As I work to chronicle my journey, it has taken quite some time to be able to craft words around the last seven weeks. As described in my last post, October 31st was what I hoped to be, the last step to the new me. I had moved past all of the angst and upset of a leaking expander to a place of optimism to face what I thought was the end of the journey.
October 31st came and went with relative ease; the actual exchange was complete with little complication. Home and settled and ready to heal for the last time, it was time for the binding to be pulled away to view the final product. Prior to the exchange I anticipated a symmetrical, reasonably normal outcome. That is, I expected to pull back the binding and see a replacement that looked like what had been removed.
But then the tears fell, hard…so hard that I can’t even recall who was with me in that moment. Like a scene from a movie where there is a darkened shadow around a character where you only hear voices speaking to them, no source of the voices to be seen. “They said this doesn’t have to be the final product…they said you aren’t done,” said the voice. NOT DONE. And I cried more. I looked in the mirror at NOT DONE. Extra skin and asymmetry, simply incomplete.
The next week brought the post operative visit to the surgeon. Anger, disappointment, and fear all were unleashed, “THIS ISN’T WHAT YOU PROMISED!!” I said through another onslaught of sobbing disappointment. To this day, I am still not certain what happened during that surgery that caused me to emerge as defective. So another, third, surgery was scheduled to again try to complete the reconstruction process. Life went on, the tears subsided, and the image in the mirror became tolerable; it was a short-term problem.
In the interim, I returned to work, again. The return was again filled with kindness and well wishes from those that surround me. Days passed and it was time again for an oncology visit. I hadn’t seen this particular doctor since we made the decision to have the mastectomy. He greeted me with his sweet hello and we talked. He said, “My you look well! How are you?” I replied with my standard, “I’m doing fine, thank you for asking.” He paused, looked at me, and said, “No, how are you?” and pointed ever so softly to my head. And the tears fell again as we talked about the internal wounds that were still very raw and deeply hidden. He talked that day about the healing that needed to occur inside, that the hidden wounds were the most difficult to mend.
Since that day I have worked to mentally prepare for the next step, and the outcome therein. Recently, I shared with a friend that I was afraid, that I needed to hear that everything was going to be ok. But that’s not what my friend said. Instead, I heard, “I don’t know that everything is going to be ok. What I do know is that you have shown a great deal of strength and resilience through some incredible challenges and you continue to push forward. What I do know is that you will one day feel whole again.”
It was those words that pushed me to this space that is so vital to healing my internal wounds. A space where I sit in silence, reflect, and try to make sense of my world. A space where words are crafted to unpack emotion, to mourn the loss of my former self, and to begin to not only tell the world, but myself, not that everything is going to be ok, but that the journey continues and I will one day feel whole again.