Friday, September 4, 2009

Feeling the loss of my feminine self...

My BRCA sista and blog buddy, Lisa, made the following comment today on Facebook about this whole process and what she said rang so true with me...“The mental impact is kinda huge though and comes at you when you're least expecting it.” Lisa’s statement has inspired today’s blog about this mish-mash of emotions I’m feeling...the timing couldn’t be better. There are no such things as coincidences, right?

As I recover from my mastectomy the message I get from family and friends is “you’ve made the right decision”.

But some feelings are just beginning to rear their ugly head...I am starting to suffer difficulties in adjusting my self-image to my bodily loss. I see myself as “mutilated” and am terrified of rejection.

I feel that following my hysterectomy and mastectomy that all that was my former female self is gone. I know I am more than just boobs and tubes, but at times I don’t feel like it. I’m scared!

From what I’ve read, these reactions are common apparently. My breasts were a symbol of my femininity, my desirability, my ability to entice. We live in a very breast-oriented society, and it's like everything I can offer a man is gone. It isn't a vanity thing. It's an essential part of my core existence as a woman. Wrong or right, that’s how I feel and feelings are very very real no matter how “sane” or “insane” they may seem.

This BRCA thing with its horrendous chances of developing cancer (and yes, with every new ache or pain I develop, in my mind, "I must have cancer" ~ I think I've had every type of cancer in the last year and a half)...but I digress. As I was saying, this BRCA thing that resulted in me having a preventative total hysterectomy and bilateral mastectomy is a terrible test, and it has the potential to destroy a person...ME! It also has the potential to offer the greatest day...maybe... but I need to feel secure, that I’m loved for me and not because I’m “attractive”.

At times I find myself starting to withdraw into myself. It takes a great deal of sense of self to project myself as a woman following the mastectomy. I feel damaged. I feel a total loss of confidence.

My family doctor sort of brushed aside my fears, telling me to “'give it time”. Time alone will not take care of this...perhaps an intervention would be a better idea!

I try to wear a happy, confident mask...I even joke about the new bigger boobs I'll have when I’m done with the reconstruction process, but at the same time I’m trying to deny these feelings. I’ve been afraid to let anybody know how I’ve been feeling.

Sorry for the ramblings and please consider this post my Confessional.

EDIT: Please read the comments people have left...I am so lucky to have my BRCA sisters for support...seems I'm not alone.


Vicki said...

I met a new customer today who made a similar decision based on her mother dying of cancer. She was divorced at the time but dating and she shared with me what she told her new "love." She said "if you are a boob man you better move on because I will be losing these soon." He told her he was a leg man and she had more than enough to keep happy. I guess this could be a "happy-ending" but I still heard this as Objectifying.....women are parts...not wholes. You are so correct Shari in your have lost what society deems to be feminine but the other amazingly awesome gifts we bring: humanity, caring, nurturing, attentiveness, are not held in much regard especially in a greedy culture.
I hope you find some peace with your beautiful inner being and I am sorry you are feeling this tremendous and real loss.

Shari said...

Thank you Vicki! xoxo

Anonymous said...

Hi - I found your blog through the 'Being Cancer' blog list - I'm on there too. I have the BRCA1 mutation as well. I have my surgeries scheduled (hyst/ooph in Oct & DIEP PBM in Jan). When I first found out about my mutation I freaked out. I was scared, lost & confused. With my surgeries finally scheduled, I'm actually at peace with it all right now. I am sure that will change as my appts get closer! Anyway, just trying to expand my network of others like myself. Do you mind if I add you to my blogroll?
Teri Smieja

Lisa said...

Hey Shari,

I wrote that message to Shikha last night because it IS just SO HUGE.

By tomorrow, I'll be 10 months on from my operation. I'm due to go in for nipples 22nd october. I still dont know if I want them or not. My last adjustment surgery has left me with more scars than I would have liked and quite a few painful spots, but maybe I'm hoping for too much as that was only 5 or 6 weeks ago.

My feelings for myself and my new body change daily. Sometimes I look at my new boobs and think they're beautiful. They're perky and they've saved my life. Other days they look like disfigured lumps that move whenever my chest muscles do and i declare them ugly, hideous things.

I'm lucky in the fact that I have my husband and he always tries to make me feel beautiful no matter what, yet I even cringe from him sometimes if he wants to touch them, they dont feel normal, not like part of me. Thats on my bad days.

I'm a pretty strong person, I dont really care what others think of me, but we cant get away from those thoughts of our own that taunt us from inside.

I also said to Shikha to maybe seek counselling. I dont know about there, but nothing was ever offered to me here in the UK and thats pretty sick. It's the same as losing a limb, the fact that we chose to do this shouldn't be the deciding factor, you cant estimate or even know how you're gonna react to the loss until its done. There needs to be some support for at least a year afterwards.

I guess without it, we're lucky enough to have each other. That's the massive bonus of this mutant gene is all the wonderful people I've found. We have our own support network and for me that's been priceless!

(sorry for the ramble, you just struck a chord x)

Shari said...

Luv ya Lisa!! Thank you! xoxo

Shari said...

I've added you to my blogroll too Teri! Good luck! xoxo

Steph H said...

I'm a little more than 3 months away from my PBM, and I'm most worried about body image issues and acceptance post-surgery. I worry I will look down and think "What have I done to myself?" A question for those on the other side: Does the fact that you no longer have to fear every ache and pain obviate the disappointment you may feel in your physical appearance? Right now, I live in a unsustainable fog of anxiety, and I'm hoping that being done -- with the surgery and the BC risk -- will be a prize big enough to forget the sadness I may feel about losing my breasts. Whatever the case, I can't live like this (consumed by thoughts of cancer, fear of surgery, uncertainty about whether I'm making the right choice) so I'm moving forward. I just hope there is light (and lightness) on the other side.

Steph H

Daria said...

Thanks for sharing that ... you are not the only one who feels that way.

Anonymous said...

Have to chime in to...I appreciate this post too. And I understand your feeling of hiding from others. I've just started a blog for myself to help myself write out some of the worries. I don't feel that I can talk about all the feelings I have with family/friends. Either they don't get it, or it just makes them anxious too. It's a difficult place to be. But I do hope things get better with time as I figure out how to accept the uncertainties in life...and get back to a more normal sleeping schedule.