Sitting on the wooden floor the cool, rough texture of the supportive wall gave me goosebumps. Squirming like a child with ants in the pants, Steven kept moving backwards into the living room. The zoom on our camera refused to focus on me, the real me, until he was halfway across the room. A solid green light was finally visible and multiple frames were quickly shot. Shifting into another awkward pose that was suppose to look natural, more photos were taken. After all, I was O’natural since I was bearing my all, at least the top part of me. This wasn’t a porn type of photo shoot, but a documentation of what was developed, squeezed, caressed, bumped, swollen, and admired for 39 years and what was soon to be gone.
It was 7 years ago today that I entered the hospital, had the doctor draw a connect-the- dots on my chest, woke up covered in bandages with drains out my arm pits and surrounded by Steven, Lynn (mother-in-law) and Christine (sister-in-law). I had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction after being diagnosed with breast cancer. It meant my natural goods (A-cup jelly tots) were gone and my physical appearance changed forever.
The decision was made for the mastectomy after two unsuccessful surgeries to remove one lump. As it turns out, the full taking away of my breasts revealed 4 more tumours and a different type of aggressive cancer than the original lump. In an instant, this finding eliminated any doubt that we had made the right decision. The surgery also meant a decreased chance of giving a home base for other unwelcome tumours to grow and progress in stages that could cost me my life in the future.
Steven and I decided that documenting what would soon be lost for forever would be helpful if I ever needed to remember what my original boobs were like. I think every one of us appreciates a good gander back to what we once looked like, whether it was the bad Flock of Seagulls hairdo, the stylin’ flooder pants you didn’t think were flooders at the time and the fact that there was a point in our lives when we didn’t have wrinkles and were 20 pounds lighter. Either way, it was nice to know there was proof of my wee beautiful jelly tots to look back on if the need arose.
So with my breasts removed and reconstruction complete, I gave a home to twin gummy bears. Yup, I call them gummy bears! So this is the 7th birthday for my twin gummies! The reconstruction, for me, meant simplicity in activity and appearance. Not wanting to use a prosthetic bra to add bumps to enhance my female exterior, I opted for the built in ones. Not only that, I’m equal in size on both sides now, another benefit to modern plastic surgery!
Since it’s not in my nature to nurture old wounds and feel sad about what once was and is now gone, the only option is to look at what was gained and celebrate. Now these manufactured bumps are completely different to what was admired for 39 years but since when are gummy bears equal to original breasts and is it fair to even compare! After all, these artificial bumps could be split in half and they will never leak, they will be perky forever even when all that surrounds them will sag to the earth which on me has already started! Then there is a bit of a bounce back if you punch them. There are also no nipples, just large scars across the middle (mastectomy reconstruction is different than breast augmentation surgery) and they are cold to the touch. I’d have to say the coldness is great when my hands are inflamed and need a cool down after a hard climbing day . If you can’t heat ’em, join ’em!
Looking in the mirror and reflecting on the privilege of having had another 7 years of life with the gummy bears smiling back at me, they are the daily reminder that I am a cancer survivor. Losing my breasts was an incredibly difficult process physically and emotionally. The scars on my chest do not reveal the true depth of the scars of cancer. I was challenged in my perception of femininity and the security attached to my original appearance. There was also facing the fear of being attractive to my husband even though I knew our love grew beyond anything exterior. Fortunately, his love for me was not powered by what my original chest had to offer.
Even with the decision for the original removal and installation of my bouncy additions, it doesn’t mean that the cancer won’t be back either. There will be another scan soon to see if there is anything hiding behind those perky, plump, manufactured A-cups that could have set up residence in any remaining breast tissue that may have been left behind. If that’s the case, even these gummy bears may have to go in order to treat the next round of cancer and I will be thankful for the years they were with me on my adventures.
Now the tears for my old breasts have been shed long ago and I approach my new additions with the same liveliness they provide me. So I give them a good poke with my finger and the only sensation felt is my finger spring-boarding back. Gummy bears have no feeling and it reaffirms that I could give someone a badass chest bump and knock the wind out of them with no consequence to me!
With the 7th birthday for my gummy bears (yes, there will be candles) and peek back at what once was, I carry no regrets, just acceptance and appreciation of the new me as different as it may be. There were tremendous lessons learned along the way and happiness found along the roughest of paths. As I cool my hands down on my smiley additions the most valuable point to share is this: as you look down at your body parts (men and women) and wish they were a little more of this, or a little more of that, realize that seeing, feeling and squeezing what you were born with is a privilege and won’t necessarily have the same life span as the rest of you. It’s important to treasure what you have in the present. Besides, there’s always the fact that you will get older and all that is natural will submit to the force of gravity! Find the beauty in what you have on the outside and on the inside.
On a final note, a good friend of mine who is a mother gave the best advice to some hope-to-be mothers, “just look at those B, C or D cups and appreciate what you have now because one day they will B, C or D ‘LONG’!”