This Is My New Body

Strange things have been starting to happen to me. I find myself getting more and more lost in thought, simply because I am limited in my mobility. A double mastectomy is no joke. Initially, I was mad and frustrated with my suddenly dependent self. I would get angry when I couldn’t do something as easy as sitting up by myself. I felt this teenage version of myself arising, the young girl who would grow impatient with her parents because she wanted to do things on her own. I worked to silence that girl and to see this dependency as an opportunity to learn. Wait – I thought I was done learning? I mean, I went through 16 treatments of chemotherapy, lost all of the hair on my body, shed pounds, gained pounds, endured nausea, fatigue, and mental fogginess … surgery is just the last step, and I’m not tripping …

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

I am tripping. There is still more to discover! Being physically limited has caused me to delve even deeper into my mind as I spend my days immobile on a recliner. Damn you, cancer. Damn you, and thank you at the same time for continuing to challenge me and mold me into a better person. As I’ve sat with myself over this past month, I have made a decision. I have decided to transform these angry, sad, and defiant energies I’ve been experiencing into CURIOSITY. Especially being a trained dancer, I figure: what the hell? How can I find new ways of moving? How can I become more present and aware? If I can’t put a shirt on the way I normally do, how else could I put a shirt on? Oops, I can’t get into that car like I normally would, so lower body – let’s go. How are you going to get into this car? Sudden jolts of pain mean I am moving too fast – my body is saying, slow down. Electricity firing through my chest means new neural connections are being made – be still. Old ways of doing habitual activities like sitting and walking and standing and eating are forever changed. Now, you must stop and you must be present. You must think before you move. Listen, Estee, listen to your body as it heals. Ever since I’ve adopted this mentality (which rose out of the ashes of a deep, PTSD-like, full-body, cry), I have been faring much better. I am practicing the most efficient use of my body, activating only the muscles and parts of my body that need to be used. Pretty cool, actually!

When I read personal accounts of other women who have gone through this journey, a majority of them are very negative and cynical. Women are mad. They use terms like ‘frankenboobs’ or ‘foobs’ to define their new chests, post-mastectomy. When I find myself talking to others, I notice that I use these terms too, and just today, I said, hold up. What am I doing? If I talk to myself and refer to my body with those cynical and derogatory terms, how am I supposed to fully heal? Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. WHETHER I LIKE IT OR NOT, THIS IS MY NEW BODY. I am going to choose a different option! Rather than berate my body and denounce cancer for taking my boobs, I’m going to accept what has happened, and I am going to get to know my new chest. I am going to feel my breasts as they go through this transformation of tissue expansion into implants. I am going to embrace the changes because these changes indicate good health and life. My boobs are being reborn, and thanks to modern technology, science, and medicine, I have an opportunity to don a fuller, healthier, happier chest than the one I was naturally given. For the past 29 years and six months, I’ve been walking around with a ticking time bomb and I was fortunate enough to hear the ticks and deactivate the bomb before it went off. There is so much pressure from the outside to associate oneself with a body part, and if there are women out there reading this post who have identified any aspect of themselves with their breasts, I say DIG DEEPER. You are, we are, I am more than my boobs. To grieve them or publicly mock them is a wasted opportunity to celebrate life, to draw a greater awareness to the fact that 1 in 8 women are going to get breast cancer in their lifetime, so we better start feeling ourselves up. No more body shaming. No more self-pity. Because let’s be real, those guys come out to play when one goes through a major surgery like a mastectomy. They frolic around the mind, enticing you to join them for a little game, and I’m choosing to play elsewhere. Like I said earlier, I want to play with curiosity. I want to play with acceptance, grace, gratitude, and love.

So as I sit here on this Thursday morning with hard tissue expanders in my chest, swollen armpits, drain tube holes, scars, leftover surgical tape residue, numb nipples, sore abs, and sensitive skin, I celebrate the good. My hair is growing back with a vengeance, I have an appetite, I am surrounded by so much love and support, and I am alive!!!

Oh what a beautiful thing …


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