Whew…my title is a mouthful isn’t it today? I awoke this morning in a tizzy, perhaps because one of the furbabies was gagging on a hairball right beside my bed, but I was also dreaming that I was having a good ol’ fireside chat with Dr. Phil and it wasn’t going well….for him! Forgive me this morning, but there are a few things I have to get off my chest (yes, pun intended) and ever since I read this article, I’ve been madder than a hornet. I should explain this in a proper manner to you so that perhaps those without having endured breast cancer can understand and for those that have endured it, well, I hope you’ll be nodding your heads in agreement.
Page 58 in Oprah’s Magazine, you know the one ~ Oprah’s Favorite Things! that has just come out recently. On this page in particular, Dr. Phil responded to a 54 year old woman who had endured a double mastectomy 4 years ago and was having trouble because her Dr. had ‘botched the surgery, and I had to remove my implants. Now my new surgeon says my skin is too thin for another reconstruction – which means I will never have breasts. My husband has been supportive, but I can’t help feeling undesirable. And I don’t feel like me. How do I get back my old self after such a loss?”
In my dreamed fireside chat to Dr. Phil, I gave him a full piece of my mind…and I didn’t spare him at all. I dismissed his response to this lovely lady which in part was to “write down something affirming, like “I’m a strong, intelligent, attractive woman.” Study those words….let that affirmation be your mantra…seek help from a therapist who specializes in self-esteem issues. I wouldn’t worry about your desirability. Looks are not what sustain s a man’s interest in a woman. I’m sure your husband still sees you as the beautiful and brave woman he married. To be happy, you’ll need to start seeing yourself that way, too.” “A change in our bodies almost always changes how we feel about ourselves, too. But the truth is, you weren’t a better person before your surgery, and you’re not less of a woman after it.”
Ohhh…that man touched on a live wire of a nerve with me! Last night, our chat was a no holds barred type ~ one which I was very angry at his unwillingness to realize that she’d endured breast cancer and all that the mental anguish that being diagnosed entails and I shared the fact that even 10 years later, although I am cancer free, I am still leery every time I enter the oncologist’s office to be checked. My blood pressure skyrockets because I know first hand of what I’ve been enduring for the last 10 years and I wiggle in my seat for the next week until I get my blood test results back.
Perhaps I should just recount my rant to you…and perhaps after reading it, you’ll decide I’m angry and you don’t want to read my posts…or that perhaps you’ll think I’m menstrual (nope, had the ovaries taken at age 35), but hopefully, you’ll see the gal you know who’s usually a sunny side of the street, glass 1/2 full girl tell you in a no holds barred way what she’s endured, how she’s triumphed and how she’s still taking baby steps forward everyday. I hope I don’t lose my readers on this one. xo
Dr. Phil and I are seated facing each other by a beautiful fire in a living room somewhere. It’s my turn to talk.
“I, too, endured a double mastectomy at age 34. And perhaps I’m being sexist here, but sorry Dr. Phil, no man can even come close to understanding what it feels like to have your breasts removed and to think that you advised her the way you did (which reading it today, was really sweet but not meaty enough for me)…well, it’s what set me off. I would love to know if you would advise a prostate cancer survivor who was sad that his testicles were removed in the same way? Because, for to me, that’s the male equivalent ~ well, not even because they aren’t seen in daily life. Women’s breasts are out there, exposed ~ shape & size-wise, society-wise, they are checked out by all. Do you know what it’s like to look in the mirror everyday and see train tracks of scars across your flat, nipple-less breasts, under your armpits (lymph node removal) and to have to wear falsies which move all over the place? Then to endure every Tom, Dick and Harry Dr. and Intern’s roving eyes on your breasts as you are seen every few weeks to see how the scars are healing…only to endure the subsequent surgeries of reconstruction until you can finally have your implants installed.
And as with your reader, I had to have my implants explanted (removed) after a few years because they hurt and I was in so much pain! The capsular contraction which was my body’s response to foreign matter in my chest caused me so much emotional and physical pain! The silicone implants which were supposed to look like breasts twisted under my skin to form hard, ugly balls of pain which upon removal, gave my surrounding muscles relief. The muscles also involuntarily contract around the tissue which is part of the constant pain which plagued me. So I endured yet another set of implants, tear drop gummie bears ~ ah, such a cute name now instead of the flat stripper boobs they were giving us in 2002! But alas, the same situation reared it’s ugly head for me just a few years after enjoying ‘natural looking’ teardrop shaped breasts except this time one of them ruptured, leaking silicone into my already ravaged body.
Not a walk in the park Dr. Phil. It’s painful, it’s scary and yes, it does pack a wallop to your self-esteem! That poor woman whom you’ve advised to write and speak affirmations etc., needs a bit of sympathy…a bit of love, a bit of hope and a huge hug for what she’s endured. It’s not easy to have to choose to not have breasts even when you want them. I, too, have thin skin from radiation, but I was blessed to find a surgeon who is so advanced that she is using my own body’s tissue to MAKE REAL BREASTS FROM OUR MY OWN BODY! There is an answer to her desire ~ she CAN have breasts Dr. Phil! There are advancements now and dedicated surgeons whose talents and advancements are helping women who are enduring this common plight!
It’s one thing for a woman to feel fine after breast cancer and to not want to deal with reconstruction. To those women, I stand up and applaud because I share your enthusiasm for the scars that show that we are strong, we are courageous and we have beaten the C word! I have seen many beautiful photographs of women who have exposed their scars for the world to see and I find their enthusiasm contagious and their scars radiant. As fighters and survivors of any cancer and illness, we all deserve a standing triumphant ovation for simply enduring all that we have experienced. Because until you’ve walked in our shoes, you have no idea what you’re talking about at all!
However, it’s a major change and emotional roller-coaster to have to deal with a single or double mastectomy at any age. A woman’s breasts can be viewed as a part of her femininity and it is a major change in the thought process to accept your new body. While I am a girl who believes in affirmations, what your reader was asking was how to find her new normal, her new femininity and her new self, because it’s a long process Dr. Phil.”
I went on and on (perhaps I’ll do another post) but for now, I thank you for reading and for sticking this one out with me. I started this blog as my 10 year cancerversary began and it’s morphed into more than just inspiration, cancer tidbits and SendOutCards. It’s become a sharing place I hope…and a place of friendship. I am thankful for all of my readers and I pray that you’ll understand my post today.