Thursday, October 21, 2010


In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we're going to talk about my boobies (or lack thereof). This is a subject most people shy away from with me, because they don't want to be insensitive, I'm sure. I don't go out of my way to discuss them, either, but if it comes up I always say I'm happy to be rid of them. This mostly shocks people; I have such a flippant attitude about it they can't wrap their heads around that.

It's true, for the most part. My boobs were a real pain in the neck. Literally. In 2008, during a routine procedure to place a port in my chest for chemotherapy treatment, things went terribly wrong, and 5 hours later I woke up with bandages covering a 3-inch T-shaped incision in my neck. I endured a lot of pain and nerve damage from that surgery that never completely went away, and I blame it all on my boobs. If it wasn't for them getting cancer, damnit....but I digress.

My boobs were always too big, I thought, and caused me all kinds of problems: blouses never fitting right, bra shopping was a nightmare, and running was out since I was always getting hit in the face with them. For the life of me, I'll never understand women who get those giant implants. Are they insane?? There is nothing fun about boobs that are constantly in your way. And I know what all the guys are thinking, but honestly, I really couldn't care less how awesome you think big boobies are. My comfort is much more inportant to me than your turn-on. And then there was the pain. For the last few years I had constant pain in the right side, which unfortunately did not go away after the tumors were removed, but only got worse. So I pretty much viewed my breasts as a curse, and the day I was told my breasts had cancer, it only confirmed it for me.

The decision to have a double mastectomy was an easy one for me. I told my plastic surgeon, "don't you dare put the same size implants in. I'll take little boobies, please". He looked at me askance, unsure if he was hearing correctly. I assured him I was serious.

What I was not prepared for, of course, was the complications that arose, which resulted in my current status: boobless. But even that did not faze me, because for the first 6 months or so, I was too preoccupied with the terrible aftermath of surgery, and trying to recover. Now that my scars have healed, however, there are some things about having boobs that I miss. Body image is important, but what I didn't realize before is, you don't just become flat-chested, you become *concave*. It feels like you have lost limbs, and obviously it's not as traumatic as losing, say, your arms, but it's still losing a huge part of you (and in my case, truly huge), and that comes with issues.

Like itching. My nipples itch and I don't even *have* nipples, y'all. This can be very maddening. Also, the muscle spasms. I will get hit with a spasm so intense I am forced to contort my torso to try and relive it, which makes for some interesting positions. It's like having a charlie-horse in your boob. Except there's no boob. And you're grimacing and twisting like someone possessed, which is no big deal if you're at home on the couch - but in line at the grocery store, or sitting at a traffic light? Not so much.

Still, there is always humor to be found in the worst situations, and that's what I look for. The silver lining, or perks (pun intended), I like to call them. Like, I don't have to wear a bra. I don't spill food down my "boob-shelf" anymore. I can sleep on my stomach. And men always look me straight in the eye.

It's been an adjustment for my kids, as well. My son was a year old when I was diagnosed, and at the time my chest was his favorite place to snuggle. This quickly became off-limits, but he would still manage to find a spot on my belly to suffice. One of his other favorite things to do was hurl himself headlong into my arms, inevitably headbutting me in the chest, and of course when he was told not to, it was always, "why, mommy? Do your boobies hurt?"

After my mastectomy he was naturally curious about what happened to them. I explained the best I could. Almost daily he asks about them. "Mommy, did the doctor cut your boobies off?" When this is confirmed, he says, "oh", and merrily goes on his way. Lately, though, he will approach me with a mischevious gleam in his eye.

"Nice boobies", he'll say, waiting for my reaction. If I remind him I don't have any, the questions start all over again. So sometimes I just laugh. I'm sure its just a phase, his obsession with boobies - oh who am I kidding, he *is* his father's son. I'm just hoping he'll outgrow this phase of calling attention to my non-boob status. He has even taken to calling me "Boobies" on occassion.

So to be perfectly honest? I am still coming to terms with life without them. Sometimes I miss them. More often, I don't. After all, when faced with the alternative, it is still easy to say, in Cade's words (as I told him goodbye before leaving for work yesterday), "So long, Boobies!"

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