Inside Out

Tomorrow marks my first day back at my regular day job after nine weeks off work. There is a vulnerable and tentative part of me that feels I may be jumping the gun by heading back so soon. The part of me I want to flourish – my brave and healthy self – is urging me to put on my big girl panties and forge ahead. For the sake of balance, I’m trying to listen to both of these voices.

It’s taken me a bit longer to heal because I’d had previous radiation on each of my breasts. As a result, I still have a dime sized hole on my upper right chest that has taken its time to cooperate and heal. Because I have not healed sufficiently, although I had a fitting last week, I cannot wear my breast forms yet, so going back to work before I’ve been able to complete this transformation is adding somewhat to my angst.

Today, I frantically dug through my closet to find the padded cotton forms that came with my wonderful Amoena camisoles, because I know that at the very least, these will provide me with the ability to have a silhouette.

Over the past few weeks I’ve discovered that clothes I previously wore don’t necessarily work for me right now. For the most part, this is a temporary problem, but when contemplating my return to work, it feels a bit more significant. Frankly, I’d be happy just wearing a tee shirt or camisole without adding any embellishments. My desire for disguise is more for the comfort of my co-workers. Let’s just say, the old “look at my eyes” has taken on a completely new meaning for sure!

One of the quips I’ve heard repeatedly whenever I find myself in a doctor/patient situation is “Remember, you heal from the inside out.” Last week I told my doctor my insides must be really far removed from my outsides (no surprises there, I fear!)

What I’m noticing is there is as much emotional healing (perhaps more) than physical. I’ve been blessed over the years to have interviewed hundreds of women who have either dealt with breast cancer, work as fitters or in the healthcare community, so at least the possible ups and downs haven’t been a complete surprise. However, I don’t think there is any amount of knowledge to absolutely prepare anyone for how she will feel after losing her breast(s).

Now, more than two months post-surgery, I’m still not sure I’ve managed to deal with the reality of my situation. So far, I don’t feel like any less of a woman, but I most certainly feel violated, and how could I not?

I remember distinctly listening to women share their stories about mastectomy, fittings, possible reconstruction, etc., etc. and feeling amazed and perplexed that we don’t have less invasive and life shattering/altering choices.

The only thing that’s changed is now I’m no longer on the outside looking in.

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