I am sitting in a cafe (one that is propping the cookies that are for sale on top of two lovely editions of Dylan Thomas & Thomas Hardy, I mean I know Hardy causes a lot of mixed feelings but really?!) and I’ve been thinking over my morning and the last couple of months/years in the life of my boobs. I probably should be slightly more grown up and type breasts right, but sod that, they’re my boobs and get to be called what they want.
The last couple of years have been drama filled for my boobs, and the me attached to them. They’ve always been pesky things, larger than I would have liked from around age 13 and drawing unwanted attention on a regular basis. I have the annoying task of not wanting to wear tops that bring about more irritating comments or looks, but also hating wearing high necked tops as I look like I’m smuggling some kind of sausage dog down my jumper. Also, to get a comfortable bra that fits and doesn’t look like something designed for an 80 year old with a penchant for beige is basically like finding a horcrux, and you need to remortgage to pay for it (I guess the architecture and structural work are similar.)
Problems that really caused sleepless nights began around 5 years ago now though. Working in a job I was completely terrible at and was gradually coming to hate, I was aware that all was not as it should be in ol’lefty. It just didn’t feel right, when I walked I could feel something there, kind of tugging at me. I ignored this for around 4 months like, lets face it, a total dickhead (a scared dickhead, but still a dickhead – DON’T IGNORE LUMPS PEOPLE). I went to the Drs and within a week and a half found myself in the hospital room waiting to be seen. Macmillan nurses were there forcing cake down my throat while I waited and I managed to buy a book even in that situation from their mini library shelf, a negative can be turned into something of a positive with enough sugar and a cheap paperback.
I remember that appointment by the second. Lying back on the bed, pointing to where I had the discomfort and having jelly squeezed on me ready for the ultra sound. The dr moved the *thingy* (medical term, go with it) across me and I stared up at the screen, looking at all these white kind of lines across the black background. The screen suddenly showed this big, black, vast nothingness and I became aware of the Dr clicking away as she took lots of screenshots of it (is it weird that even at this moment the thought creeped into my head ‘oooh, I wonder if I can have a photo of it?)
The Dr told me that there was indeed a lump and that they would need to take a biopsy. I was sitting up already to get dressed and make the appointment before it dawned on me that she meant right now. I was propped at a funny angle with lots of pillows and a very kind nurse talked to me about how she’d always wanted to write a book (she’d found out about my job) and then moved on to her pet goat (must confess, bit fuzzy on the details of that bit). I was injected with the good stuff to stop me feeling any pain and the dr explained what was going to happen. Basically when they take the sample you feel a pressure and a sound a bit like a loud stapler. I am SO pleased she explained this first because i swear if I’d heard that noise without knowing I would have shit myself. It didn’t hurt exactly because I was filled with numbing goodness, but it wasn’t exactly comfortable either, I could still feel things in me the whole time which is just plain weird. They were so kind, patching me up to stop any bleeding and helping me get my top back on. The dr sat on the edge of the bed, held my hand and said “now we just have to pray”. I’ll never forget that moment, she was being kind but it felt so bloody dramatic, I just nodded and tumbled on out. Getting in a taxi home I text my sister telling her I would phone her when I arrived back as I couldn’t talk. Obviously she phoned me immediately and as soon as I heard her voice I burst into floods of tears. The taxi driver listened to hysterical me for 30 minutes clearly talking about lumps etc. The bastard then TOTALLY FLEECED ME, by saying he had no change, getting really aggressive when I told him the notes were all I had, then chucking money at me. I was so upset I assumed I’d got my change, bloody hadn’t had I?! When I later looked at the dumped coins on the side board I realised what he’d done. I still wish a pox upon that man.
Two weeks later I was back for results day with my mam. I’d had several sleepless nights (nothing new for me to be honest) one where I’d honestly questioned if I’d done something that meant this was happening to me, if I ‘deserved’ it somehow. Sensible me knows biology, cells and stuff but I tell you what, fear does crazy things to you when you’re alone at 2am. We were brought into a little room and told the beautiful word – BENIGN! It was strange, it didn’t sink in straight away as we went straight into a conversation about removing the lump, meetings the surgeon who would do it (an awesome guy who looked like he lived for Glastonbury) and whether I would choose to be awake for it. Another alarming turn of phrase was used here. I asked whether it would be best for me to stay awake or be knocked out and the dr said to me ‘it’s up to you but, well, planes do fall out of the sky sometimes’, reader, I chose to stay awake.
