Thursday, December 1, 2016
Tomorrow, I’ll be going in for a double mastectomy and hopefully get closer to putting this breast cancer chapter behind me. It took a month after my doctors asked me to consider the procedure to get a date for the surgery and in that time, I let myself drift into this space of false security where I knew that ordeal was hovering around somewhere out there, but nothing I needed to worry about for now. But then "somewhere out there" became “a week from now,” which turned into “this week,” “in a couple days,” and now, “tomorrow.” Tomorrow. Tomorrow. Tomorrow.
After weeks of holding it together pretty well, I finally broke down a few days ago when the terror hit me. I will never look this way again - ever. When I look at myself in the mirror, I will look completely different, for better or for worse, and I will never be the way I’ve come to know myself. To those who’ve joked and noted that “Dorkys, you hardly have anything there!” (myself included), the loss goes beyond that. I’m not only grieving over losing actual pieces of myself, but also how I’ve come to view myself. This image of what Dorkys looks like, what she’s always looked like, will be completely different starting tomorrow and that horrifies me because I don’t know what that new image is going to be. What will my relationship with her be like? It took me decades to become comfortable with this body, and now I have to start over?
Just typing this is difficult…because I don’t want to say goodbye to this me.
See, this me has been pretty good to me for the most part if you don’t count that whole getting cancer in the first place thing. Yeah, she always got me carded at the bar because I looked like a “Girl Scout” and made shopping for adult clothes a stressful experience, but that’s all been part of my identity for the past 34 years: petite, small-breasted, curly-haired, feisty, tiny, cute. How am I going to feel when I wake up from surgery and my chest is bandaged up, gauze and tape where my breasts used to be? How am I going to feel a week later when the bandages finally fall away? When I look down and see a blank slate where my dark nipples used to be? Birth marks and freckles all chased away by a deep scar racing across my chest.
I know I’ll still feel like this me inside and when I close my eyes, I’ll still see this me as she’s been my whole life. Maybe someday the me in my head will slowly morph into the actual me as time goes on. And while I hope that acceptance comes sooner than 34 years from now, I’m also expecting a profound sense of loss to wash over me when I wake up the following day and many days after that.