Friday, November 19, 2010

Reality Check

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...


Sam said...

I came across and thought of you. They make planners (it's a non-profit) for cancer. (I swear this isn't a spam comment!)

jrose35 said...

Hi! I followed that link and I also thought the reconstructed breasts were more disturbing than the missing ones. So glad the surgery went well and thank you for sharing your amazing pictures! You are such an amazing and strong woman! Sending you lots of good healing thoughts!

Daniele said...

In true tradition, you continue to amaze and inspire me. Your photos will not only document your journey for you but they will reassure and comfort other women that even a few days after surgery it's not all doom and gloom. You are simply amazing. x

Tash said...

I am so glad you are up and around and blogging - and even documenting what's happening. I didn't really know what a mastectomy would look like; it's something you don't think about, but instead of finding it disturbing I thought it looked...fine. The photos of Christina were amazing, because she was so young (like you), but not only that - seeing her topless on that beach was the greatest thing, because through the mastectomy (and other treatments) she is now alive.

I think what I'm trying to say is that it's not horrible, it's not ugly (for me anyway) and if it's saving your life then no price is too high. And I agree, I did find the women with reconstructions a little strange, though I can understand why they wanted to go down that route. Christina's photos give a great sense of hope.

Huge hugs from the other side of the pond. Hope you're healing well x

Anonymous said...

Wow, very powerful. I think it was so smart to find images that inspire. And, in turn, you created some or your own now that will help others.

I think that mastectomy's are so hidden, I myself haven't seen that many, that seeing images somehow helps to normalize it.

The women with reconstructions I think look maybe a bit odd because there are no nipples. Underneath clothes, however, it may help to make them feel more back to the way they were which I think can be healing and good for some too.

Thank you so much for sharing your journey. Again, this is very powerful.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your frankness. You will have a hard road ahead, but wow- so much courage and understanding, things will be good again.
Best wishes.

Kerry said...

Amazing are so strong. Thanks for the photos and sharing your road. Miss you. Glad to see you're out and about already!
Peace~Love. Kerry

Anonymous said...

It's me- starrlife from Lifecraft (used to be akakarma?). I don't know why I thought you'd stopped writing here but I stopped coming to this blog! You are facing things with courage- thanks for sharing, it helps so many....

Anonymous said...

They all inspire me, these women, reconstruction or not. They all move me. Every single one. Their bodies are love letters to everyone.

You too.

Paula said...

You look beautiful and healthy and ready to live!

The photos of Christa are also amazing, especially the photos on the beach and smiling through radiation treatments, and it's great that you can add to the positive examples of life with mastectomy out there.

Life will go on. Thank you for sharing. I wish you health and speedy healing.

I don't want to be intrusive but would love to hear what the doctors said after your surgery, if/when you're ready.