Starter Boobs: Self-Image After Surgery
Recently, someone liked a new tank top I added to my Etsy shop -- Starter Boobs. I got excited because she confirmed that someone else appreciated my sense of humor. I clicked on her profile and saw she had also liked mastectomy pillow sets in cool patterns.
Then, my heart kind of sank.
I was instantly reminded that she was either preparing for the next step on her breast cancer journey or she was helping someone close to her prepare for theirs.
Recovering physically and emotionally from my bi-lateral mastectomy is the hardest thing I've ever done.
My tissue expanders felt like a metal tube top squeezing the air out of my lungs. Every movement hurt and I needed help to do basic things like bathe and use the bathroom for weeks.
I felt like a broken doll and I was terrified to see my "breasts."
My muscles were so tense my shoulders were tilted. Chest covered in bandages. Breast held together at the seams with glue that smelled horrible. Drains coming from both sides of my chest.
What had they done to me?
It was hard to have a piece of my body taken from me and be given placeholders in exchange. A woman's breasts are a source of pleasure and nurturing. These things feel nothing and are filled with plastic and saline.
I was scrolling through a breast cancer Facebook group and saw one of the women refer to her breasts as "Franken-boobs."
Well, that pretty much summed up I how I felt. So, I adopted the term.
One day, I was discussing my "Franken-boobs" with Souers and he politely turned to me and said, "Can you please stop calling them that? It has kind of a bad sound to it."
I didn't notice it until he said something, but I was reinforcing the idea of being damaged every time I used that phrase to describe my body.
Every couple of weeks, we would go to get my tissue expanders filled with more saline to stretch the muscle and the skin for the implants. With every fill, the stretch would trigger muscle spasms and back pain to the point that I had to medicate hours before and at least 24 hours after the fill.
The end result of my expansion was beautiful, though. My plastic surgeon did a wonderful job. It was just a painful process that forced me to get comfortable with the unknown as my body changed week to week.
Needless to say, Souers was instrumental in helping me rebuild my self-esteem and accept my new body. He remained affectionate throughout treatment and didn't stare or act scared when it was time to change bandages or apply creams. His positive response allowed me to deal with how I felt about my new body without worrying about whether or not he found me attractive.
So, I began calling my reconstructed breasts "Starter Boobs." They aren't the finish line; they're just the beginning of the race. And it's also a nice reminder to be kind to myself.