Warrior Series: Aislinn’s Ode to my Breast

August 31st 2018 was the day any remaining KNOWN cancer cells would be physically removed. I went into the OR at 11:30AM and was home before dinner – no big deal, right?

I remember lying on the operating table holding my breast with my hand under the sheet…. 1 last time. I remember lying there imagining the women who have passed on, standing behind the nurses who were getting me ready. These women were so strong and powerful. They were my rock in this moment. They reminded me that I was going to be ok. Whoever they were, thank you for being there with me.

A local general surgeon performed my single mastectomy and complete auxiliary node dissection. He did an amazing job too. I’ve very happy with his work considering. I know many women who choose to stay flat and their general surgeon does a horrible job. This is why women need to be assigned a plastic surgeon at the same time so that their ‘flat’ mastectomy is given the same amount of attention as someone who chooses immediate reconstruction. My surgeon didn’t question or challenge my decision to stay flat either. Many women’s experiences are far different then that; some are not even given the option to stay flat. Their surgeons requires a psych evaluation, or are told they will look like a man or unattractive to the opposite sex. Some are even told by their husbands that they will no long feel sexually attracted to them if they chose to stay flat.

I chose to stay flat for various reasons. First, my daughter was only 1.5years old and I didn’t want to be down recovering longer than I needed to. Second, I needed to get back to work as I had no personal income while I was off work during treatment. Third, I didn’t want to spend time trying to reconstruct two mounds of flesh on my body in hopes of recreating my breast which would never be the same anyway.

Reconstruction after a mastectomy is NOT ANYWHERE near the same as a boob job. Please don’t ever say that to a breast cancer survivor. When you have a boob job, it’s an enhancement choice, not a salvage job. Big difference.

Today I have forgiven my cancer… as cancer in itself is technically you, it’s your cells gone wrong. I needed to forgive my body for f-ing up in order to move forward and let go of the negative. I know my body has forgiven me for the damage I have caused it. I continue to look after it by going to scar massage treatments as well as lymph drainage treatments, acupuncture, chiropractor and an osteopath.

The mixed emotions of guilt and resentment I felt in the months after were raw and very, very hard. After all my breast had done for me (feeding Harlyn and contributing to my sexual confidence) what did it do to deserve it’s fate…what did I do to deserve this…

Today, I still hold on to some sorrow and resentment wishing I still had cleavage, wishing I could wear whatever I wanted…but I always pull myself back up and remind myself to be grateful that I am alive and well today .

Today I can talk about losing my breast without bursting into tears. Today I am healing my body and getting back on track.

AN ODE TO MY BREAST

2 years ago I had my left breast completely removed….. I have now replaced it with a soft ‘knitted knocker’.

I’m writing this in memory and honour of my breast. You know those t-shirts that breast cancer survivors wear that say ‘yes my breasts are fake! The real ones tried to kill me’! I don’t feel that way. My breasts weren’t trying to kill me. Cancer killed my breast and it was going to kill me too. In a way I feel like I let my breasts down, like I should have some how been able to protect them better… I feel like I let my body down…..

“Hey, losing one boob is better than losing a life” is a common remark us breast cancer warriors hear from others. I’m not even sure how to respond to that. Fearing and mourning the loss of my breast is just as valid as fearing the loss of my life. And yes I’m quiet aware it’s the lesser of the two.

The last couple weeks before surgery, I was constantly soothing my breast, almost comforting it, for what was to come, even as I laid on the operating table. Constantly apologizing to it, asking for its forgiveness. I cringe to think of my breast being torn apart and dissected into thin slices like sandwich meat, like it had no value. To the outside world I put on a brave front, but when alone, there were tears, many many tears.

Also soooo much anger. How dare you cancer, how f-ing dare you.

I do believe its important to mourn the loss. It has been such a integral part of me since such young age. It was a team member. They played a part in my life’s journey. I never realized how much they meant to me until I knew I was going to lose them…. this was the end of their journey with me.

I want to thank my breast for all it has done. Although I don’t attribute my value as a women by my breasts, I do want to acknowledge how attractive they helped me feel once they started developing as a young teenage. I remember before puberty sticking my chest out imagining what it would be like to have beasts.

Then I started nursing. They took on a whole new, very important role. They exclusively fed my daughter for 6 months. My breasts produced the only food she drank in those first 6 months. They continued to feed her until she was 15 months old when I abruptly had to stop as I started chemo. They were sucked on, bitten, chafed, leaking, engorged! …..but they did something real and irreplaceable. They gave life to my daughter. And I will forever be sooo grateful and proud of them for that.

Even today I close my eyes and hold my ‘new’ cotton breast… remembering what it was like to have 2.

The morning of my surgery I looked in the mirror at their sagging form, like two great redwood trees that look perfectly normal on the outside but one was infested with termites and disease that must come down before it infected the rest of the forest.

In a way, it’s like it took the shot for me, and they are taking this dive into the unknown for me. Sacrificing their existence for the continuation of mine….somehow saving me. Well done faithful breast! I’m really going to miss you.

Every day I think of the young women, my new friends, who have lost their lives to breast cancer and leave very young children behind. Yes breast cancer does have many successful treatments but it still kills!! It kills young women all the time!!

Please ladies check your breasts so you know what your normal feels like and you will notice if something changes!

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