One year ago I woke up at 6 am with ugly butterflies in my stomach. One year ago I prayed for strength, and for the anesthesia to work, as I was driven to the hospital. One year ago my cancerous tumor was removed, alongside the rest of my right breast: tissue, muscle, nerve endings. One year ago I had my implant put in during a 4 hour surgery.
In the company of my brother and closest of friends, I waited patiently in the hospital room to be prepped for my surgery. My mastectomy was the second surgery I have ever had, and obviously the most traumatic. I was strangely calm. I had done a lot of spiritual work before my surgery- therapy, energy healing sessions, sound healing sessions, guided meditations – all with the intention of gathering all the strength inside me to accept my fate, to grief my loss, and to fight whatever was to come. I was afraid though. I was afraid of waking up to a horrible scar. I was afraid of the pain. I was afraid of something going wrong during surgery. I was afraid that they would find the cancer had spread beyond my breast. There was so much to be afraid of at that moment. Luckily, I was with my people, with those who know that a dark joke about getting big double d size titties would probably calm my nerves. I was surrounded by people who told me they loved me and that I was fierce and that it will be fine because they’ll be there when I come out.
In the operating room, my plastic surgeon did my final measures and markings. My breast surgeon held my hand as she made jokes to make me laugh as the anesthesia went through my veins. I felt safe. I am so grateful to Dr. Anett for making me feel safe. I woke up 5 hours later, I could not move my right arm – my entire breast was removed, an implant put in and two of my armpit lymph nodes were removed in order to test them for cancer cells. I was in pain, dazed and confused. As I wheeled into the room and I saw my brother and my best friends I smiled.
I had a thick bandage across my chest, but my breasts were not covered. When I managed to go to the bathroom, I thought I would be terrified to see the big vertical scar from the bottom edge of my nipple to the bottom of my new implanted breast. I was not. Sure, the implant looked stiff and a little funny, but I was grateful to have had the cancer removed and to still have something there. “It could have been worse” – I remember thinking that to myself. I was in the hospital for 3 days, during that time my friends bathed me, helped me eat, helped me with my physiotherapy, entertained me, and showered me with so much love.
Now, one year on, I have found confidence in my new breast. It was definitely not easy to see your breasts completely uneven, particularly because I often did not really wear bras but a lot of nipple stickers and found it so comfortable. I can’t do that anymore. I can’t really have my breasts without any “support” as it is only by bringing my left (natural) breast up, that they look somewhat “leveled.” Regardless, of whether or not anyone else would find them ugly, I still felt beautiful. Accepting my new implant was very important to me. I needed to learn how to love that new part of my body and to find power in what it represents. My breast now looks a lot better. They’re still not even, which is something I hope to correct in the future, but overall I am very happy I was able to keep my skin, my own nipple and that my plastic surgeon did a great job with the size overall look of my breast.
I recently posed topless for the project #rockyourugly by Photographer Waleed Shah. The idea behind the project is to photograph our insecurities and be proud of them, even if they’re against our beauty norms. I definitely identify with that. My breasts are not the stunning big knockers that we see on TV or magazines, but they’re the mark of my fight and I can confidently say that I do love them – lopsided and all. See the image here
As a side note, one year ago I also finalized my divorce and it had been just weeks after my dad had survived a severe heart attack. The most difficult time of my life has led me to a much stronger and wiser version of myself. Of course, I wish I did not have to go trough such loss to get me here, but at least I can pat myself on the back for taking a really shitty situation and pushing through it with love and compassion for myself. Now, I try to live my life with acceptance, spontaneity and a lot more patience. It’s still a work in process 🙂