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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Mastectomy 2

It is a humid Tuesday morning and I wake at 7.30 am after an average night of sleep.  I am in no hurry to leap out of bed as I am unable to eat anything for most of the day.  It's a bummer as I'm so hungry I could, as they say, eat the crutch out of low flying duck.

That's because in five hours, I am to be admitted into the Mater Hospital again. Lee, Anne, Nic, Mum, Fiona have all texted or called me to wish me luck.

These are the last few hours of 'Paris' my lone right breast, which has been the focus of my attention for the last 14 months.

That's how long it's been since her partner in cleavage crimes, 'Nicky', bit the dust.  

I have prepared for 'Paris's impending execution with the diligence of a professional assassin.  Because it does feel like I'm snuffing out a life.

If you have been following this blog on a regular basis, you'll know this event has been well-researched.  It is not a decision I've made lightly. 

I've consulted two plastic surgeons, I've discussed the issue with all my various doctors and advisers, I've watched endless YouTube videos, and Googled widely.

Many of my friends have listened, bleary eyed and most likely secretly wishing I'd bloody shut up about 'the Last Tit', to regular ruminations and pontifications on the pros and cons of de-boobification.


I've also spent months and months sussing out numerous chests and breasts.  I've been a surreptitious tit watcher.

Additionally, I've consulted my fashion expert, the flat-chested Mel about how to dress. I've even got my counsellor at the Cancer Council all primed in the event of any emotional fall out.

In fact, I think I've put more thought and research into this decision than into other life changing ones: such as what career I should follow (I just copied what my best friend Louise had and to this day rue my decision);  whether I should have a baby (put it like this - when Al and I need to work out our anniversary we need to deduct a year from Harry's age);  or whether I should go blonde (the shortest hair colour change in history, lasting barely 24 hours, so hideous was the result of my brief dalliance with peroxide).

Come to think of it, I don't seem to put a lot of thought into much.  Spontaneous, perhaps foolhardy, usually in hindsight, most of life's great decisions/choices/purchases have occured on a whim.

But in the case of Paris, I have, luckily, my experience with Nicky to guide me and so I KNOW it is not as simple as it may seem: lopping off a breast.

At last, I have been motivated by a mix of medical reasons, practicality and vanity.

Medically, I should remind you that my particular brand of breast cancer, the invasive lobular kind, has a higher than usual chance of recurring in the other breast.

The key words are 'in the other breast'. Other form of breast cancer, when they recur, are most commonly found in the cervix or ovaries, bones, bowel or brain.  But ILCs most commonly recur in the breast.

Look, I'm just not the kind of person who lives in fear of the worst.  But I must admit to increase palpitations whenever my routine breast scans occur.  How can I be sure that it will not recur at all?  This mastectomy will remove that fear.

Practically, a lone breast, I argue, lacks context and when dangling pairless, appears well, impaired!   Especially so, the matronly Double D, which can appear of humongous proportions when compared against a void.

In terms of vanity, the lack of symmetry is especially disturbing and disgusting to me.

If Nicky and Paris were hard to manage, Paris alone has been a particularly onerous charge, her single status somewhat hard to conceal without recourse to an uncomfortable prosthesis.

And ultimately, it's the bloody prosthesis, more than anything that has driven me to the knife.

Weighing in at 715 grams (I know: I measured it!), fake Nicky bounces heavily when I run, shifts somewhat on a golf back swing and is so uncomfortable that young boys often spring me with my hand down my chest.

The bra in which this fake must be contained is so ugly my clothing choices are limited.   It is also incredibly annoying when I am in a hurry and cannot locate the prosthesis.  (I have been known to scurry out with a rolled up sock or a bunch of balled tissues stuffed into the void when bras are in the wash or the fake is hiding).

However,  it hasn't all been bad.  The prosthesis bra provides a handy pocket for the stashing of coins, credit cards and my Ipod.   A lot of the time, I've almost forgotten I am titless.

What's more, Nicky-less for more than a year now, I am very aware that a mastectomy brings its own discomforts.  

Feeling is slow to return and, as the nerves regenerate, one is prone to localised itching.  There are also rogue pains and, all these months on, though I have good range of movement, in some positions it is still a little uncomfortable.

But medical concerns, practicality and vanity have won and I lie in bed thinking over my decision.  I feel Paris with my hand (too big to cup) and try to memorise the feel of a whole breast.  The skin is smooth and warm to touch.

You would think I become maudlin at this point, but I don't.  What's the point?  The decision has been made, the die has been cast, the boob has been unleashed.

And so I rise.

Ben is due back from New Zealand today and I believe the lad will be hungry when he arrives.  I zip down to the shop to buy some ingredients and whip up a slow-cooking beef borscht for the boys.

I finish this blog.

I ponder the last days of Paris.  Yesterday, Monday, I went to the movies with my good friends Anne and Sue.  We saw 'Quartet' and I do believe Paris had a giggle or two.  We went to lunch.  I came home and went for an 8K run.  Then Ethel came over for dinner.  And Harry was home!  It was a good day.

On Sunday, I had 12 people over for a curry lunch finished with a noice pav, luv.  A dozen of my besties mooched on the deck, enjoying the breeze.  They left at 7 pm.  It was a good day.

On Saturday, my new Hiking Club set off on our first walk.  Again, there were 12 of us - 13 if you count Spunky.  We went to the Daisy Hill Conservation Park and had a nice two-hour hike.  Afterwards we had coffee.  In the afternoon Al and I went to Mel and Pete's for tennis and a  barbecue. Yeah, that was a good day, too.

Paris has had a pretty good life.  I am sure that wherever she goes, Nicky will be waiting for her and I can see the two of them now, reunited under some great big boulder holder up in the sky.

Who knows, maybe George and Jossy are up there, staring approvingly at my fine set, misbehaving as usual.

Meanwhile, here on earth, life will go on.

Eventually feeling will return to my chest.

I will keep you posted about how I get on but for now, my operation is in one hour and I must go and pack.  Dr Lambley is wielding the scalpel so I'm hoping for a nifty scar. Dr Warden, the hilarious Scotsman is once again sending me to sleep  so I'm hoping for a few more laughs before I go under.

I am just glad to be getting on with it after all this pondering and thinking.

Wish me luck!


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