“Mommy, when are you gonna get your boobies back?” My 6-year old has asked me this question several times this year. In January I told her that my boobies were sick and had to be removed and a few months later I would get new ones. In June, following 6 weeks of radiation, I had the tissue expanders put in. That surgery was really rough, leaving me nearly immobile – unable to raise myself to get out of bed – and it hurt to laugh, cough, or even talk. For days I conversed in whispers. And I still didn’t have anything resembling real boobies, certainly not my old boobies. When I went for my next (what I thought would be my last) surgery to replace the tissue expanders with silicone implants (which I thought would be permanent), she asked if I would be whispering again after surgery.
Recently she has had a renewed interest in my health. On Tuesday of this week she asked me when I’m getting my boobies back. I really thought that by now she understood that my real boobies are gone and what I have now is it. Little did I know, just a couple hours after she asked that I would find out I had to have them – or at least one – removed. I asked her which boobies she was talking about and she said my old ones. I explained that they were gone, they had been sick and the doctor had to take them out. “Where did they go?” Well, I’ve only ever pictured them dissected, sitting on a metal tray, part of them having been sent to the pathology lab, the rest to be sent off with all the biohazardous waste of the day. Perhaps they were incinerated. I really don’t know, so that’s what I told her. That and the fact that they are gone for good.
This morning, one year and one day after I had my MRI – one year and one day after I first considered the harsh reality that something might actually be wrong -I am preparing to have my “new” boobies removed. Essentially, I’m having another mastectomy. Twice in one year. I must again decide whether to remove one or both, except this time I know there’s a strong possibility that I may never have a successful reconstruction. It’s a lot to digest and it is just as devastating as it was on that fateful day when the surgeon announced that I had multifocal invasive ductal carcinoma in my right breast and mastectomy was my only treatment option. I was just getting used to this fake boobage, scars and all, and now I’ll be losing it. And I have 3 days to decide if I will be lopsided, with the intention of going through all this reconstruction business again, knowing it may fail again, or just say fuck it and be done with needing breasts to define my femininity. I’m strongly leaning toward the latter…I feel like this has happened to make me face my body issues and figure out who I am and what defines me besides how I look. This is a really shitty way to go about any kind of self-discovery.