Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Bandages Went Out With The Drains...

This post is a bit raw but it is real...
When the bandages go, it's all there to see. I had my first look at my breast in the hospital. Dr. Weiss told me I didn't have to look, and that many women don't. But I needed to see. And it was ok. I was quite settled with what I saw. He did what checking he needed to, and then placed more bandages on. I was still able to look down into the bandages from time to time, and still was quite settled with not having a breast.

Yesterday, Dr. Weiss took the bandages off, and did not put them back on. The stitches and steri-strips are still there, but the view is pretty clear.

I took a good look in the mirror in my bathroom here at home. It's different looking straight on. My breast is gone. It's no longer part of me in this life. And now it's up to me to interpret what that means. There isn't just one way to see it.

I've been told that a woman just shouldn't have to loose a breast. I agree it is part of who she is, part of what defines her as a woman. It has a role and purpose. But the woman is more than a breast. I have not changed who I am or become less than I am. I am a woman, as strong and gentle as I have ever been...and yet more refined because I have lost that part of what defines me. For I must define me now, even if it is only to restate that I am what I have always been.

A woman's breast does have purpose, four actually, that help her to fulfill her role and define who she is. The first, if the woman is in child bearing years, is to nourish. I have held four babies to my breast. I have heard their sweet suckling sounds and felt their soft little hands pat my skin as they gently fall off to sleep, a little trickle of milk drips from their smiling lips as they begin to dream. This purpose my breasts have fulfilled and I am left with sweet memories. The second purpose is the intimacy between husband and wife. I have felt this touch too personal to share, too defining not to mention. The third purpose, is for me, or the woman herself. All that I love, all the emotions are symbolically felt within my breast. When I hug, it is at my breast. When I am patriotic, my hand is at my breast. When I am scared, the feeling is there. And even when I breath is at my breast that I see the movement. And last and fourth purpose is for all who see me, or all who see woman. Women have two breast. Society expects that, to be otherwise would be wrong, uncomfortable, embarrassing.

But now, I have had a mastectomy. Only a part of me fits the four purposes. The other half is gone. Taken away by cancer. What is left is stitched back together, deep purple and black, scarred and sore. What beauty and purpose are left to be found? I look in the mirror and I am hurt by what I see. Tears fall from my eyes, touching the skin that was once soft and pink and beautiful. Is there anything left to be loved? Anything left to behold?

Loss is part of life. Sometimes it is taken away, sometimes we let it go. With every loss there is a void, with every void comes something to replace it. It is our choice what to replace it with. It is my choice what to replace my breast with. Physically, the only purpose that requires a replacement is the fourth and last purpose...all who see me. As long as there is a form there to make a breast, society is appeased and all must be well. But all is not well unless I choose to fill the void emotionally, spiritually.

I look in the mirror and see a body, scarred by life. Wounded in the battle to spare my life. This is my battle scar. And to me, it has it's beauty. It has a new purpose. My breast as I have it now is a symbol of the strength and courage that are part of my daily life. It is a symbol of my Faith. The bandages went out with my drains, the battle scar stayed with me. My breast is gone, I am still a woman, and I am still beautiful, for I have defined my beauty.


  1. Jennifer,
    You never seem to amaze me in your faith and strength of your trial. This was very hard for me to read, but put life into a wonderful prospective.

    hugs & kisses always

  2. Dear, beautiful Jennifer...

    Your words are deep and true and touching. You make me cry with empathy for you and you make me remember battle scars of my own.

    I remember looking at other women following a pre-mature hysterectomy at age 28, before I'd had an opportunity to become a mother and thinking, "You're normal and I'm not."

    But I, for sure, lacked the maturity, the wisdom, and the faith that are such a vital part of who you are. You are more than "normal" and I love the way you've defined yourself. You are able to express thoughts and feelings and to say things that many of us feel but don't know how to communicate.

    There is no doubt in my mind that you are lighting a pathway that many of us will someday follow. Perhaps not in exactly the same steps as you--through the same ordeal--but there will be many of us who will think of your elegant, graceful way of coping as we face our own trials. We will be strengthened and buoyed up with thoughts of your courageous example.

    Thank you for letting us share this very personal battle that you wage and for always, always letting us see your faith, love and devotion. You are truly a daughter of God.

    We love you. We are praying for you and we are cheering you on! And by any definition, the part of you that I see is more beautiful than ever!

    I <3 you! Teresa

  3. This is for other "followers" who are having trouble posting a comment.

    I've tried unsuccessfully before tonight to leave comments, but tonight I had time to try to do it until I was successful. (I just barely read the tip from Jennifer in the sub-heading AFTER I posted...)

    THIS is what I did: (I put my name on my post--JUST IN CASE I got lucky and found a selection that would go through without a URL.)

    Then, eventually, I selected "Name/URL" and typed my name in.

    From another window, where I'd opened my facebook page, I copied the URL (the address bar on the top of the page) and pasted it on the appropriate "Name/URL" blank. Somewhere along here, you can preview your message and edit it if you want.

    Press "post" (or "enter" or whatever...!) and it will take you to another page with blue funny looking letters and a blank box.

    I had to type in the funky characters in the next box and then pressed "Post comment" and my comment was posted!

    Good luck, everyone! Let's let Jennifer see that we're here and that we care!

  4. I wish your post could be shared with all women. It was beautiful. I don't know if I could do this like you. I guess we never know until God asks us. I'll continue to pray for you and your family.

  5. Your words are beautiful, your strength and courage are amazing. What a special young woman you are. I feel very honored to be able to read your postings.
    I wish you the very best as you begin another part of this journey.
    Your grandparents, my aunt and uncle, would be so proud of you-they are not far and they are watching over you every step of the way.
    My prayers are with you and all your family. Love-LeeAnn Branson Manning

  6. Jennifer,

    I was just made aware of your battle...your blogs are amazing. You are an amazing and inspiring woman. You and your family are in my prayers...

    Jeannine (Madsen) Decious

  7. Jen,
    You fill me with such hope. What an example you are in your battle. The grace with which you handle it inspires me to be better handling my own. I want you to know that your example has influenced my path.
    Love you, your trial sista

  8. Jen,
    You are inspiring. I want you to know that the grace with which you have handle this gives me hope. Your strength has influenced my path. Love You!


Blog comments tip: I realized there was a setting to make it easier to leave a comment. If you have had problems, give it a new try. Select "anonymous" from the drop down menu after your comment (and REMEMBER TO LEAVE YOUR NAME!) Your comments help keep me going!