• Another 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 185 (Body Image Appointment)

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    Monday, January 12, 2015

    Run/ Walk/ Bike/ Elliptical (Today:  3.01 miles;  Running Total: 126.67 miles)

    Day 185 of *Another* 100 Days of Good Karma.

    I’ve spent the last few days blissfully ignoring the looming specter of surgery.  I gave myself a (much needed) mental vacation from cancer. It was kind of nice living in a little sheltered bubble where cancer didn’t matter.

    Today the bubble popped.

    I went to visit with a Body Image Clinician (ie. mental health guru who specializes in the body image issues women have due to cancer surgery).

    Among other things, we talked about some of my fears surrounding surgery:

    • I fed two children with that breast.  It has sentimental value.
    • I never realized how attached to my nipples I am until I was faced with the prospect of losing one.
    • Sensation will change. I won’t be able to feel anything on that side because all the nerve endings will be cut.
    • There will be asymmetry between the two breasts that I’ll have to live with for a long time.  Maybe forever.
    • Will I be able to look at myself in the mirror naked?
    • Will I ever like how I look again?

    I won’t go into all the details (because some of them are uber private, and deeply uncomfortable to talk about with a trained professional let alone unleash them for the internet to read), but we discussed that many women have body image concerns after breast cancer surgery.

    One of my biggest fears/concerns/dreaded moments is waking up and seeing myself for the first time. She said this is a very common fear. So common that they have educational material created specifically for strategies to approach this moment.

    And the asymmetry of my breasts bothers me. It more than bothers me.  The thought fucking haunts me.  I’m profoundly disturbed that I’ll have a nipple-less Barbie boob on one side, and a natural kid ravaged boob on the other.

    Losing my hair and eyebrows and eyelashes to chemotherapy was hard. So hard.  This, though, this is harder. I knew the hair would come back. I’m not going to grow another nipple or natural breast tissue after surgery and radiation are over. This is permanent.

    And it’s not like I get a choice. This isn’t like the eye doctor when they give you the over the glasses look and say, “So, are we dilating your eyes today?”

    I can’t just say, “Mmnyeah, no thanks. I’m gonna pass on cutting out a body part at this time, but hey why don’t you hit me up next year, ‘kay?”

    No.

    See, my choices here are a) cut out a body part or b) die.

    Maybe it’s different for other people, but that’s not much of a choice in my book.

    I’m also concerned with how to teach my children to love and cherish their own bodies, not buy into all the self-hate bullshit they’ll hear for the rest of their lives (I’m too fat, my hair isn’t the right color, I don’t like [insert least favorite body part here], I have dimples on my thighs, etc) when it’s hard for me to love and cherish my own body right now.

    The doctor had a good thought on that:  Maybe this is a way to show the kids that it’s important to love yourself, even though it isn’t always easy.  She thought this could be a teachable moment, show them that everyone has times where it’s hard to like your body, but it’s important to resist the temptation to bag on yourself because you don’t look like that Victoria’s Secret model over there (who probably has a whole set of body image issues of her own that we never hear about).

    Today’s silver lining: The clinician I spoke with has worked with thousands of women with these exact same concerns.

    The service she offers is part of the package deal with my doctor’s office. It isn’t billed through insurance. It isn’t free, so to speak, it’s kind of part of the package deal you’ve already paid for. I really appreciate that my doctors office offers these kinds of services, and I’m happy to take advantage of them where I can.

    What’s your silver lining today?  I love comments!

    Don’t want to leave a comment, but have something you want to share?  Send me an email at gettingthewordswrong(at)gmail(dot)com.

    xoxo,
    Meghan

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One Responseso far.

  1. Tina Smith says:

    It’s really awesome the extra things your doctors provide. They really seem to do an excellent job making something awful a little less awful.

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