When I went for my surgical post-op exam, my surgeon recommended that I return to surgery to excise more nodes. 3 or the 4 of the those removed were cancerous. He seemed shocked—perhaps not as shocked as I perceived, perhaps a bit surprised—as I had undergone chemo and radiation prior to surgery. As I tried to process another surgery that was not rebuild—I could not rebuild because of radiation before surgery—the nurse navigator was yammering on about prostheses. I just blinked at her. Indeed, I did not hear a damn thing. This woman was the adult voice in in a Peanuts cartoon: wawa, wawawa.
Three days later, I landed flat on my chest as a bus stopped (too?) fast. Wow that hurt, like really really-screaming in my head, swearing worthy hurt—but I did not scream aloud as my 11 year old was scared by the look on my face. And it hit me, like the bus floor which was dirty and a cold slap as it were, that I needed a fucking prosthesis and fast. This thought continued to nag me as I held an ice pack to my chest hoping that I had not broken the chest bone or reopened the wound site. But nothing is simple. There were still several caveats or glitches to come.
I opted to go back to surgery and that meant another 6 weeks post-op before I could even consider getting a prosthesis. In that time, and the time that followed until I got my prosthesis, I was comfortable with my body (although seeing staples the second time around was a bit jarring) but not in my clothing. Clothing is part of our identity—of how we present ourselves to the world and how we present ourselves to our very selves—and if you cannot wear what you own, you do not feel like you entirely. Or, at least, that is how I felt. If I feel bad, I look good. That has been my motto for years and it is still applicable. Quasi-psychology perhaps but I was my mantra.
Wearing loose clothing was acceptable when it was hot and summery but as the season changed, my attitude changed with it. I started feeling out of sort, perhaps depressed, perhaps the thought that this trip from hell was still not over (and it wasn’t, I still needed rebuilt but that was a long-term vision not a prescient one).
I explain this how I felt rather simply: while in chemo, I had no hair but, I could wear my clothing, even with a Pic line). I rocked a scarf and was a nice touch to my dresses. I saw it as an accessory at times. After my surgery, my I had hair (very short and then very curly which was new to my life and made me self-conscious as I have always been very adamant about perfect hair, but I had hair) but I could not wear my clothing. One without the other was fine. Hair was easy for me to lose as then the perfect coif was not possible (that will be another writing adventure). Living unable to wear my fall/winter clothes, which is almost fitted dresses or shirts bothered the living $%#^ out of me.
I confess, I did not have large décolletage to begin with but still….really? And I did not have the money buy another entire wardrobe. Then it really hit me.To add insult to injury—figuratively and literally—I lacked the funds to buy mastectomy bras and a prosthesis. Now what? What next will happen in this jarring experience? Go without the needed chest protection and not be able to wear my clothes while feeling horrible which depressed me and then add in the very real fact that I could not afford what I needed so desperately for my mindset and my potential physical well-being. I repeat myself a lot and I will once again, 50% of this experience is mental. The after effects and the needs after treatment and surgery do not change that. There is the residual emotion and new emotions that emerge that you did not even think about or care to think about until necessary.
It is very simple—this is a process that changes the rules every so often that a person has to re-think and re-clarify emotions and learn to feel and process new ones.