and then, there was one…. a mastectomy tale
they are magnificent. ornamental. utilitarian. a defining separation between what is male and female. for a woman a deep tie to her femininty. anyone who tells you “it is just a body part, it doesn’t matter” is an idiot. it does matter. they do matter.
last year i had a lumpectomy and it was very traumatic. it made me feel guilty that i found it traumatic, as i referred to myself as a bottom feeder on the cancer food chain. “a lump? big deal! you have your breasts, you are not dying, it could be so much worse, your liver, your lungs, your BRAIN….blah, blah, blah.”
i have a very wise and funny buddhist friend who reminds me that suffering is not a competition. our suffering is our own and should not be held up to be weighed against “who suffers more than who.” others suffering can give some perspective, but our suffering still hurts.
the symbolism of having cancer in your breast, this place of nurturing, of providing sustenance and support for others, of giving, was not lost on me. i am a giver of the highest order. always contorting myself to not make waves, to not ask for too much, or expect too much. putting myself last on the list of my time and attention, and believing that i deserved to be at the bottom of everyone else’s list as well. of course i had cancer. i was now being asked to anti up. “are you going to really take care of yourself now?” “YES!” i said. i changed everything. my diet, the way that i ate. how i used my energy. how i rested. how i related to others. i dug deep to see what needed to shift. the emotional component of the dis-ease. when the cancer resurfaced earlier this year and mastectomy was what was laid out on the table, it was hard to take.
during these last few months something started to shift in me. my right breast began to feel less like a breast and more like a breast plate. not like an armoring, but like this polished shell of strength. a warrior priestess sheild. like athena. as i was leaner from my dieatary changes, my bones and ribs more defined, my body felt new. it was changing, altering.
i was getting a massage 2 months ago, and as i was on the table i had this sudden visualization of this being, split down the middle. the right half male, the left, female. shiva/shakti. the perfect balanced union within the self. i was birthing my own perfect whole, balanced self. it was incredibly empowering.
two days before my surgery i have a photo shoot with amazing photographer, deborah hardee. picutes of my mother and my daughter and myself. the three generations. and then after those, we do topless photos of me. they are beautiful. a celebrating and honoring my body as it is that day. there will be more photos to celebrate where it is now.
after surgery, it was a bit like looking at a picture where something had been photo shopped out. where’s waldo? my surgeon is an artist and my scar is beautiful. a hairline scar stretched tight and smooth. one perfect breast. one perfect pec. balanced perfection.
i have no intention of having reconstructive surgery. i have no judgement around those who do, it is just not for me. my body is slight, so i do not look unbalanced. i feel clean and strong. zen like in my appearance. i feel strong in a brand new way. sexy in a brand new way. and it is a reminder of the lesson to always seek balance. nurture myself first. that i am complete in and of myself. a reminder that the lesson was not lost on me.
and so, this is my story up to this point. i now refer to myself as “hermaphrodite”, rhymes with aphrodite… my breast did matter. it was not just a body part, and i mourn its loss even as i embrace my new physique.
my “less”, is much, much more.
may we all embrace and love and care for ourselves in all of our glory. whatever that looks like.