Back to Work

Tomorrow I return to work after being out for two weeks for my final surgery.   I’m not looking forward to it.  I was feeling very bitter, angry, depressed, nervous, scared in the days leading up to this surgery.  Partially, I was nervous and scared because I was afraid it would be so horribly painful as the last surgery and I just didn’t want to repeat that.  The night before the surgery, lying in bed unable to sleep even after taking a double dose of a sleep aid, my husband said he could actually hear my heart beating.  I was feeling especially bitter and angry, which I tell myself is only natural, but then I beat myself up for it.  I mean, seriously, for a breast cancer diagnosis, mine was pretty lucky.  No lymph nodes.  Stage 1.  Cut them off, radiation, reconstruction, no chemo, blood work has been clean ever since.  But I still have to look in the mirror and see the scars.  I see them with or without my clothes on.  I can see them through my clothes…they show through if the fabric isn’t dark enough, and the contour of the scars shows through some fabrics no matter what the color.  But in those weeks leading up to this final reconstructive surgery, people kept saying the worst things to me (unknowingly and with good intentions, really) and it left me feeling even more bitter. Some asked if I was excited to be getting my new boobs.  Others asked if I was going to get double d’s.  Some said how lucky I am that I’ll have cute, perky boobs and I’ll never have to wear a bra.  At first I tried to politely say that I was more nervous than excited, and maybe try to explain that I have no say in how big my “new boobs” will be because my skin is so damaged from radiation, or that they really won’t be cute, perky boobs.  Because I don’t have nipples.  Because the entire width of each boob (“breast mounds” as my plastic surgeon calls them) is marked with an ugly, thick, bumpy, purple scar, which I am very, very self-conscious about.  Those two details are things I haven’t shared with anyone besides my husband and my best friend, because it is so personal and embarrassing to me.  But it is so painful.  So painful.  And when people are so flippant about me and my cute new boobs, I feel like I need to defend myself and try to tell them a little bit about what it’s like for real, but people really either don’t want to hear it or they just aren’t prepared to hear anything besides, “Yes, you are correct”.    So, I’ve learned to just smile and say, yes, I’m excited to be getting the surgery over with.  And now it’s over, my last surgery has come and gone, I’m returning to work for good with no more planned absences and all cancer treatment done except for the quarterly checkup with the oncologist.  It’s time to life to get back to normal.  I just have to figure out a way to make peace with my new normal.


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