Lately I hear those words in my head a lot – “Did I do that?” Usually, I have this scenario in mind: I’m at the doctor – any doctor (my PCP, rheumatologist, etc). I step on the scale, which shows I have lost almost 20 pounds since my last visit. The nurse comments – the nurse always comments (in the scenario and in real life) – “Wow, you lost some weight. Good for you.” And I say the words, “I had a mastectomy.” And the nurse of course either looks at me with pity or looks down at my chart to make some notes.
Thirty-six year old women should not be saying the words “I had a mastectomy.” Really, no one should be saying it, but truthfully, I do think of it as something that happens to old ladies, like 70s or 80s old.
The other thing is that I had been planning this mastectomy for seven years, which is another way of saying – I’ve been putting off this mastectomy for seven years. I think part of me didn’t believe the day would ever really come. But it did. I had a mastectomy. When I cup my hand around my new ‘breast,’ I am not shocked by how it feels (I’m used to it by now) but I am shocked that it’s not my old breast. I’m shocked that I actually went through the procedure I’d been planning (a pause – I was thinking of saying “dreading” instead of planning, but I really wasn’t dreading it) for so long. I’m sort of shocked, I guess, that it’s over (well, this part is over).
There are women who say that after they give birth, they miss being pregnant. They feel a loss because they’re no longer attached to their baby in the same way. For nine months, they’d gotten used to sharing a body with their child and were content that way. I guess for me, for seven years I’d been used to the idea that I was going to have a mastectomy and I was content too. But now that I have done it, there is a strange loss there – not the loss of my breasts, but the loss of the mastectomy looming ahead in my future; I’ve lost the anticipation, I suppose. You’d think that would be a good thing, but it’s strangely a hard thing to come to terms with. I guess it’s like any time you jump in, take a plunge, face a challenge head on – when it’s over, even though you can see the physical results, you still can’t help but ask yourself, “Did I do that?”