Friday, March 28, 2014

Spring has sprung (at least in my mind)

“You can go bra-less as often as you like.”
              Seriously, is there a more amazing sentence than that, especially if you’ve worn a bra since you were in the 5th grade? This was just one more gentle reminder recently from my plastic surgeon that my new “breast” tissue wouldn’t sag like actual breasts, that the world was my bra-less oyster, and halter tops and tube tops and the like were mine for taking… Just as soon as it decided to actually warm up outside.
THIS is why I am so looking forward to spring, that proverbial sign of rebirth. I have new knockers, a new outlook and I’d be finishing up chemo in a few weeks, hopefully never to revisit the latter. Am I bragging? Yes. Do I deserve to be? Um, fuck yes?
Don't look at my boobies! They're hideous!
            Amid all this cancer crap, I had decided that my ultimate silver lining would be the ability to finally look at my body in a positive light—and to think, it only took cancer and labor-intensive reconstructive surgery to accomplish that.
Speaking of surgery, recently my son Fio actually got a good look at the new girls when he walked in on me changing after my shower. I don’t parade them around, but I also made the conscious decision not to go into “Phantom of the Opera” hiding mode, like I was some sort of monster, when he’s around.  He smiled, then looked at them curiously.
            "Where are those things that used to be growing out of your boobies?”
             “You mean ‘nipples’?”
            “When Mommy had her surgery, they had to take them off. There was a bad growth under one of them.”
             “Will they grow back?”
           What the hell do I look like, kid? A crab that can regenerate body parts? Instead, I explained to him that the doctor would make new ones, and that I’d be feeling better soon and everything would return to normal. 
            “Don’t worry, Monkey Man.”
            He seemed mollified by my answer. But I’m not really sure how to read toddlers, and I know my health crisis, while not brought up too much by him, still had an effect. His pre-K teacher, also a breast cancer survivor who had had the same reconstructive procedure as me, said it seemed like frustration and tears came more easily as he attempted various tasks at school. She chalked it up to everything going on at home. And that’s the thing about cancer: It doesn’t leave your family out of it. But what I love is that he isn't ashamed of me. Hair, no hair, nipples, no nipples, he loves me for me and just wants to see the return of the old Heather  (he’s like his dad that way).
Don't you hate when women flaunt their bodies?
Since publishing my last blog, which featured my nipple-less boobs at the very end, I had gotten some passive-aggressive disapproval on my decision, which, from my perspective at least, seems really trivial. I know not everyone may agree with my choice, and that’s perfectly fine. But here’s the thing: You never know how you’re going to respond to a crisis till you’re in that position. I certainly never dreamed I’d put a picture of my boobs out there for all to see. But I think people should know why I did it.
            On a very basic level, it is for every woman out there who’s been diagnosed and emotionally/physically scarred by breast cancer.
            It is for every woman who is scared about losing her breasts and bewildered by her reconstruction choices—yes, there are options out there that can make you feel more normal in light of what cancer has taken away, and this is what one of those options looks like. In fact, get a second opinion if you’ve been told you’re not a candidate for a procedure such as DIEP flap. Shit, I had three prior abdominal surgeries and I was. My plastic surgeon has said many women are candidates, but are turned away because either the surgeon they saw doesn’t do it or doesn’t know enough about it.              
It is for every woman out there that has been made to feel that this is something she should hide. Would you tell an injured Iraq war veteran that he/she should cover that face, because, quite frankly, those facial burns freak you the hell out? No, of course not.  That would make you a colossal dick. We all carry our battle scars. Why should it matter that my scars are carried on my breasts and my abdomen? I didn’t ask for this crap. But I do want you to ask me about my scars. Then I can lecture you ad nauseam about being proactive about your health.
              It is for every woman, in general, who has been made to feel like she should cover up, that she’s not good enough to wear the swimsuit she wants or the dress she’s been coveting because she’ll be picked apart. You know what I say? Life’s too short. Rock it. It never was about your body anyway. It’s about the insecurities of others and their definitions of “appropriate” and “inappropriate.”  Work from your own dictionary (or try Webster's I Don't Give a Shit What You Think, So Blow It Out Your Ass: New World Edition).
             So, yeah, those were my boobs. You got a problem with that?
             And spring, when the hell are you getting’ here? Mama’s got some tube tops to wear.