Friday, April 17, 2009

Pieces of me

I struggled with whether to post this or not. It wasn't really written for public consumption because it is so deeply personal and drags up so many insecurities and hurts. But in my quest to be more authentic and open my journey up to others who might gather comfort and support from it, I'm offering it to you, begging you to be gentle with the wounded little child in me.

“Undress from the waist up and put this on. It opens to the front and is fragile at the shoulders. I’ll be back in a moment.”

Everything he says comes out like a memorized script. He’s been here so many times before. I’m just another woman, just another surgery, just another pay cheque.

When he returns, he flips open the front of the paper gown as casually as one might open the newspaper. A quick set of measurements, from neck to nipple. A grab, a tug, a lift.

“This one sags much lower. Definitely need a little extra work on this side.” He lifts them as he speaks. I nod. Of course I know that – have always known that. Have always been painfully aware of that every time I've had to find a way to surreptitiously tuck the bulges back in on the left side. “We’ll do an incision around the nipple, move the nipple and areola up a few inches, make a couple of incisions on the bottom, and cut the excess fat and skin from the bottom.” With his pen and finger, he makes the appropriate motions, then wraps both hands around one breast. “This is about the size they’ll be when we’re done. I’d also recommend a little liposuction under the arms.”

The tone of his voice hasn’t changed since I first walked in and he recited the list of risks and precautions that his legal advisory told him he had to. It sounds more like he’s preparing a cut of meat for tonight’s supper than handling something as sacred as my breasts.

Just a couple of pieces of meat. Not the pieces of me that make me a woman. Not the vessels that have nurtured my three daughters and carried the weight of grief and unused milk when they couldn’t nurture my son. Not the objects of so much shame, hatred, resentment and pain. Not the reason why I wear baggy clothing and can never find a bra that fits. Not the part of me that caused me some of the worst pain in my life when yeast infection threatened to interrupt breastfeeding. Not the parts of me that have been so lovingly caressed by my husband and have been the cause of both pleasure and frustration in the bedroom. Not the reason I can barely look at a picture of myself in a bathing suit. Not the source of back ache, neck ache, and deep shoulder indentation where the bra strap struggled to hold up the weight.

When he leaves, I pull on my double H bra, tuck in the left side, and wait for the nurse to tell me when to expect surgery. Nine to twelve months - lots of women waiting for the same thing.

Fighting the tears, I leave the medical office. The tears are not regret over my decision but sadness over the impersonal clinical feel of it all. Nobody has really bothered to ask why I want this done or questioned whether it’s for the right reasons. (What ARE the "right" reasons?) Nobody has tried to talk me out of it or wondered whether there’s something deeper than breast level that needs to be dealt with. Nobody has asked me about the years of agonizing struggle to come to this place. Nobody has asked about the shame, the insecurity, the ugliness, the sadness. Nobody has asked whether I can cope with the guilt over cutting off a piece of myself. I’m left to deal with that on my own.

Back at my own office, I pull a poncho over these pieces of meat and try to focus on the report I need to write for next week’s deadline. I lose patience with a few people and try to hold it together for the rest of the day. "Dealing with it" will have to wait for tomorrow.

This is the first and last time you'll see a picture of me in a bathing suit on this blog. I can barely stand to look at it, but for some reason, I feel compelled to share it. I remember the deep cringe of shame I felt at the time when I noticed Marcel pointing the camera at me. For obvious reasons, every other picture I've posted of myself does a fairly good job of disguising what I see when I look in the mirror every day.


Anonymous said...

Wow! how incredibly brave of you to share that; I hope it was therapeutic to write and post. Is there a counsellor that you could talk this out with further? I'm sorry you have to wait so long to get it done after coming to such a difficult decision.

I think you're a beautiful person, inside and out, and nothing will change that. You'll still be you, hopefully a little more comfortable though.


Linda said...

You are a beautiful woman.

Stephanie said...

Oh, Heather. I know this must have taken some serious inner strength to post this. I hope you're able to talk with someone about this, because it's a big change you're going to go through. Hopefully a good change.

Even for positive health reasons, it's always hard to lose a part of yourself. My grandma lost both her breasts to cancer, and when I was young I didn't understand why she wasn't more relieved to be rid of the cancer. Now as a woman who has nursed her two babies, I understand her pain a little more.

mmichele said...

I was here. Sending love.

ccap said...

I'm not sure what to comment but I don't think that's a reason NOT to comment. I was going to say "hugs" but that's not so much our relationship. But know this: I love you with or without insecurities and with or without big boobs.

Karmyn R said...

Every time I come here I feel inspired and humbled. You are brave and beautiful.

Reduction is never talked about. Society says big boobs are best - but that isn't the case. (I know - DD+....they can be a pain in the backside). I've always thought about reduction myself - but when it comes down to it, not an easy choice ever.

Pamela said...

My late ex sister in law - had breast reduction surgery. Her bra straps cut into her shoulders, she had back pain, and size 1 bottoms and no tops would fit!!

She was finally able to fit into clothes - and skip down the sidewalk without giving herself a black eye.

We're all rootin' for you!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Heather, posting this must have taken a huge amount of courage. Thank you for trusting us. I am so sorry your doctor isn't one of the sensitive, warm ones who understands it is the physician's role to treat the whole person, not just the parts. I pray that between now and the surgery date, you have a chance to talk to someone supportive. Hugs, K

andrea said...

I am both touched and impressed by your honesty and bavery. And I hate that society expects us to look a certain, homogenized way.

Karla said...

I am grateful for your willingness to expose yourself...

I have always found it amazing that "pieces of meat" (as you put it) are able to hold so much power in our lives. I was reminded of this the other day as I was telling my 9 year old daughter that it was time to start wearing a cami under her tighter shirts to camoflage the breast buds. I thought, "this is the beginning for her - the beginning of the awareness of the power and hold these "accessories" will bring".

It's funny, I have the opposite issue that you do - since birthing and nursing 3 babes these boobs are hardly exisitent to the naked eye! I think of the way that this has caused me to feel less feminine, to feel ashamed and at times embarassed. .... these pieces of meat and the power they hold indeed.

May I reccommend a book I think you'd find amazing? "For Keeps - Women Tell the Truth about their Bodies and Growing Older" Edited by Victoria Zackheim. An amazing collection of essays from women from all walks of life - one tells a story so similar to yours.

Much love and thanks.

Anvilcloud said...

I remember a radiologist talking to me feet when I went in for an ankle xray. While I don't mean to equate it with experience, nevertheless I was not pleased.

Vicki said...

two words



and another two words

thank you

Krista said...

Ditto Vicky. Thank you. Just - thank you.

cecily said...

Wow Heather, wow. I barely know you, but I feel I do. Thankyou for your vulnerability and transparency here. I was touched by this post. If I lived closer, and knew you better and it was appropriate, I might even come over and sit with you and want to cry with you for having endured such an experience.

Cuppa said...

The attitude of some medical professionals can be more painful than the cut of the knife they use. Hope the soothing balm of words your blog friends have sent help you heal.

I have two close family members who had reduction surgery and they are so happy they did. You will love the "perky" new girls!