I write because there is some woman, somewhere, who will, unbeknownst to her at this moment, have to navigate a journey similar to mine. That woman is likely to feel afraid, alone, and wonder “why me?” For that woman, I want these words to be here, waiting for her to find, to comfort her soul, and to know that each step of the journey will bring challenges you think you won’t be able to withstand and celebrations because you’ve made it further than you ever thought possible.
Having settled into a place of emotional peace, I was prepared for, what I hoped to be, the final step of this ordeal: exchange surgery. I was well planned (selected the date that fit so very well into the schedule of life) and mentally prepared to move forward; November 16th was right around the corner.
Saturday morning I woke with little pain, which was surprising since the afternoon before I had received my final “fill” that is usually accompanied by days of aching. Since touching my would-be breasts to ensure they are still there and nothing was wrong was now commonplace, I investigated to find the unexpected: instead of the rock-hard texture of freshly expanded skin, I found soft, malleable flesh. I knew immediately my expander had failed and the saline was slowly leaking into my body.
To describe this moment as terrifying is an understatement. The panic, the worry, the breakdown that came with this moment….the mere possibility of having to start the process again brought me to my knees in tears.
Fortunately, after a call to the doctor where her concern was minimal and best summed up with “this happens, not often, but it happens”, some of the panic subsided enough that I was able to spend the day with friends, keeping my worry contained inside, with only the occasional “volume check”.
The “unexpected” drew out emotions I believe I had been fortunate to miss following my mastectomy; the feeling of loss of femininity and panic that I’d never feel whole again. I’ve watched my volume decrease and felt my anxiety increase with each escaping milliliter; the hope that this too shall pass.
It’s time to go to work today. The easy road would be to stay home today until I can see the doctor again. But for those who haven’t had the luxury of being reconstructed, I’m showering, dressing, (albeit in a very baggy top) and heading out to face the day.
My journey is a constant reminder that life can change in a moment. Love hard, feel deeply, and embrace all you can. Tomorrow may come but isn’t promised, and even if it does may hold the fight of your life.