• Another 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 252 (Radiation Treatment 12 of 30: Residual Self Image)

    Neo's residual self image (left) and his actual image (right).

    Neo’s residual self image (left) and his actual image (right).

    Friday, March 20, 2015

    Run/ Walk/ Bike/ Elliptical (Today:  2.00 miles;  Running Total: 210.29 miles)

    Day 252 of *Another* 100 Days of Good Karma.

    Remember that part in The Matrix when Neo notices a disconnect between how he really looks and how he thinks he looks?  Morpheus calls it his “residual self image”.

    I am Neo. And I am still having that disconnect.

    Hair is part of that residual image. I’ve had long blonde hair most of my life.  That’s how I still picture myself.  But my hair isn’t long anymore.  It’s short.  Really short.  And very gray.

    Sometimes I still come in from running and, before getting into the shower, I reach back to pull the elastic band out of my hair only to find I don’t need one.  I laugh it off, shake my head at my silly self.  But it makes me a little sad, too.

    Recently I sat in a restaurant and saw a woman with short gray hair facing me across the room.  It took me a moment to realize I was looking at myself in a far away mirror.

    The biggest shock is looking at myself naked in the mirror.

    Right now my right breast has a more natural shape.  The tissue expander is partially deflated for radiation treatments so it hangs more like a natural breast rather than the softball it was when the tissue expander was fully inflated.

    However, because of the partial deflation I can feel the tissue expander crinkle beneath my skin.  When I move the skin over the tissue expander doesn’t move naturally.  My skin doesn’t jiggle so much as flow, like waves in a water bed.

    It’s a shock to see blue and orange and green marker all over me.  Seeing the big blue X where my right nipple used to be is like a punch in the gut every time.

    Thank God (and my surgeons) there’s still the shape of a breast there.  No one can tell the difference when I’m wearing clothes.

    I can tell the difference though.

    It’s still a shock to feel the chest muscle on my right side flex differently from the muscle on the left. Push-ups feel really strange – like my body is out of sync with itself.  But that isn’t the weirdest part.

    The weirdest part is that while I can feel the muscle of my right chest wall flex, the surface of my skin over my right breast and under my right arm is numb.  I’m still learning where those boundaries of sensation are.

    I still don’t like anyone or anything touching the numb parts. A t-shirt brushing against the underside of my right arm is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard.  And I hate when the radiation nurses have to mark me with felt tip markers.  They’ll start at my collar bone and drag the tip of the pen down along my skin.  I can feel it  — until I can’t.  Right where the top of my breast begins the pen passes into a void.

    That switch over from feeling to non-feeling makes me cringe every time.

    Today’s silver lining:  The disconnect between mind and body is growing smaller with time.

    There was a time right after surgery when putting deodorant on made me want to vomit.  I was just discovering that numb boundary and running a stick of deodorant over the top of it made me want to scream.  Putting deodorant on is easy now.

    I imagine the rest will improve with time, too.

    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.


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