Deciding something and actually doing it are two very different things.
I have been completely consumed with making this decision for more than a month. I've blogged about it ad nauseam. I know intellectually mastectomy is most likely the wisest choice for me with my particular set of medical circumstances.
And yet...I am still having trouble letting my breast go.
I wrote in my previous post, "I am as at peace with my decision as one could be under the circumstances." Truthfully, I had hoped to be more resigned once I chose. But whenever I try and picture myself going to the hospital on the day of my surgery, everything in me is screaming, "NOOOOOOO!!!" A big part of me just can't imagine going through with this. I keep searching my mind in vain for another option. Words echo in my head like, "there has to be another way"...There are many moments I simply cannot wrap my brain around any of this.
I do think the breast mound, as they call it, will probably end up looking pretty good eventually. Although the surgery in my case will be particularly brutal (we're talking about 8 hours) and recovery will be long and arduous, I know pain passes and I will heal. Cancer-wise there is alot to deal with yet, still a bunch of unknown factors to be revealed. But these are bridges to be crossed when I get there. So, what's causing me the panic, the dread, the ultimate terrifying fear?
Of course I'm sure it comes as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog that what is causing me the most anguish about the whole thing is losing my nipple. I mean, really -- it's all about that damn nipple with me and has been from the start.
So, in order to get my feelings out and face them, you, dear reader, are coming along (if I haven't lost you already). To start with, let's talk sex. I mean, that's what this is about at the heart of the matter. We're all grown-ups here (hopefully). Oh, and get ready for a wee bit of TMI for those of you who fall on the prudish side of fence.
Michael and I have an absolutely lovely sex life. True, frequency is a challenge since we've had kids. But let's get real, find me any couple with little kids in a small house and I'll show you folks that are not swinging from the chandelier as often as they did before the babies came. However when we do have sex, it is...amazing. There, I said it. I'm not bragging, just sayin' (and right now my husband is reading this and dying a thousand deaths of embarrassment.) Truly, we have really great sex and I particularly enjoy my breasts in the process. Both of them. Alot.
What I'm getting at here is that this feels like an almost insurmountable loss...like something fundamental to who I am as a woman and who we are together as a couple is going to disappear under a surgeon's scalpel. A significant part of what makes me feel sexy and desirable will be ripped away forever and I am deeply mourning and rebelling against it all at the same time. I can't think about losing my nipple for more than a few minutes without wanting to cry my eyes out and dive into a bottle of Xanax.
Michael will love me no matter what, I know that. He will find me sexy no matter what. I know that too. But half of the equation of good sex is how you feel about yourself. Will I ever feel sexy or desirable again?
I want to have my nipple and my breast too. But I can't and that's not fair. Cancer has robbed me of them like a thief in the night. And the only thing that keeps me moving forward and actually going through with this mastectomy is that I somehow on some level do believe that if I don't give cancer my breast it will take my life.
As I write these words I realize maybe it comes down to this: I am trading a nipple for my life, for my kids to have a mother and my husband to have his wife, his lover. I am trading my former breast for a future with my family, not to mention the chance to pursue my own deep passions, my personal dreams...like writing poetry or that novel temporarily getting dusty right now.
I guess that's how I will have to try and think about this. It may be the ONLY way I can go thru with this. Yet even put into those terms I can't say it's a small price to pay -- it feels like a colossal, exorbitant and extreme price. But I'll pay it...only because I have no choice.
And that had better be it, God dammit! Because enough is enough.