are many stories that brought me to After Breast Cancer, stories about my treatments, my surgeries, my recovery, about my family and friends. But what delivered me to the doors of After Breast Cancer merits its own telling as it an undeniably memorable and, in some ways, necessary as that very day changed my altered bodily image for the better.

Every woman knows that before and, especially after a mastectomy, half this experience is emotional and psychological. Hell, the half the cancer battle is mental, the other half physical regardless if the person does not want nor know how to acknowledge this very real fact.

I was ready for my mastectomy—as much as anyone can be ready for a part of their body to be lopped off. I thought about surgery for almost 8 very long months. If you ask me (and you did not but I am
going to tell you anyway since you are here), too long, too much time to think or overthink. As my pragmatist and dedicated surgeon reminded me in the weeks before my mastectomy, 8 months after diagnosis allows to much mental time. I waited a lot longer than most women for surgery and that can cause very dangerous mental gymnastics. And, at times, it was. I was more scared of the surgery than what I would look like after losing my breast as I had come to terms with that (if that is possible).

But, I was calmly okay when I first looked at my “new” (remember, I did not say deformed as it is not deformed—it is healed of cancer) body. The day my nurse removed the last of my Steri-strips (kudos to the dynamo named Lolita who made sure I healed with wit and professionalism), I did not look. I needed a day. It is in this time I raged against the proverbial machine, a time when I determined what I needed or just absorbed what is/was happening. Throughout my entire experience, I always needed and still need a day to process what I hear, what is happening. This day was no different. The mental game.

My mother said that I would look at my newly re-scripted, re-defined chest when I was ready. She, ever able to read me and a situation, was correct. Yet, I knew waiting too long was not healthy. It is a
form of denial: it happened, it is done, it is what it is as they say. The next day, after I stepped out of the longest and most glorious shower of my life (13 days is a long time to sponge bathe and this shower was unquestionably more luxurious and needed than the shower I after delivering my child), I looked. For about 90 seconds. I did not dwell; I did not cry. I just looked and absorbed the image of the new me. I might have just shrugged. I had placed a wash cloth over my right breast when first diagnosed trying to envision what it would look like. This looked better than that.  

It was okay. It really was and I was fine, mentally and emotionally good. I knew from the bandage what flat looked like. The bare, scarred skin showed me how truly different I was but, I was impressed at what an amazing job my surgeon did. I was okay with having one breast. It was odd, it was eerie in many ways—please do not get me wrong—but I had perceived in moments of raw emotion much, much worse. You might
know what I mean. Those dark moments, usually in the dark or in the wee morning hours while the world sleeps, your mind perceives things so much worse, so much more horrible and deformed. Perhaps, I believed I would be no longer a “whole” women. But I was okay, and was whole woman in almost all ways. I was still me, living and vocal and determined.  

And then, all that known and accepted, I was not ready for what would happen next…

 

Read Chapter 2: "New Challenges"


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