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 life...it 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.