Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Flat Side of Life

Happy New Year everyone! It is 2013 and we can all start fresh again. What is very exciting for me is that now I can´t say "Oh yes I had cancer last year." Instead I am nearing the 2 year mark in a few months and things seem to be going fairly well. I still cant believe that is was so long ago now. I have often thought back to what i was doing this time last year, the year before...I always do that. Get stuck in the past - call it my sentimental side. I also look back at pictures taken months before it all kicked off and think...hmmm I had this crazy nasty cancer then but I didn´t know it. I look so different to myself. There is a lightness to me, an innocence that is no longer there.  No one can deny that it has been a tough 2 years for all of us in team OBB and the weariness is sometimes even too much for even YSL touch eclat to hide! :)

Recently my daughter, who just turned 3 on New Years day, informed me that I did not have any boobs. Now of course this was said in Norwegian as she has recently decided English was totally 2012.  She told me in a non chalant manner that pappa didnt have boobs, she didnt have any boobs, and mama didnt either but her aunty definitely did. I have not really talked about my C story with her but of course this was something I was expecting. Of course she knew mama had ouchies but she hadnt been totally aware of the anatomical differences between myself and other women. Now she knows that I am different. She even sometimes mimicks breastfeeding when she pretends to be a baby on my chest and I feel slightly awkward with my two big scars in the place where my breasts used to be. She also knows that her mama needs medicine for her pain and last week when she accompanied me to the hospital for a blood test, she proudly came home and told her pappa that she had taken mama to the hospital and she got an ouchie. She gently touched my arm and pulled the sleeve up to show the proof. How did she get so intuitive at the tender age of 3? Now I have told her that mama´s boobies got sick so she had to take them away to be okay again. She seemed satisfied with that explanation...for now. I know this conversation is far from over but the way i look at it - I am fortunate enough to be having this conversation at all. I am here to tell her my story in my own words so she can understand what she needs to and I can be there to fill in the blanks. There is less fear in that.

Now I have written lots about finding the bright side to a double mastectomy (without opportunity for reconstruction yet). Not so funny fact - in Norway it isn´t standard protocol to reconstruct in the same operation when there is already cancer detected. You must wait years (like 5 or 6 years!!!) to get a new pair of boobs and after all the treatment, radiation and time...the operation is not so simple. :( So anyways I have noticed lately that often one of the first things i notice about a woman are her boobs. This isn´t in a creepy perv kinda way ok! I self reflect through that other person and wonder if people can notice that I have none just as I have noticed they have little ones, big ones, saggy ones...I think I am missing them more and more these days as I struggle to find outfits and scarves that hide my flatness as wearing prosthetics is not possible with my pain problems. About 80% of my wardrobe is redundant now. And when I go out shopping, I need to go with the more boring options and the lingerie section is completely off limits to me. No Victoria´s Secret angel here! I also have noticed the few times I have gone swimming, how strange it is to be freezing cold and not have any nipples. After years of swimming competitively, my friends and I came up with many terms for what happens to nips in the cold - party hats, ENS (erected nipple syndrome), those babies could cut glass...Funny yes but now I don´t have any such external temperature devices. I just feel cold...everywhere. Another thing is when Great Aunt Flow comes around every month...there is no warning in the chesticle department. I have no sensation and no idea what is happening. Lastly I genuinely feel less attractive and feminine. Thank god I have an incredible husband who loves me for me and not for a kick ass set of boobs but I still feel robbed. In a way I don´t think I ever fully appreciated them when I had them and now that they are gone, I pine for what was. I also think that if by some miracle I get the chance to have another child, how strange will it be to be pregnant with no breasts? Having a big round bump and then nothing above. And the fact that there wont ever be an option to breastfeed again. That mammary ship has sailed off into the deep white sea. I actually remember when I had my first surgery before we knew anything was seriously wrong and I told my good friend that I was most concerned that I might not be able to breastfeed on one side again. She told me that it was very evident that I was a very good and caring mother as my first concern was the well being of my future as yet unborn children.  Oh how I wish that would have been my one and only concern. Now the bottle will truly be my only option if I even get a second chance. But I guess I can be thankful that I got the chance to give my daughter the best start the first time around. That is a gift in itself and I am so grateful I got to experience that with her and as a woman.

I searched the web for a quote to conclude this entry about the loss of a part of you. Unfortunately nothing I found was right so I thought I would take a stab at writing my own.

Losing a part of you. Something real that you can feel, touch and see. It takes something deeper along with it and you are changed forever. The contours are no longer there, the feminity you had is now diluted by pain and the knowledge of what that emptiness embodies and represents is something you can never forget.

An extra tight hug from OBB


  1. Beautiful post! It's funny to think about a lost body part like this. Back in the 80s my brother had a strange and "rare" type of children's cancer and he's a miracle to have survived it, according to doctors. He lost his thumb, forefinger and a chunk of his wrist in his left hand in the process of removing a tumor when he was 14. It's something that we've never really spoken about. When my brother poses for pictures he casually puts his whole hand over the other one, but besides that he doesn't do anything to hide it. I sometimes wonder what that's like for him - everytime someone meets him they must be dying to ask what happened, yet I'm not sure it's something he wants to be defined by. I hope it doesn't define you.

    Thanks for sharing.


  2. Thanks for your lovely comments and for reading Saleha. I sometimes question whether what I write now is still interesting being so far down the road from Cancer Town. Interesting thoughts about your brother. We lose different parts of ourselves and it changes us. Everyone reacts differently but the self consciousness is a tough one to overcome. I struggle with it daily. :) OBB