The woman with one breast.
My journey over the cancer seas and beyond.
Its been an interesting week for revelation and internal dialogue. As I sit writing I’m not certain if I will post this blog for you all or if it is intended for my own inner musings. When I reach the end I will know more of its need. Writing for me is like that. Some combinations of words require witness and discussion from others. Some just need to be seen on the page by me. This particular topic is a sensitive one, but nonetheless necessary to write about wherever it arrives.
I have been venturing out a little more recently and all sorts of odd buttons have been triggered. One was to do with body image and where I am with it now, in context of expanding my horizons into the world again. You see I have had nearly a year to become used to my body with only one breast. Not without its challenges in the process, but these days I can feel acceptance and love of what is me in the mirror. The issue in this instance is how to navigate this recent won love of post mastectomy me in the context of other folks responses.
I know, I can hear you all up in arms saying it shouldn’t matter, that I am perfect as I am and other kind and loving responses. And you are right, and I thank you. Yet it is true to say we live in a consumerist culture of symmetrical perfection. We are subconsciously bombarded with the acceptable body image of the day and how it is our duty to aim for that. None of this has had much pull on me for most of my life, yet standing on this threshold of emerging, I realise that it has now become significant. It is one thing to choose to turn ones back on the fashion trend expected of women of my age. It is entirely another to stand omni breasted and declare that no, I am likely not getting a reconstruction any time soon if ever.
I may feel clear about that, but I will not lie, underneath I feel pretty vulnerable about the implications of making this choice. I remember seeing a woman in a sauna years ago who had a scar where her breast used to be. I felt in awe and also terrified. I didn’t know where to look and felt shame about this. I am conscious that I am now that woman. The one who will illicit responses not so dissimilar to my own. I have questions about how folk perceive this arena. How would you feel in a sauna with someone with one breast? Would a woman with one breast be a no go zone for you in relationship? How do you deal with situations of body injury or disability in others that trigger you?
I reached out to a male friend to gauge the topic and found such a well of wise, loving and sensible opinion from him. He reflected that people would likely say what they felt was the right thing to in the moment. That regards relating with a man, anyone who took the time to get to know me would love me more for my courage in all aspects of this situation. I do love my brothers. The men in my world who give such direct insight into a male perspective. I have also spoken to many of my fabulous women friends and the main thread that runs through it all from them is to do with my need to love myself. The more I do, the more it gives permission for others to love me too. Sage advise as ever.
Synchronistically, whilst treading this tricky territory I came across Dr Liz O’Riordan who just shared an amazing and inspiring photo of herself on twitter, 5 years post single mastectomy, naked and showing her toned and well body. To know there are women like her out there who defy status quo in such a bold way gives me fierce hope. I see now that this blog does need to be shared. If for no other reason than allowing the changed variations of myself to be transparent. I look forward to raising your internal dialogues around the topic that has now become my normal.