Monday, May 06, 2013

Score One For Me

I flick through the blouses in my closet trying to decide which one I will wear today. The day. The one where I will get fitted with a breast prosthesis. I've already stalled this day off by three months. I've told myself it's because the post surgical swelling was still going down and I  wasn't sure I could handle the pressure of a regular bra around my rib cage yet. Now I tell myself I have to go get it done because I am returning to work soon and as I'm the face of the company, the first one the public sees, I need to look as professional as possible.

Last week one of my nieces brushed up against her sister in my small kitchen only to have her sister exclaim, "ooh, your boob just brushed up against me. That creeps me out." Before her sister could answer I blurted out, "Hey with no boob on that side I bet I could stand even closer." Her eyes reflect both horror and compassion back at me. No small feat for a young woman not quite out of her teens.

When I was a teen I occasionally loved shocking people with what I wore. There was the morning I managed to slip out of the house wearing only a halter top and shorts, knowing both were against the rules at school. When my home room teacher told me to go get dressed I smugly told her these were my clothes. Later an announcement on the PA system reminded students to follow the dress code. Score one for me.

I've always said I don't like being the centre of attention but that's simply not true. There are many ways of trying to be the centre of attention. (Like my writing of blogs posts I think in my snarkier moments).

I decide against wearing anything that could hint of cleavage (that there will never be cleavage again still saddens me) or anything that looks like a sack. I settle on a top that clings lightly.

The fitter is very sensitive as she inserts different sized prosthesis, trying to find one that matches my remaining breast. And just like in real life, no two breasts match. My mom's own journey with breast cancer coincided with the beginning of puberty for me. While she was still in the hospital undergoing treatment, I worried aloud to my older sister that my tiny breasts did not match and did that mean something was wrong. I was both relieved and disappointed when she told me no ones' breasts ever did.

When the woman has found the best fitting prosthesis I turn to face myself in the mirror. I feel tears rising and I squelch them instantly. I am confused because they are not happy tears. When the fitter asks me if I want to wear the prosthesis out of the store I say in a clipped voice, 'No.'

Up to this point, especially when getting dressed to go out in public, I've had remnants of that teenage centre of attention thinking. I've felt no pity for the people who will see my lopsidedness. Deal with it I  often think to myself. This is what reality looks like. If I have to face it every day then so do you. Score one for me.

But I know behind my tears and lack of readiness to wear the prosthesis is the disconnect between my inner and outer realities. While so much is still healing on the inside of me how will anyone know what I've gone through now? I hate the thought of invisibly moving forward.

Which is what wearing a prosthesis is. An invitation to get on with living life after cancer. Surely cancer survivors surround me every day in the grocery store and at the gas station and I don't hear any of them reminding the world how their journey has marred them forever. They are quietly living their lives doing ordinary things, most likely with gratitude.

From there it's a short jump to remembering that every single person alive bears some kind of scar, emotional or physical that has changed them permanently. And so here I find myself again. Reminded that I am not unique in my suffering. I'm sad that I am not unique. My story is unique. But it's only that. My story. Not your story. Not the story.

Perhaps there is hope I will leave behind my teenage ways one day.

Score one for me.


Heidi Renee said...

i love your unique story my friend.

Grace-WorkinProgress said...

When I read your post I admire your honesty. You don't just put a happy face on it. Life sucks sometimes.

Grief is the road to healing.