It’s been a few days since I’ve posted anything, primarily because I haven’t been feeling as well as usual (gee, wonder why?).
I debated sharing this publicly, and ultimately decided to go for it. See, this blog isn’t just about talking about how I stay hopeful and positive. It’s also my way of dealing with the challenges of going through this event in my life, and if I am to be completely healed, I need to also be completely raw and honest about everything I’m experiencing.
So, I am taking a few moments to just “let it all hang out” and let the chips fall where they may.
The last few days have taken their toll on me, both physically and mentally. It’s been more difficult than usual to maintain my smile. It hasn’t been impossible, just more challenging.
There are two reasons for this.
One reason is that the physical pain of the surgery is exhausting me. It is unrelenting. On the bright side, it does change every day, it moves around, it doesn’t stay in one place, nor does it feel the same way twice. So, it keeps it interesting, to say the least.
But it is tiring. My days seem to be separated into 4 hour segemnts. Every 4 hours, I get to take pain medication. The clock rules my life for the moment. I get two and a half hour segments of near relief.
There’s the half hour that directly follows taking the medication when it hasn’t kicked in yet. That is a painful half hour. Then there are 2.5 hours when it doesn’t hurt as much, when the pain medication (morphine) kicks in. But the pain is still there in the background, dull and throbbing. Sometimes in sits in my chest like a load of bricks. Other times, it seems to just grab my armpit in an unrelenting steel vice grip.
Then, as the pain medication starts to wear off, there’s an hour of “clock watching” pain. This is the hour I dread the most. It’s the hour I argue with myself about whether I can safely ignore the instructions on the bottle and just go ahead and take the meds early. This hour is the worst. The pain is sharp and insistant. It wants to be known. It craves attention, and as much as I try to ignore it and pretend it isn’t there, it makes sure I’m well aware of its presence.
The flashes of hot pain reminds me of what I have lost.
This is the hour when my normally good tempered spirit gets tested the most.
It’s the hour when I discover myself and find out whether or not I’m really as tough as I think I am. I play a little game with myself in that hour. It’s called “You Are Above This”. I’ll speak more of this in a moment.
And then there are the emotional challenges I’ve been facing in the last few days.
It’s funny how I think back on my life and my relationship with my breasts since I grew them. When I was a young girl, I thought a lot about my breasts. How big would they be? Would they be attractive? What would they look like? I dreamed of having big breasts. I wanted them so badly that I used to try every silly exercise I heard of to try and make them bigger. I stuffed my bra. I tried everything. But alas, my breasts didn’t cooperate with me and I inherited my family’s tendency towards small breasts. When they stopped growing, I was crushed. 32B was what I ended up with, in spite of all the creams and exercises I tried out.
After a while, I stopped thinking about them. They were a part of me I didn’t really pay attention to. They were just “there” and they certainly didn’t get much attention from my boyfriends or ex-husband either.
When my children were born, my breasts changed. They were exactly what I had always prayed for as a teenager. After 3 children, they stayed 36C, which had been my “dream boob size” when I was a kid. And you know what? By then, it didn’t matter anymore. I had stopped obsessing about them long ago, so when I finally got my wish, it was no longer relevant.
But a week ago, I lost one of them, and suddenly, it matters. Suddenly, the long-ignored breasts became very important to me, and I’m still struggling about why that is.
In one fell swoop of the scalpel, one of my breasts is gone. Poof. Just not there anymore. What’s left is nothing but a scar. And it is harder to deal with than I expected.
See, I realize now where I went wrong as a teenager. Instead of wishing for larger breasts, I should have been praying to have two of them. My priorities were skewed. I would love to turn back time and pray for two healthy breasts, regardless of size.
But I can’t. This is what I have left. I have one healthy breast and one scar tissue mass with no nipple.
And the strangest thing has been happening to me as a result.
For the past few days, I find myself getting misty eyed when I see a woman in a magazine or on television who has two lovely breasts, regardless of size. I find myself feeling a piercing sense of loss.
After my sponge bath yesterday, I chose a silk pajama that is one of my favorites. It used to look amazing on me. Now, it looks “different”. It hangs flat on one side, and when I saw it yesterday, the impact of this difference hit me like a freight train and I burst into tears. I was crying uncontrollably, and was very grateful that no one was round to witness it. I cried for 30 minutes straight, and then the faucet was slowly turned off.
I gradually regained control over myself and cleaned myself up. I went downstairs and as soon as my wonderful husband saw my face, he seemed to instantly know exactly what was wrong. He held me close and told me how much he loved me. He reminded me of how he sees me as the most beautiful woman in the world. He kissed my bandaged chest and said “that one is for your healing”. And in a few moments, I remembered that I am not my breasts. They are a part of me, but they are not ME. I felt better. He has a magical touch, and an uncanny ability to know exactly what to say to make me feel better.
Ladies, if you can, marry a copywriter! They always know what to say.
And then, there are my teenagers. They are a struggle even when I’m at my peak. And yesterday I was not at my peak.
Let’s just say, it was a trying day for my emotions. I was not exactly at my best yesterday, and I was particularly vulnerable. So when my teenage daughter chose that moment to try my patience, I didn’t have the strength to be patient. I snapped at her, and drama set in for the next few hours. Instead of a minor incident, it became a battle of wills. She won. I lost. No blood was shed, but the war was over. I gave up and she was triumphant.
I was just too tired to keep fighting.
And I forgot my mantra momentarily. The game I play with myself to keep me strong was temporarily forgotten.
“You Are Above This”
Dr. Wayne Dyer speaks of this concept a lot, and his voice is my referree for this game. I focus on the sound of his voice saying “You Are Above This” every time I feel like crying. I hear him say it every time I feel a little bitchy and have an urge to get annoyed with someone around me (you try living with 3 teenagers and avoid getting grumpy). I hear him say it when I forget about my limitations for a moment and reach for something and feel that flash of pain shoot through my chest like white-hot lighting.
It’s my own personal mantra that reminds me that I can do this. I can be strong. I can choose peace. I can find my Happy Place if I look a little harder.
I am above the pain.
I am above the sadness.
I am above the grief of loss.
I am above the anger.
I am above the fear.
I am above THIS.
Above all these things is a layer of love, joy, hope, and survival. Above the pain there is healing. Above the sadness and grief, there is happiness. And that is where I want to exist. Only there.
So today, I am spending a lot of time reminding myself of this game I must play to survive this. I am remembering how to repeat these words in my head every time I feel down or in pain.
And when I’m stronger, I will reach out to my daughter with these words fresh in my mind and find a way to make peace with her. I will find a way to remember this when the exhaustion threatens to topple my resolve. I will remember that my nature is not to give up or be defeated. I am a fighter. I am a survivor.
I AM above this.