One of the things that writing does for me, that I do for myself by writing, is find meaning in the things I am experiencing, in the feelings I have, in the world around me. I find if I write about things, it helps me gain a deeper understanding of them. In that way, writing is like therapy–it’s a way to process things so that they become clearer, because if they are clearer, they are easier to work with.
I know I’m dealing with something really complex when I can’t find the words to explain it. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I find it really disorienting, and frustrating. And that’s where I’m at since the mastectomy. Losing a breast has impacted me emotionally in a way I don’t have words to describe. It’s not just how it looks, but it is partly how it looks. Because, it looks awful.
And before you pull a John Legend and say “you don’t know you’re beautiful” please just stop. This is not me putting myself down here. MY BREAST IS GONE. Like, seriously, under no circumstances is that a good thing. It’s a shitty thing to lose your breast, an ugly thing. Was it a necessary thing? Absolutely. Would I do it again given the same circumstances? Fo sho. Is it still depressing and awful to look at the physical manifestation of my fight against cancer and what it has cost me? Of course it is.
From now on, when I look at myself in the mirror, I will have to be reminded of The Cancer. Hair grows back, gray in my case, but still there, and easily dyed if I really gave a shit about it. Breasts, on the other hand, do not grow back. Even after reconstruction, they bear a scar, and they have no feeling. The Cancer will always be with me now, even if I am lucky enough to get to a point of having no evidence if disease, which would be a big win for someone who is stage IV. Even if the doctors can’t see cancer anymore, I will always see it.
Before I had the surgery, this was my biggest fear, that I would only see The Cancer when I look at myself in the mirror. And now it has come true. I don’t see myself in the mirror anymore, I only see The Cancer.
When I try to talk to people about what that feels like….I don’t know, the words just aren’t there. I am usually the queen of the analogy, like, I can usually compare what I am feeling to something everyday, so folks can understand it. But I can’t even begin to say what this is like. I’ve never experienced something like this before, so I have nothing to compare it to.
I will say this, I hope this is temporary. A wise friend said to me that when you have a trauma, it takes time to incorporate it into your psyche and while that is happening, it’s hard to live with. And I think that’s probably true, that at some point I will carry cancer without being only cancer, just as the NICU has become part of me without dominating me. But man, it’s hard in the meantime.