In the month+ since I’ve been diagnosed, I hadn’t met anyone that had breast cancer before. Lots of people that knew people, but no one that had actually experienced it themselves. So my sister, who’s coworker had it ten years ago, set us up to meet and discuss all things nipples and scars over a glass of wine (or two).
It was extremely helpful to speak with her. And one of the things that I realized is how very personal each person’s story is. You may think that you have a similar situation, but there are so many different ways to do this thing and you have to pick the one that is best for you. It’s hard, particularly for me as I may be one of the most indecisive people in existence. I want to know the best way. I want someone to tell me the best way. But I’m the only one that can decide that.
Lin’s coworker had a single mastectomy with reconstruction. No chemo, no radiation, no tamoxifin (the drug you’re supposed to be on for ten years afterwards). She had done the DIEP flap transfer, where they take tissue from your stomach and use it to reconstruct your boob. I felt like a royal asshole because when she showed me her scar, I burst into tears. I realized I hadn’t done a lick of research of what this is going to look like, how it’s going to feel. I have a lot of work to do.
The next night I went to a support group at the hospital that was recommended to me by the pre-op nurse. Why haven’t I been doing this already? It’s so good to talk to people that are going through things you are experiencing too. The next youngest person there was 43, so I was still the youngest, but having the opportunity to talk about “Is this normal?” “Why am I so depressed, it’s a fricking boob?” with people that understand was incredible. Every time I started talking about something I was feeling, experiencing, the woman around the table nodded with understanding.
The leader of the group later showed me her DIEP scar; her surgery was 4 years ago. I couldn’t even see it. After meeting with Lin’s coworker, I was set on just getting implants. But after last night, I think I may still do DIEP. Do you know how personal it is to drop your pants in front of someone you just met to show them one of your most intimate battle scars? I was so appreciative. She told me she just wanted me to know that it wasn’t always such a bad scar. And Lin’s coworker was amazing to meet with too. She was so upbeat and understanding and sitting in her cozy beautiful house made me feel like eventually, it’s going to be all okay.
I guess even now, it’s okay. I’m going to get through this. Millions of people before have too, and I won’t be any exception. They all have their stories, their experiences, and they will be different than mine. But there is a solidarity in this disease. And I know I can beat it; that I can thrive after this. Others like me keep telling me I will. And I believe them.