The first stage of the rebuilding effort is nearly complete. Every week for the last seven weeks, my plastic surgeon has injected saline into the tissue expanders she placed under my muscles during the operation. Each expander now contains 275ml of fluid, and I’m the equivalent of a 36C. Normally the second surgery, whereby the expanders are removed and replaced with the real implant, would occur about six weeks later. But because radiotherapy is on the cards, stage two is going to have to wait for the skin to recover. Which could be a long time.
Friends are starting to ask how I feel about them. My response is “I’m pleased I can wear my normal clothes.” This is a real benefit, I know, as is the fact they’re technically excellent. But in truth, at best I feel ambivalent and at worst I am disappointed by all they bring to mind.
The relationship with my real breasts started to die on that ordinary Monday afternoon when I learnt of their treachery. Things took a turn for the worse when I held a fake breast in my hand, and joined a discussion with the surgeon about the Turkish delight consistency while a large part of my consciousness drifted out of my body. Then it suffered a further blow when I Googled “post mastectomy reconstruction” and couldn’t click on the image tab for three days. Of course, the relationship perished entirely when the nerves and flesh got scooped out on another otherwise ordinary Monday.
Any sort of relationship with the reconstructed area was bound to be complex. For a start, and this is obvious by now, I’m not at all comfortable calling them breasts, because they are so vastly different to what breasts are or should be. They are high and hard and get in the way when I reach my armpits in the shower. There is a three finger-wide gap between them and no amount of forcing together can close this gap.
The scars are located under the right (preventatively removed) breast and along the middle of the nipple-less left breast. Day and night, these unnatural creations are contained in a matronly post mastectomy bra, which does up at the front via eight hooks and eyes.
When I lie on my side, they stay where the are. But when I stay on my side too long, I wake in the night with a cramp, the kind where I’m torn between staying still with known discomfort, or shifting and meeting brief but severe pain. I will also occasionally get a twinge in the spot where the cancer was, which is spooky, but if this is anything it’ll be met by freakin’ lasers in the very near future.
Otherwise they are inert. I cannot feel anything when I press them. They don’t react to the cold or the touch. I am happy to show them to curious friends, and don’t mind if they’re pressed or pressed against. Like an elbow, they have no association with the erotic and so are not something to be precious or private about. Still I’m stopping short of posting a picture because I appreciate these are my hang ups and others will feel differently.
Friends say “They look incredible!” and I agree. They are incredible. Not real. And of course, I don’t need Google to show me what they look like.
I hate Turkish delight.