Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A full dance card

In The Breast I Can Be: Finding Purpose in Breast Cancer

Jo Lee Ferguson

By Jo Lee Ferguson
June 29, 2017 at 9:16 a.m.
Updated June 29, 2017 at 9:52 a.m.

I have a confession: I’ve had a hard time writing about what my breast looks like after a lumpectomy on Friday.

For starters, it requires me to use the word “breast,” a lot, again, and I can’t say I’m entirely comfortable with that. I’m the girl who mastered changing clothes while still wearing clothes as a high school majorette; so, using the word “breast” in “polite company,” as one good friend recently described it, is a bit of a stretch.  Of course, we can’t talk about breast cancer without using that word, so I’m taking deep breaths.

The written post-surgery instructions gave the OK to remove the top layer of bandages after 24 hours, leaving the butterfly strips over the incision sites. Peeling back those bandages took my breath away, but not in a good “Top Gun” kind of way. I was glad my irreverent sense of humor kicked in and lightened the mood.

It initially looked like what I imagine the breast of the bride of Frankenstein would resemble. I described it as “Frankenbooby” to friends who spent the weekend with me after surgery. Being able to joke with them about it took away some of worry that came with seeing my breast after surgery.

In all fairness, the written post-surgery instructions warned  that there would be bruising, and that “dimpling, dents, puckering, etc. will usually resolve as the wound heals. It is not going to look like this forever!” I have a pretty good imagination, but I hadn’t accurately pictured what that would look like.

I have two incisions – one that’s about 3 inches long on my right breast where the tumor was removed, and another one about half that size where a lymph node was removed under my right arm. Also, my breast is definitely not the right shape right now – it’s a little flat on one side, I think, although my surgeon said that with time my breast should regain a more normal shape.

In fact, several days later, it is already looking better. Obviously, it will take time to heal, and there will be scars.

Every woman’s breast cancer story is different, and I know many of their scars must be much more traumatic than mine. Considering how my incisions made me feel, I can only imagine what it’s like to remove the bandages after breast cancer called on them to have mastectomies.

I was thinking about that when I remembered I already have a giant scar – from the two Cesarean sections required to bring my children into the world. I realized my new scars are here to help ensure I get to see those boys graduate from high school and later, I hope, dance a really good New York hustle at their weddings. (See the attached YouTube video as evidence that I know this dance - or at least I once knew this dance. And yes, it is actually me, a couple of years before my oldest son was born, at a fundraiser for a student organization at Pine Tree High School. I was conducting a Google search just to make sure I remembered the name of the dance correctly and was surprised to find this video still out there in the cosmos.)

These scars will be part of the circle of my life, and I think I can be OK with that, with prayer and time and a healthy dose of laughter at the things that seem scary at first. Plus, it helps to know I'll have a full dance card.




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