Sara - Celebrating my lucky day
I will be incredibly honest...I have debated whether or not to write this post...I've actually thought about it for a month or more. The phrase that comes to mind? Let the dead dog lie. Weird, eh? But, today, I am feeling more sentimental...I also know my experience is unique when compared to many of my Flat and Fabulous sisters so I want to be sure to share my story again because I know from my interactions, some private, some in forums, there are others like me who are wondering if they are crazy or if they are truly desiring a path of deconstructing what they have spent hours, money, and lots of pain to achieve.
In case you aren't familiar with my story, this link sums it up best. But if you want to get the nitty-gritty details, there are almost seven years documented in my blog. The vast majority dealing with my realization that I have a mutated gene that significantly increased my risk of developing cancer. Breast and ovarian are two of the cancers I am at a higher risk for (up to 86% for breast, up to 47% for ovarian) and by having a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy (PBM) and complete hysterectomy/oopherectomy I lowered the risks as much as I possibly could. Some have told me over the years they thought this was dramatic, extreme. I have always said, and continue saying, until you are the one told this information and you have the family history some of my BRCA sisters and I have, I truly do not care about your judgment. It is terrifying, it can be overwhelming...and I know when I showed up for my prophylactic mastectomy on January 18, 2007, I was making a choice to live. I wanted to stop the cycle of cancer...and, thankfully, so far so good.
I wasn't really prepared for what happened in the months and years afterward. My life suddenly revolved around rebuilding what was cut out of me. And after reconstruction was finished, I shared my BRCA story, I shared my SCARs, and I truly tried to embrace the "new" me. There were aspects of my life I openly embraced - the personal growth I experienced, the new friends I made, and a sense of starting to understand what life truly is and isn't about...but...in the quiet moments, I struggled with my body. I was never truly able to embrace the mounds on my chest and it was as if they grew heavier and heavier. And, over time, I started to feel discomfort...and, over more time, I started to feel pain. And I became mentally exhausted from never being able to disconnect from the original amputation of my breasts...and I was never able to fully embrace what I saw in my reflection - a black box censored my chest.
I started entertaining the idea in my mind of having my implants removed. I am a bold and blunt person but I was unsure how to bring up the topic with my hubby who had been so incredibly supportive from the moment I decided to have my gene test submitted. I just blurted it out...and was shocked when his immediate response was that he thought it was a good idea. I became irritated and a bit angry. Who was he to take this so lightly? I became a psychoanalyst of why my husband would so quickly agree to have a wife without breasts. It was a great way to distract myself from considering what my soul was screaming in the background.
I showed up at a SCAR Project exhibit. I met one of my SCAR sisters who happened to be flat and fabulous and emotionally vomited in front of her beautiful photo. I could barely get the words out, crying, telling her what I felt and that I was so unsure if I could do this. I will never forget her kind words, her strength she loaned me and her encouragement that I would be okay.
Ironically, I was "celebrating" my five year "boobiversary" - the five year mark from my PBM and having sushi with my "bestie". I told her I had met with my plastic surgeon to discuss implant extraction. You can read about that experience here...I'll sum it up by saying, it didn't go at all like I had intended. I have been asked many times over the last couple years about this relationship - no, it has never been mended...because of who I am, I still find it incredibly awkward when I see her (I live in a small town) but I don't hold any hard feelings toward her. She has her own demons and I have been able to find peace in realizing that her lashing out at me is a reflection of her, not me. And, quite frankly, I am incredibly thankful...which, of course, makes me laugh when I write that...hey, thanks for being a sh*tty friend! But, in reality, what she gave me was a bitch slap into the cold hard reality that times hadn't changed, making this decision wasn't going to be much different than when I chose my PBM, and was I sure about what I was about to do. It made me pause and in that pause, I finally wrestled with what I was feeling beyond the physical pain and determining what path was the right path for me.
It took me almost a year to move forward.
So, when I showed up to my pre-surgery appointment, I could laugh when my plastic surgeon asked me what took so long to schedule - he knew when I had first approached him it was the right choice for me, he could see what was in my heart. It took me an additional year of muddling through my own baggage, my insecurities, and my desire to never have to have another breast surgery again. And when I showed up for surgery, there were tears rolling down my cheeks but I never once questioned my decision, much like my PBM, but this time...I wasn't choosing something to outrun cancer, I was choosing to embrace me.
And that has been an incredible gift -
I woke up from my surgery pain free and I was surprised by what else I experienced. The black box censoring my reflection was gone...my daily reminder of my amputation, gone. I found myself not thinking of BRCA or my PBM daily and it is amazing. I truly found my path to healing by simply embracing who I am - and who I am is someone who had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy. I donated my breast tissue so I will hopefully never hear a doctor tell me I have breast cancer.
This is my story...in no way do I oppose women having reconstruction. In fact, I think my story as a whole shows that, in life, we have many opportunities to change our course. I often tell women who are struggling over whether or not to reconstruct my story as evidence that you are not "stuck" with a choice, many of life's choices can be revisited.
So, while I dubbed 12/12/12 my lucky day because I chose to become Flat & Fabulous, the bigger picture of what happened on that day is that I took a deep breath and whole-heartedly followed my spirit. I stopped listening to the outside noise and turned within and truly listened to what my soul was trying to say.
This has been so incredibly important in the "life" that has followed - I sometimes have no better answer to someone asking me why I chose the path I'm on other than I listened to my gut, my instinct. And I don't really know why but, even today, it amazes me every.single.time I am shown it was the exact direction I needed to go. It has aided my physical body in finding healing, my spiritual body in finding peace.
So, I hope beyond a message of how I came to be flat and fabulous, you hear me encouraging you - find a quiet place, find some quiet time and get back in touch with yourself. Life is incredibly chaotic, there are a million and one priorities screaming your name...I promise, they will be there when you get back...take some time to truly listen to what your soul is telling you and start to learn to listen. Truly learn to embrace you, all of you. Much love~Sara