I go salsa dancing the weekend before. I throw away my dancing shoes afterwards. Partly symbolism and ritualistic to honour that the next time I would go dancing things would be different, including my shoes. But mainly because they had lost their support and they stank like gone off fish.
The day arrives and I go to the hospital with a friend, a very good friend I hasten to add. One that I have not known very long but one whom 12 months earlier almost to the day intervened in a relationship I was in with a psychopath. I did not realise the magnitude of this at the time, like most things in life, but I dread to think the damage had she not. But that’s another story…
‘Calltime’ was 7am, 2pm and I was breakdancing on the ward waiting to be taken down. I wish I could deny this but there is, as always, photographic evidence to support the accusation. Hunger, nervous energy and BLIND FEAR do not mix well. It’s like a cocktail of vodka, gin and whiskey. I imagine ;-)
I have a new surgeon / consultant! Hooray! This man who shall be named was Mr Giles Cunnick. He went to work on my right while the dashing Mr Ahmed tackled the left along with another sentinel node biopsy on the other side. They said this was to minimise my time under anaesthetic.
During the process which had taken just over 4 months from diagnosis I had plenty of time to make friends with google and the world of support forums, who were supposed to be full of women like me. Except they weren’t full of women like me. Or at least I didn't feel they were. I now see we had more in common than I could have imagined. They were full of older women who weren’t concerned about bikini shopping as a ‘flattie’ or how it would be dating without breasts. If they were it certainly wasn't an open discussion. How do people approach intimacy with a new partner. As a single young woman I would hope that these days are not yet numbered. Most of these inspiring women also came from a generation who appeared more reluctant to challenge the status quo when it came to their health. There were of course exceptions to this and those women offered me great reassurance, kindness and support throughout that process but I did feel isolated. I came across a handful of women who were under 45 and a few instagram-cancer-warriors who were under 40 but in general terms it was a lonely old path. As I am sure it is for everyone with cancer.
All I wanted at this stage was to be flat. I had fought, challenged and sat through many uncomfortable meetings to be able to have symmetry and not be left with just one booby (I add here that many of male friends couldn’t understand why I would want to lose both if I had a choice to keep one-interesting)
I woke up with two thin strips of clinical plaster across the space that would have previously been taken up by my MASSIVE tiny boobs. There was minimal visual damage apart from a steadily growing bruise from my left armpit to my left hip crest. No extra lumps / bumps / flaps of skin / growing extra terrestrial bodies. Just like that, my breasts were gone. All that remained were two obnoxiously annoying drainage bottles plumbed in to the top of my ribs to drain fluid out of. I had the pleasure of dragging these everywhere I went like bloody (forgive the pun) 17th century ball and chain. A small ward of four women including me, again the youngest by at least 15 years. All in for cancer surgery. Such kindness and support in strangers. And hidden awkward giggles when my first visitor post surgery was my then* boyfriend’s mother to meet me in my drug induced minging state (did I mention it was THE FIRST TIME WE HAD MET!!!!) She was lovely. But that’s another story…..
( *then rather than present boyfriend for reasons NOTHING to do with the cancer. He was and still is a big part of my life)
I was home in 36 hours and not a drain in site.