To prepare for the reality of surgery, I combed the internet for photos and found this one of Christa Slotboom's double mastectomy without reconstruction. Her vitality and mobility just a few days post-op was so reassuring. And her shameless beauty four years later sealed the deal. Other shots in her Flickr collection show laughter and exuberance and joy with her children, and a few of cancer treatment too. And there is love. The person holding the camera clearly loves this woman, breasts or not.
Viewing these, I understood I could go through with this operation. Life would still go on, and life would still be good. Thank you Christa Slotboom.
As the fateful date approached, I combed Fickr and Google and discovered there are few other frank, reassuring images available to women like me. Could I add to the pot? I thought of the people in my life, those marginal ones who barely know me but would look out of curiosity. I believed I could not possibly be as brave as Christa.
And then, gradually, it dawned on me that actually, yes I could.
So here you go, four images of me, three days post-op, when two visiting nurses came to my home to change the bandages. I won't post them here, I'll post links only, in case you don't want to see. The pictures are taken by J~.
IMAGE 1. The ace-wrap is off, lotion applied to my cramped itchy back. Relief!
IMAGE 2. The wound is closed with stitches underneath the skin which will eventually dissolve. "Steri-strips" -- they look like packing tape to me -- secure the skin.
IMAGE 3. The tubes siphon fluid from the surgical site, one tunneling up into my armpit, the other under the incision, across my ribs. J~ empties the drains twice daily. The surgeon will remove these next week.
IMAGE 4. Wrapping me back up again.
PS. As I was finishing writing this post, my brother sent me this link, more mastectomy images. Interesting that the reconstructed breasts disturb me more than the missing ones...