Essay on Loss

June 24th, 2011

Were you just diagnosed with breast cancer? Did you search for breast cancer survival rates or photos of mastectomies first? Did you totally lose it when you saw some of the photos you found? Or are you one of the those that worried more about losing your life than your breasts? If you are I applaud you because that is really what matters.

I was not one of the ones that worried about dying. For some strange reason I was convinced this was just a bump in the road health wise, but a huge earthquake like chasm in my body image.

A little background – I’m not a gym rat or anything. I was, I think, blessed with great Italian genes…pretty good body for the most part. I’ve always worn it well. I have to say i’ve never been in love with my assets upstairs, and I had for some time considered a lift, and even had a consultation about two weeks before the whole thing started.

Go ahead and say it…. i’m pretty vain. I don’t mind at all.

So my first search in google is “post mastectomy photos.” Don’t even be tempted to do it. I was in tears within minutes. Are you kidding me? That is the best that modern medicine has to offer? I was defeated. But I put on my big girl pants and went to visit with Dr. Moore, my plastic surgeon and who I have known for a long while and really feel comfortable with, and was certain after I saw some of his work that everything would be OK.

Um, it was not. He showed me a collection of photos, and I was horrified! And Dr. Moore could tell. He didn’t pry or try to convince me everything would be ok. He simply said “Let’s setup a follow appointment in a few days.” So I cried some more, researched a little deeper and found some examples of post surgical photos where the results actually looked good! I took them to Dr. Moore and asked him why the photos he showed me were so awful (yes i said that) and these were so good. He then explained, and I think he knew I needed this time in between to process, that the photos he showed me were all of women who were over or close to 50, had mastectomies without immediate reconstruction, and were not skin saving mastectomies. I asked why in the world he showed so horrible examples. (yes i really did say that!). Dr. Moore is a pretty smart guy after all. His process is to show you the most difficult results to manage. He doesn’t want you to go in looking like you’ve breast fed 10 babies and think you will come out looking like a super model. Managing expectations is a good thing.

After that last consult, I was ready to pull the trigger – not like I had a choice but my mind was ready to take the leap.

And you know what? They are far from complete and not anywhere near what they could be or may be some day, but i’m really not bothered by it. I can’t explain it. It’s just like I decided that it’s not worth worrying about. I mean it’s not like I plan to go topless dancing or anything. In clothes…they look perfect. And soon they will be MY new version of perfect. And I am ok with that.

I think this quote actually means something to me now even though i’m not a religious person – I prefer to leave God out of the equation:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

The things I CAN’T change are that I have cancer, I had to have a mastectomy, and I have to undergo treatment if I want to live. The things I CAN change are my priorities. And that, ladies and gentleman, is the biggest achievement of all.

Just do it!

  1. Lori says:

    The Serenity Prayer is one I try to say before my feet hit the floor every morning! Sometimes I add “and a little heavier on the wisdom today Lord – yesterday not so wise!” I sat by the sweetest couple on the plane home from Wisconsin – she had just finished her very last treatment two weeks ago. We had lots to talk about – she reminded me a lot of you. Your stories are very similar – but then I guess they all have a common thread, don’t they?!