I don’t like my boobs. A year since my mastectomy and five months since reconstruction surgery and I’m still trying to embrace my new lady lumps.
Before I got cancer (BC), I’ll admit to having a curiosity around having my boobs done. Breast feeding two boys and weight loss and gain had left my breasts smaller, low and droopy. So every once in a while I’d have a fantasy about getting them done, and in that fantasy I’d imagine my breasts the way they were in my twenties- not porn star boobs, just nice, full, healthy looking breasts.
So learning I would need a double mastectomy after my cancer diagnosis was something I took in stride. Everyone kept pointing out that one of the perks (ha!) is that it would eventually lead to that boob job I’d been imagining. True, I got the boob job, but it certainly didn’t turn out the way I’d imagined.
OK, let me back up a bit. BC, I didn’t understand the whole mastectomy thing. I thought that the surgery entailed chopping everything off. In fact, that’s how I refered to the surgery before I had it done. They were going to chop off my boobs. I’d seen images of women, art pieces, of what a chest looks like after a mastectomy. So after the surgery, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my breasts didn’t look a whole lot different. I was lucky because my doctors were able to save my nipples, so basically after the surgery my boobs just looked like they’d been deflated, like they were balloons whose air had been let out. They had lots of scars and bruises, but mostly they looked like my breasts minus any content. So they weren’t cut off so much as emptied out. Months later, the temporary expanders were removed and I received my implants, so I filled back up.
But I’ve learned that there’s a big difference between having your boobs done by choice and by necessity.
First of all, I can not feel my breasts. At. All. If my eyes were closed and someone came over and started touching my breasts, I’d have no idea whatsoever. And I guess I wasn’t prepared for that. So for me, it feels more like I’ve had an amputation with artificial replacements than an enhancement or reconstruction. I sometimes get phantom pains which I’ve read is common with amputees. And sometimes they itch, which is so weird because I can’t feel anything, so why would it itch? I’ve been told this is the nerve endings trying to repair themselves, but there’s nothing to repair because there’s nothing in my breasts except the implants. Bottom line- I will never get sensation back in my breasts. Ever.
So I find myself mourning my breasts for a couple of reasons. First, my breasts were a big part of my sex life. Boob play was high on our foreplay list. It was a great erotic zone for me and I enjoyed the arousal that they provided. And now it’s gone. Gone. Grrrrrr…..
I also mourn the way they looked and felt. I mean, if the purpose of the reconstruction was to ensure natural female curves, then this was a success. But naked- they just don’t look right to me. Since my breasts were so saggy before the surgery, I was told I’d have to go up several sizes from my BC size to fill them completely. I had no interest in having really large boobs. So I opted for the implants that were close to my size. As a result, my new breasts have lots of dimples in them. It’s a hard thing to describe because it’s an unnatural look and not anything I’d seen before in real breasts. And of course their shape is different because now they’re shaped like the implants. They’re rounder now instead of longer, if that makes sense. And they feel like a cross between the texture of slime (you know, the kind that the kids make) and that magic clay stuff that you can squeeze and re-shape. Definitely different feeling. Round, indented, silly putty squishy boobs.
And then there’s other little things, like they’re always nippy- day or night, hot or cold. Nippy. And sometimes my breasts are cold when the rest of my body is warm- because they’re not real and they retain the cool if it’s cold outside. So I’ll surprise myself when my arm brushes against them and they’re cold! And when I lay on my stomach, I feel like I’ve got pillows propping me up where my chest is. I just wasn’t prepared for any of that.
And did I mention that my health insurance deemed my reconstruction medically unnecessary? They approved having my expanders placed and removed, but nothing else done. Ahh… the world of insurance. Five months later, I’m still appealing this decision. Just another annoyance around these new appendages.
So yeh, I miss my old boobs. If I had known all of this before the reconstruction, I’m not sure I would’ve opted to get implants. Yes, I’d be flat and that would present a whole slew of other thoughts and feelings, but I’m not sure they would be worse than what I’m experiencing now.
But like everything, I hope that over time I come to a better place of appreciation and acceptance. This is just another step in processing what I experienced over the past year. Because when I strip it all down, I really am still grateful. I’m grateful to be alive. And I know that eventually I’ll be able to embrace these boobs of mine- dimples and all.