I recently saw my plastic surgeon to discuss nipple areola complex reconstruction and pigmentation. (Tattoos!) But, I’m using the word “discuss” theoretically since I am unable to carry on a conversation with the man without blushing, stammering and drawing complete blanks whenever he asks a question.
It’s so bad, I have to remind myself that in life outside his office, stringing together an entire sentence isn’t a problem. Spitting out a slew of coherent words isn’t a problem — Anywhere else.
But here, in these moments — it is.
Here, where it matters. Look what we’re talking about, after all.
Some irrelevant words may tumble out. Questions, I should ask get lost in the sheer urgency to move onto something less miserable. Something other than this unfinished business. This personal stuff I never imagined talking about.
Why is it so hard? I want reconstruction done. I want to see the end result. See if it’s as good as I hear it to be. I’m ready.
I know these last remaining procedures will never bring back what’s been taken. I’m under no illusions about that. The scars are a daily, visible reminder that I don’t need, but I’m not hoping to cover evidence in order to avoid it, as if some pigment could do that, anyway. I remember just fine and quite often without the mirror. Without the reflection staring back.
I’m moving forward, not because “it’s what people do,” or because my surgeons like to see their work complete. It’s about finishing what I started, crossing some imaginary line, breaking the tape. After nearly two years, it certainly feels like a marathon and I don’t mean the cancer. That doesn’t have a finish line. Just the reconstruction.
It’s interesting waiting alone in the exam room among the pamphlets and brochures selling new noses, eyelids, facelifts, liposuction and the ironic, breast augmentation and reduction. It is painfully clear I’m not here for any of that and I won’t judge those that are. I don’t know their reasons for coming here as they don’t know mine, but seeing a plastic surgeon never entered my mind before cancer.
I think about the women choosing to come here, seeking solutions to problems carried in their heads. Are they eager to see the doctor? Excited by the possibilities? Is communication easier with that patient than one brought in by cancer?
Patients like me, unable to answer my surgeon’s questions during our first, long ago consultation, because I didn’t have answers, just repetitive thoughts clouding my brain.
“I don’t want to be here.”
“I can’t say how it should look. I never thought about it before.”
“I didn’t choose to come to you, like those others sitting in your waiting room.”
But, really…I did.
I chose to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. I did choose. Does it compare to women without cancer choosing to redesign a body part? No, but still a choice. One more in the long line of decisions cancer forces us to make.
Now, even after so much: Expanders, fills, implants, revision surgery. Nipple reconstruction and tattoos soon to come, it’s still difficult to accept being in this office, talking about this.
The plastic surgeon and the breast cancer patient travel a long road together. It is unlike any doctor/patient relationship I’ve ever known.
It’s very personal. More so, than other doctors I’ve met along the way. Their stuff is all clinical. Facts, numbers…this is different and maybe that’s why I get hung up.
We give so much to this freaking cancer, that voicing my ideas, my private thoughts of how my body should look, is more than I want to share.
But, then I remember. I did choose to be here and my surgeon can’t do his part if I hold back mine. So, I’ll continue to blush and stammer my way through this. The reconstruction so far does look pretty good, actually very good and the end is finally, finally in sight.