Today I finally got the all clear to have a shower. What a great feeling to be able to wash away any remnants of my stay in the hospital. Showering today was more than just being able to wash my own hair, showering meant that I was finally able to do something on my own. It meant I was slowly making my way back to “normal”.
Showering also meant undressing completely. Showering meant that I had no way to avert my eyes to what was now my new physical reality. I had seen myself of course but this was the first time that I undressed and stood naked in front of a mirror to see what I had become. I forced myself to look long and hard from every angle that I could. What I saw was still my body, but very very different. Where my breasts once were are two small mounds of flesh with deep red ugly scars that run from my armpits across to my breast bone. My underarms are swollen to the size of tennis balls and are bruised and battered looking. Under the incision scars are two smaller scars on each side that once housed the drainage tubes. Because my tumor was so large, the surgeon could not do what’s called a skin sparing mastectomy, so along with the breast tissue the skin that formed my breasts was also removed. So when the tissue expanders were inserted and I was stitched up, the skin that was left was pulled taut in order to close the wounds.
I no longer had the same tan lines as before my surgery. The top part of my chest was tanned but then there was a drastic change to white where skin that hadn’t seen the sun had been pulled up into a new position and was now stitched together with skin that had. It looks weird, like some sort of harlequin that didn’t make the grade.
As I studied myself more closely I started to recognize freckles that had once been much lower on my chest but were now in the middle of what will become my new breasts. I still am having trouble imagining how what was facing me in the mirror could every become new breasts. Raw, puckered skin that is not only painful to touch but even more so to look at. This is my new reality. This is what my body has become. This is what cancer has done to me. I turned my back on my reflection in the mirror and stepped into the shower. I let the warm water cascade over me and for a moment I felt just like I did before the surgery…normal.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.