June 2nd marked three years since my bilateral mastectomy. The day came and went with no one really remembering other than me. Or at least I don’t think anyone else remembered. No one said anything. As the day progressed this year, I finally mentioned to Dear Hubby that it had now been three years. I could tell the fact I had brought it up made him uneasy.
I shared it because not sharing it would have made me feel even more uneasy. It’s not like I’ll ever forget that day. I know he has not and will not ever forget either (though he doesn’t remember the exact date) for reasons of his own. I can’t forget because the mirror doesn’t allow for that. There are a whole host of reasons that don’t allow for either of us to forget. This post isn’t about those things. At some point, I will write about some of those personal things, too, but not yet.
No, this post is about making a simple statement that I think many of us who’ve had mastectomies, and to some extent maybe even those who’ve had disfiguring lumpectomies, hesitate to make. It’s this statement:
I miss my breasts.
Sometimes it seems I’m not supposed to say this. I’m not even supposed to think it. I am supposed to have put all that behind me. I am supposed to be grateful. For the most part, I have and I am. There is even a certain amount of guilt involved in saying or thinking such a thing. After all, I’m alive. Shouldn’t this be enough? Well, yes, but…
There is a lot of talk these days about mastectomies, prophylactic and otherwise. Some even say there are too many being done. In a way, having a mastectomy of any sort has almost become some weird kind of normal.
Along with all the discussion about mastectomies, there is lot of reconstruction talk as well. Sometimes this process is made to sound too easy and almost normal-like as well.
Again, it’s not.
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Reconstructed breasts may or may not turn out ‘lovely’, but regardless of the outcome, they are still exactly that – reconstructed. And if a woman chooses not to do reconstruction for whatever reason, she might be looked upon with skepticism by some and perhaps even made to feel she must explain her reasons for making the ‘radical’ choice she made. Again, there’s guilt inserted into this picture. Why is this?
Two other things that really struck me as I was thinking about this post were:
First of all, after a breast cancer diagnosis things often get rolling really fast and there isn’t time allowed or time taken to grieve for sacrificed body parts. We need and deserve time to grieve for things we lose to illness; things like hair, breasts, ovaries or whatever it might be. It’s important to acknowledge the losses and be allowed to grieve a bit. A partner might need to grieve as well.
Secondly, even though this very blog is about breast cancer and loss and undoubtedly, I have used the word ‘breasts’ a gazillion times, I don’t think I’ve ever come right out and said, I miss my breasts.
This is a strange absurdity for a breast cancer and loss blog, don’t you agree?
For some reason, there seems to be a certain amount of guilt involved when a breast cancer patient, says she misses her breasts. (And think for a minute how our partners might perhaps be unfairly scrutinized/criticized if they were to openly admit they missed their loved one’s breasts). I do miss mine. They were nothing special as breasts go, but they were mine. I don’t think of my reconstructed ones as mine. They are still foreigners in my body. This, too, is another interesting self-revelation.
So yes, I miss the breasts I gave up to this disease and I always will. There, I finally said it! I should not have to feel guilty for thinking or saying such a thing.
Neither should you.
Stained-glass artwork in my featured photo by Laurie Bieze.
If you have had a mastectomy with or without reconstruction, do you miss your breasts?
Why do you think we sometimes feel guilty about admitting such a thing?
If your partner has had a mastectomy, do you ever admit your true feelings about it to her or to anyone?
For more information and tips about preparing for your mastectomy, read my ebook, Facing Your Mastectomy & Making Reconstruction Decisions.