I always liked my boobs. They were not too big, not too small, and if I remember correctly (which I probably don’t) they miraculously passed the pencil test even after I had nursed my first baby. In any case, it was always the extra 10 to 15 pounds in my ass and hips that I hated, but certainly not my boobs. So it was ironic that one of them had to go.
Well before my cancer was diagnosed, I felt a hardness in my right breast. With great trepidation, I headed over to the prominent Boston Breast Diagnostic Center for a mammogram, where the most respected breast radiologist in this fair city led me into her office and told me privately and with great confidence, “You have nothing to worry about.”
She (of great fame) missed my cancer, proving the theory that yes, even “the best” make mistakes. Thanks to my persistent PCP who insisted I go for an ultrasound, my cancer was found.
And then my story became a year and a half long breast cancer story with (so far) a happy ending (knock on wood). Biopsies, MRIs, poking and prodding, endless doctor appointments, a mastectomy, chemotherapy, losing my hair, radiation, reconstruction, and finally, a nipple tattoo that looks so real I still have to touch it before I realize the nipple is not actually there.
It has been over five years now since the end of treatment, and the whole experience seems like a nightmare that happened to someone else. I have truly put it in a box in my mind that opens shortly before my annual mammogram, and then closes again. Since that time, my husband and I moved onto our sailboat and lived a life full of adventure. I have short silver hair that I love. And when I look in the mirror, I am still just fine with my boobs. It is still that extra 10-15 pounds on my ass and hips that I hate.
Recently, one of my daughters started looking through my closet to see what “forgotten” goodies might reside there. A designer dress hung in the closet, purchased at the TJ Maxx runway sale so many years ago, worn exactly once. She tried it on. It looked magnificent. My husband took one look at her and then looked at me and asked, “Did that really ever fit you?”
All weekend long, I complained to my daughter about what I could no longer fit into- that vest, that coat, that dress. She finally let me have it. She told me that at 63, with all that I had been through, with the wonderful life I have lived, she would have thought I would be over the whole body image “thing”. “What you are teaching me,” she said, “is that even when I am your age, no matter what I have been through, I will not be comfortable with my own body.”
And that got to me. Because she is right, and that saddened me deeply. I promised myself to accept those 10-15 pounds, just as I have accepted my missing boob. Or at the very least, I’m going to shut up about them.