Physically I am all healed but if I don’t do stretches, I tend to close up and my shoulders hunch forward. Stretches and a monthly mastectomy massage keep my range of motion open. Easy. I still feel like I have a strip of duct tape across my chest. I am told this is because the scars have adhered to the muscle underneath so when I move, the skin pulls. I've gotten used to it and don’t really notice unless I think about it.
Most of the emotional issues have faded although I occasionally have a sense of loss and feel a sadness around that.
And there are some real pluses to having no breasts -
- No more mammograms.
- No more wrestling out of sweaty sports bras.
- No need to ever wear a bra.
- No bounce when exercising.
- Incentive to keep the gut in check since having a flat chest really accentuates the belly. (Think men with beer bellies)
-No embarrassing hard nipple issues when cold.
- Backpacks, which are generally designed for men, are much more comfortable to carry.
- Sleeping on my stomach is much more comfortable.
- I now have the same body as Angelina Jolie. Okay, maybe not.
I was left with two serious problems I had not anticipated. One is clothing. Although I did buy prosthetic boobs I did not like the feel of them. And when it got warm they were like heavy, sweaty rubber clinging to me. I gave up wearing them after about a month. Which was fine. I don’t mind the flatness. What I do mind is the lumpiness.
My summer wardrobe was basically V-neck t-shirts for work and tanks for outside of work. Dark colors I can still wear, and things with patterns or stripes. But your basic white T, or anything light colored, shows every lump and bump which bothers me. Perhaps more than it should. But how does a lesbian survive without a basic white beater? I am still struggling with it.
The other major problem was sex. Frankly sex went to the back burner for a long time after the surgery because I couldn't move very well and my chest was very sore. Then I had the second surgery and radiation, and again, being touched in any significant way was difficult. Fortunately Martha was very understanding and patient. But once I was fully physically healed, I found I was no longer enjoying sex. Frankly, I had gotten a lot of sexual pleasure from my breasts and wow, I really missed them. So we began kind of trying to have sex, having rather one sided sex, or just giving up. And I started to get really sad about it. For the first time the reality of the mastectomy hit me. This was forever. Even if I opted for reconstruction, the nerves were gone, the sexual pleasure would never return.
Although Martha was never much of an emotional support when it came to the cancer (if fact, she couldn't talk about it at all) she was/is a rock when it comes to the physical stuff. She took care of all my physical and hygiene needs after my surgeries, she took over all my chores, etc. And when she saw that sex was becoming a problem for me, she simply said “Maybe this is like when someone loses their sight - then their hearing gets better. Maybe you will develop other erogenous areas that will compensate.” Together we set off to find them. And find some we did. It’s not the same, but it’s okay.
A year and a half later. I know a lot of people think I just breezed through this mastectomy. And perhaps in some ways I did. One of the benefits of having something very physically and emotionally traumatic happen in my past is that everything else pales in comparison. “Is this as bad as that?” Nope. Okay, I can deal with it.
But in other ways I think I am just beginning to mourn. And adjust to the changes. Sex is definitely getting better thanks to a very patient and giving partner. Clothing is still a problem. So much so that I am thinking about doing some kind of reconstruction. I really don’t want non-feeling breasts but perhaps some small implants that will at least stretch out the lumps and bumps. I don’t know, I really don’t want to go through another surgery for a long while.
So that's where I'm at. Physically good. Sometimes a little sad. Sex and wardrobe challenged. Definitely boobless. But dealing with it. Day by day.