My First Look at the Scar

Day 3 at the hospital. Today was a big day. For one I have lots of visitors. My friend Rhode, one of my Flemish friends (which means absolutely dependable and thoughtful), brings me a huge load of practical goodies: brand new towels of my own, shower gel, etc. My sister buys me a package of hospital appropriate skivvies and delivers the brilliant gift of luxury pyjamas from by best friend in NYC. I’d had no idea how much like staying at a hotel this would be. Er, a hotel that doesn’t provide towels, that is.

I had about eight different friends come over the course of the day. A couple came to watch the World Cup games with Del. My journal indicates today was a big step forward:–Today I can move more easily. My discomfort is eased a lot by the fact that I can get up and down more easily and in fact encourage myself to do so. It feels good to move a bit. Most importantly, I can shift my weight around on my back, and raise and lower my bed. Whoo hoo! Not entirely normal comfort level, but a big improvement. i.e. I take my lunch on the terrace with Tanya. It’s my first steps outside and the sun and breeze feel great.

Today is also big because I see my scar for the first time. Ever since arrival at the hospital, the nurses and the counselor have mentioned that we will make an “appointment” to see the wound. They want a time set aside when Del and possibly my sister can be here, to be with me when I see it. Then counselor will be nearby and will stop in after if I want to talk.

Can I tell you, I really don’t want to do this? Relatively, I’m not so upset about losing the breast, as I’ve mentioned. I mean, they were nice enough, but never my best feature. They certainly weren’t the seat of my femininity or any crap like that. Not for me. Still, we all know it’s not nothing to have something, anything, cut off your body. The Dutch speakers sometimes used the word “amputation”. I really didn’t like that.

As for this appointment for the unveiling of the scar…it made such an ordeal it, on seeing it, on “dealing” with it, and again, I feared it made it a big event. I really preferred to see it alone. Later. By myself. When I’m a little more accustomed to the idea and I can digest my first feelings. In private.

The staff certainly won’t force me to do it their way, but they coax me gently. The counselor explains that they do this because many women go home and never look at it and/or they never show their husbands/partners. And that’s not healthy. They want to make sure I deal with it. Sooner is better, and they’d like to be there to help. She says that for women who refuse to see it and pretend it’s not there, it usually grows more important in the psyche, rather than less. I’m still apprehensive, but my care has been excellent so far, and they are the experts. So I listen to their advice and agree.

In the days so far, even though I have mostly been in a good mood, each time the doc’s and nurses come to check on my wound, I get fragile for those moments. The nurses are pros and they know this. As if reading my mind they are always quick to say “you don’t need to look, just look that way for a moment,” and I am so grateful to be excused each time. When the counselor speaks about making the appointment, my lip wants to tremble. I so dread this emotional confrontation.

But you know what? It was awesome. It was actually a great and special moment. The counselor waited outside the room. The nurse drew the white curtain around my bed. Jennifer and Del both gathered by my bedside. Del held my hand. I looked away while the nurse pulled down the tube top bandage and uncovered the gash. She said, “you can look,” and stepped back. I took a deep breath, and looked down. And I said, “Huh. Well that’s not so bad.” And I meant it. It was blissfully anti-climactic. I was so relieved to see what I thought was a beautiful cut (as far as cuts across the chest go). It was precise, and petite, and clean looking. It had a bark, but no bite. We were actually going to be friends, this cut and I. I hadn’t chosen it for my team, but we had an understanding.

As my sister and boyfriend viewed it, they both let out held breaths. As much as I had wanted to do that alone, it was a brilliant move to have them there. I could see in their faces that they thought the same thing I did, and that was so important. If I’d had any notion that I was lying to myself about how it looked, their faces would have erased it. They were both visibly relived and pleased. I felt incredibly close to them in that moment. Their reactions were not only perfect, but sincere. And they were both honored to be there. I could see how much they loved me just then, in a very raw way. And I could see how little a breast mattered in the reflection of that. It just. didn’t. matter.

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Filed under breast cancer, life, reconstruction ("upgrade"!), recovery, surgery, this time LAST year

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