From an article originally posted February 28, 2014…
I have avoided this post for a long time. If talking about female anatomy makes you uncomfortable, I invite you not to read this post. I want to be sensitive not to offend, but I feel compelled to tell the true story of this part of my treatment and recovery.
I have avoided the subject of reconstruction since my journey started. There is a major weakness in this journey that hurts my heart. I know there are many women on this journey with breast cancer that follow my story, and several who want to know the truth about breast cancer. Want to hear honestly about my journey.
My particular cancer has left me looking like a Barbie. There—that’s enough of an image for you. I was initially hidden and upset about it in front of my girls. Over time we have all grown comfortable with my appearance. Well, kind of comfortable. But I no longer match my girls. That is hard.
I read an article that said that over 60 % of women who have had my surgery do not opt for nipple reconstruction. It’s an involved surgery. Involved. I’ll leave it at that. For me, another surgery, another recovery, more pain—it just didn’t seem worth it. There is a more simple solution—tattoos. If you are brave, you can google it. They are amazing, realistic, normal looking, though two dimensional, they don’t look it.
The problem with the tattooing is that insurance will not cover it. So many women just keep looking like Barbie without the funds to pay for the tattooing. I really struggle with the insurance industry on this front. In our town, there is a woman who only does this tattooing, and she meets and works in the office of my plastic surgeon. Her cost is high, and if I was totally honest, after my second diagnosis I felt like it was a waste of our money if I was going to die. Ugh, that’s hard to write. We have the funds, I just didn’t want to waste the money.
On vacation, there were a few pictures of me in the waterfall that really struck me. My particular surgery has left me crooked. Crooked that is getting more so as I heal. That and my Barbie-ness, I looked at the picture and felt like I have given up. It grieved me.
The past week I have committed to thinking that I have value. That fixing this matters to my girls. It will help them not see my scars, my lack, only my surgery. But more than that it will help me see the value of myself, and even if my days are limited, I need to be a steward of those days and not acquiesce.
I decided to come this morning and share this with y’all. Share my dark places that keep me hidden and sad. I do not know how to affect change in the insurance industry on this matter. I have been blessed that my particular insurance has never given me any pushback with my treatment. For that, I’m deeply grateful.
But I need to make the appointment to get things fixed. I need to begin to look on the horizon of my days with joy, and see myself in them. I need to love my young daughters by modeling care from myself. If the statistics are correct there are several reading this post that have not taken the steps to correct this painful part of the surgery. There is a quiet sadness I know you see every time you look in the mirror. There is pain in the loss of this particular part of your body. I understand.
Those of you walking this path, walking alongside someone with breast cancer, ask about their heart in this matter. Respect them if they are private. But love them by giving them a place to share their pain over the loss they walk with every day. It is so easy to live in the shadows of our hurt, loss, fear. It is so easy to become suffocated by fear and forget to look for grace.
I have no question to leave you with. I simply ask you to be a safe person, move towards those hurting in your life in love. Love people with the ability to be known, really known. Be a place, a person that lets others be known and unafraid to share the fears that crowd out their peace in living. Clearly, for me this is a vulnerable topic, I’m not sure I will ever hit the publish button on this post, but you have all been a safe and supportive place for my heart to share honestly and I do not take that lightly. Forgive me if sharing about my anatomy has offended you, but this is my story. The only one I know. Thank you for graciously loving me even if this makes you uncomfortable. But I feel it’s a conversation that needs to be had.