My dad is working on a writing project and needs a picture of my mom. I pulled some photos out of my albums a couple of weeks ago and they’ve become a fixture on my desk ever since. Right now I’m sitting at my desk with the pile. I enjoy looking through them, which I seem to do multiple times a day. I like remembering the moments that they captured- a Cape Cod vacation in the mid-80s, my 16th birthday, my favorite picture of my parents taken Valentines Day weekend in 2001, a picture from the first museum exhibition I curated, homecoming my senior year of high school, and one from my 22nd birthday. The one from my 22nd birthday makes my heart heavy. That birthday party (my mom always threw me a party) was exceptionally fun. My family and best friends from growing up, from high school and from college were all together. As was the case with most of our parties, those friends brought some of their friends- the more was indeed the merrier. We had pizza, my favorite cake and wine. My grandma posed with all my guy friends and instead of saying “cheese” called out “say SEX!” It was my last birthday we would celebrate when mom was well; my last truly happy birthday. A few days later she started having double vision and a few weeks after that she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. When I look at this photo, which is of my mom and Carleen laughing, I am reminded to not take a moment of my life for granted. I wish that I had appreciated that day even more than I already did.
So, in the spirit of living each and every moment to it’s fullest and appreciating how much I was loved and am loved still, here is my last post.
In October I had a third surgery to try and fix some of my cosmetic concerns. The plan, in the weeks leading up to surgery, was that I would have some fat removed and put into the recessed spot between my ribs and the top of the implants to soften the line. I met with Dr. Hazen the day before the surgery to talk specifics. As much as I love the idea of having my fat removed from my muffin tops and transplanted to my boobs, practically it didn’t seem like a walk in the park- having my incisions opened up again and having new ones on both my sides. During my appointment I asked if perhaps different shaped/sized implants would be an easier fix with a more controlled outcome. Dr. Hazen agreed that swapping out the implants was a good option.
The day of the surgery there were LOTS of people in the OR. More than I was used to. NYU is a teaching hospital, so there have always been “extra” doctors and students around. For this procedure there were two residents with anesthesia and three with plastic surgery in addition to Dr. Hazen, the anesthesiologist, and four nurses. When I laid down on the table there were many busy hands all over me- my IV was started, leads were placed, compression wraps were put on my legs, my arms were strapped down out at my sides, an oxygen mask was put over my face, someone held my hand and told me to count backwards from ten. This was the first and only moment during this entire process that I remember feeling overwhelmed or uncomfortable at all. (I’m including that for myself, so I remember what it felt like and that it turned out ok!). At my follow up, which Dr. Hazen did for me in Providence (have I mentioned how amazing she is?!?!!) she told me that they tried a few different sizes and shapes of implants before settling on the ones I have now. What they did was place some implants in my chest, prop me up and then vote on if they looked right. Apparently there was some disagreement, but Dr. Hazen called rank! Funny? Gross? Weird? I’m not sure, but I like knowing that’s how it went down.
Everything went smoothly and they do look much better. These implants look more like they’re part of my body and less like foreign objects floating around under my skin. They’re still kind of weird. But! I’m kind of weird too. I don’t think about them all that often, other than when they’re making me really cold- an odd side effect of this procedure. There isn’t much vascular tissue over the implants so they get cold and then stay cold. I’m hoping to design a prototype for a heated bra. For now, glove warmers work well.
Since the new year I have been working out regularly without pain or issue. I’m doing yoga and running (more like jogging slowly) and am thinking about starting CrossFit this week. My energy levels are creeping back towards normal after a solid year of feeling unlike myself.
I’m sure as time goes on I will have days where I feel deformed or ugly or unnatural, but I do not regret my choice. I feel an emotional freedom that I can’t remember having since I was a teenager. I am lighter and happier and, if I may be so bold, a better person. Perhaps the most important thing I learned from this is something I came to while reflecting on the recent death of yet another dear friend’s mother: we can only treat people as well as we treat ourselves. Removing my breasts was something that I did entirely for myself. I want to live as long as possible, I don’t want to think about breast cancer, I want to see my kids grow up, I want to be here to be the kind of friend that you all have been to me. I made selfish choices to accommodate this surgery. I took food, money, time, childcare, rides, advice and support freely. Thank you for letting me take almost an entire year for myself. I genuinely appreciate the remarkable amount of support I’ve gotten, the new and renewed friendships that have come from this, and the experience of being truly and utterly vulnerable. The process of opening myself up, sharing my feelings, and accepting help has been one that I will never forget.
I love you all dearly and am honored that you’ve taken the time to follow me on this strange journey.