This was another day of being propped up on a bed with arms aching as I held them high above my head. The noise this time was like a sewing machine and *IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH SKIP THIS BIT* they basically put something in me like a blade that spun really fast, chopping the lump up, and then sticking another thing in me like a hoover and sucking it all out. I was bandaged up from belly button to top of boobs,(my tops looked amazing, they hung like they were meant to, please design better things for people with boobs clothes people). Rest and my lovely mam and dad saw me right.
Then guess what, this happened TWO SODDING MORE TIMES!! Turns out my boob has a vendetta against me. I had a year or two off where it went quiet but then just like that it felt all uncomfortable again a month or two ago. I know now to get myself straight to the Drs, honestly if you’re ever worried about it all just go, it is no where near as bad as you are imagining, trust me. So this time two lumps were found and a couple of weeks ago I got another blessed benign response. There were discussions to be had this time though. I have a lot of discomfort with my left boob. Unlike most things I don’t wang on about it too much as 1) I would be talking about it A LOT and 2) with other stuff going on in life at the moment people will be fed up of my complaints, but most days there is a dull ache there that gets worse as I walk. Every now and then I get a pain so sharp it physically takes my breath away, like the most intense cramp shooting through me. The Dr explained that there are tablets that could potentially help with the discomfort, but they are not available on prescription as they are herbally type business, but have been shown to really help. I also was given the option to remove the two lumps, but this would most likely cause my boob to kind of collapse, as it would take so much of it away. I could have reconstruction if I wanted.
I went home without making a decision, to be totally honest my head was done in. Currently in counselling for PTSD, work worries, flashbacks, all kinds of crap had just left me with nothing left to give. I was told I could hold fire and ring the nurse to sort out a chat when I was ready and have time to think things through.
When I told people about my boob quandary most seem to be of the ‘lop it all out and get it reconstructed’ camp. Now at the moment I am a bit, em, feeble for want of a better word. I can type the talk on here but when it comes to speaking up in person I just don’t have the strength, my anxiety is too high. The total truth, deep down I knew I wouldn’t want reconstruction. I am 100% for it being available to all who need it and people going for it, but for me personally I just felt deeply uncomfortable about having something inside me that wasn’t ‘me’. When I did manage to meekly squeak this out people immediately told me why I shouldn’t think like this. I know they were being kind but it was still how I felt.
So this brings us up to date. I’ve been to the hospital this morning. I’ve had a chat with a lovely nurse who provided a drink and a biscuit and the most kindly ear ever. She quickly made it clear I could ask anything without feeling silly. I explained how I felt about reconstruction and she said that it was completely fine, many chose not to have it. She also explained that by saying no to surgery now did not mean that it was the taken off the table for ever. I will now be going in for 6 monthly checks so they can keep an eye on things being a ok and staying the same, and if I want to revisit the decision then, then I can. She advised I do try the tablets though as walking around not feeling ‘right’ isn’t ideal.
So that is what I’ve decided to do, pop another pill daily and just revisit the decision when it rears its head when the appointment letter arrives again. The thing that has interested me most over the last couple of weeks though has been this reconstruction discussion. Who would I be doing it for? I’ve realised that whenever I think about it I feel like I would have to get it done, I would look weird to people, it might make people uncomfortable if I didn’t look ‘balanced’, if I got a partner how would they react to me, everybody thinks I should stay looking ‘normal’, and you know the conclusion I’ve came to? SOD OFF. My body is not for public consumption, it is not my job to present myself in a way that is deemed the norm, meeting some arbitrary beauty standard. Why am I so bothered about what other people would think of MY body, why would I make a decision over the body I live in to keep others happy but not myself? I’m not going to do it any more, I’m not saying it’s going to be easy and I won’t waver and have doubts, but I’m going to keep telling myself this…
MY body, MY decision.