Last week I underwent my first surgery in a series of procedures for my preventative double mastectomy. This surgery involved removal of nearly all my breast tissue and the beginning stages of my breast reconstruction process. I lost a lot that day. But now that I’m a week out and mourning the loss of my natural breasts, I realized that I actually gained so much that day.
Here’s what I gained with the loss of my breasts:
1. Two “Tissue Expanders” in my Chest
I didn’t wake up from surgery with two squishy implants in place of where my old breasts used to be. Instead, I woke up with two rock-hard tissue expanders in my chest. The expanders are basically deflated implants placed behind my pectoral muscles that over the next few weeks slowly get inflated with saline by my plastic surgeon. Unlike implants, they will be rock-hard in order to create a pocket in my muscle to make room for an implant. When the expanders get to the size I want, I’ll have another surgery and they’ll be swapped out for squishy silicone implants. I look forward to the second surgery and that my new boobs will spare awkward eye-contact with boys.
Cancer is a word that makes me shudder. It’s responsible for the death of both my parents and touched the lives of so many people I care about. A few months ago, I learned about my BRCA 1 mutation. I was mutant! Not even a cool mutant like one of the X-men or a Ninja Turtle. This “mutation” put me at an 87% risk of developing breast cancer, and my fear and powerlessness magnified. However, after I woke up from surgery, I realized I had finally done it! I took action and reduced my risk of breast cancer to less than 5%. My helplessness was replaced with a strong sense of empowerment. Now I actually feel more like one of the X-Men or even a Ninja-Turtle (if you provided me with enough pizza).
I felt like my heart grew three sizes the day of my surgery. Sort of like the Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. My parents aren’t alive, but I never felt alone throughout this scary process. My best friend escorted me to the hospital and stayed with me the whole day to get updates from the doctors throughout the surgery. She was there when I woke up and her family (which I consider my own) was there in my hospital room when it was over. After the anesthesia wore off, I read beautiful texts, emails, and tweets from both friends and complete strangers that proved to me how much love people are capable of. I’ve also had some lovely visitors since my operation that gave me so much love and support that I feel like my heart is still growing at this very moment.
Throughout this process, I’ve gained a sense of responsibility. I feel responsible to educate and inform people, especially those close to my age who may think they’re “too young” to develop cancer. The pathology report of my breast tissue showed that I had some abnormal cells that could’ve developed into suspicious cancerous cells if I didn’t remove it. I hope more women will get tested so that cancer will steal less lives. I hope more women that undergo surgeries won’t feel the need to hide or be self-conscious. I hope guys won’t be freaked out if they go out with a girl that’s had a mastectomy, that reconstructed breasts can be just as feminine and attractive. I hope that through sharing my experience, whether it be through my stand up sets or articles such as this, people will be informed and empowered to make life-changing medical decisions like the one I just made.
Now that I don’t need to wear a bra anymore, I also feel responsible to wear backless dresses.
But like my new breasts, that’s just to help me avoid awkward eye contact with boys.