This Monday I had (what I hope will be) my final surgery in this elongated preventive mastectomy/breast reconstruction process. With great relief, I waved a hearty goodbye to my tissue expanders, those rigid architectural domes in my chest. Now I’m welcoming the newfound comfort of implants (so soft and luxurious by way of comparison) as my body adjusts to surgical recovery.
I’ve been given a “device identification card” with a barcode for each of my “natrelle inspira” implants. (I think for airplanes? Will my boobs set off alarms, I wonder?) I find humor in the names of these implants, which sound to me like parodied lingerie. I am trying to find similar humor in the fact that there are barcodes now attached to what lives in my body—but I’m not there yet.
But there is this, and there will always be this: my likelihood of having breast cancer has decreased from somewhere between 65-87% to less than half a percent. After undergoing rigorous surveillance and scanning (MRIs, ultrasounds, mammos, biopsies) for nine years, I made the choice I’d been told for a long long time would be my safest option.
This has been a time of sacrifice. I miss my natural breasts, however dangerous they may have been. As with any sacrifice, I have felt powerless and empowered. I have doubted and longed to believe and come to believe and doubted again. I’ve lost and I’ve gained.
I recognize how lucky I am to have been given this chance, this knowledge of what lurks inside my DNA. I have been given the choice—and healthcare coverage, which must, for the love of humanity, be a right for all—to do what I can to alter it. I have mourned and may continue to mourn what I have lost, but that mourning must always be contextualized.
Speaking of contextualizing mourning, let’s get back to this rainbow popsicle. Think back to summers of your childhood. Do you remember the shriek of joy in your heart when the melody of the ice cream truck came in earshot? I felt that shriek of joy in my heart when my nurse offered me this rainbow popsicle about a half hour after I woke up from surgery.
A surgery scheduled for later in the day often means I grow weak with thirst and hunger (as I’m not allowed to eat or drink even a sip of water after the midnight prior). Even counting those sweltering childhood afternoons when the ice cream truck’s simple melody filled my block, I can say without exaggeration that I’ve never been happier to gobble down a rainbow popsicle in my life.
This kind of appreciation? It may seem small—but I believe this is one true gain in the midst of loss.
Love ♥️ R