Those mid-life decisions….
I wanted to write about this experience but there are so many layers and it feels like its been going on so long, it’s hard to know where to start. A very insightful friend told me to “start where I am”… so here goes.
Today, I made a very big decision to do what was right for me and my body. It’s been a long road of insurance issues, promises made by medical personnel that they couldn’t keep, and unexpected results around surgery. But a few days ago, in the aftermath of one breast surgery, I was told some information that made me dig deep. Information that my female surgeon thought might “lessen the blow” to the news that I needed more surgery. That, based on the results of my surgery last week, being that I needed more surgery to remove the cancerous area of my breast to get “clear margins,” a breast reduction could/most likely would, be covered by my insurance.
I will say, I love my breast surgeon. She is young, brilliant, beautiful and she hugs me whenever I see her. So when she said, “I will just mention it, Nanette, that if you choose to, you would be approved by insurance for a breast reduction. Meaning, you could choose the size breasts you would like and they would be “nice and perky.” (She knows my current solo status situation and she gives me a big smile).
I had several things to consider. You know, the pros and cons, the positives and negatives;
1. Firstly, from about 15-25 years old, I thought “if I ever have an extra $5,000.00 (in the 70’s), I’m going to have a breast reduction.” Hell, they were bigger than most of my friends, I was teased about how I must get a black eye when I run track, and hardest of all, I questioned whether or not the opposite sex liked me for me or my boobs! (true confessions here, guys)
2. On the heels of a divorce, a little smaller, “perkier” breasts might be just what the doctor ordered.
3. The recovery from my surgery a week or so ago was not easy as I don’t handle anesthesia well. If I choose to have a reduction on top of this next surgery, the recovery time will be that much more difficult and long.
4. I am self-employed. Not being able to manuever a large, heavy camera for a few weeks = no work, no pay.
5. If they remove an area from the breast that does not currently appear to have an issue, the tissue can be tested to make sure nothing is going on in that breast too. That could be very reassuring.
6. Who will be here to help take care of me for a few days after my surgery. My sweet sister came for my first surgery, and close friends helped but if I choose the reduction, this time it could be a lot longer.
And many other positives and negative….
I pondered this for a few days and my patient friends listened to me. “Well, on the positive side…well, on the negative side….” I felt like I was being given the gift of a brand new expensive car for $100.00 bucks. What crazy, newly divorced, 54-year-old woman in her right mind would pass up the possibility for beautiful and “perky” new boobs at this age? What a gift, right?
But something was not settling well with me… I couldn’t see clear the path from here to there. How was it all going to transpire, and what about not working for so long during the recovery time. I felt like in the long run it would most likely be a great decision for me, but in the short-term, it would be difficult. I slept on it for a few more days, not knowing where I would go with it all.
Then this morning I woke up and knew, and it had nothing to do with anything on my list of positives on one side and negatives on the other. It was a totally different train of thought. It went something like this…..my body is pretty darn nice just the way it is. Sure, if I exercised a little more and drank a little less cheap beer, I would have a slimmer, more fit body but all-in-all, it ain’t too bad. I am proud of the fact that these breasts, large and “not so perky” as they are, nursed two precious babies for longer than most would want to hear about. I don’t have any medical issues that many women with large breasts have (thank goodness) and therefore, health wise I may or may not be better off if they were smaller.
But the big revelation for me is…. I truly think every body is beautiful, every person is beautiful. Just the way they are. If my 20-something year old daughters ask me how I would feel if they wanted Botox or a reduction/enlargement, I tell them they are beautiful just the way they are. And I mean it!! When women sit in front of me for a portrait session and they ask if I can make them slimmer, fitter, taller (and they do!)…..I tell them, yes, I could do that but I won’t because you are beautiful JUST the way you are! This body of mine is a temple. It’s not perfect but it’s the only one I have. I don’t feel that to do a breast reduction for aesthetic purposes would honor my body and all its done for me. I am strong, capable and my breasts are just fine the way they are. And my sweet, gorgeous, female breast surgeon? I think she completely had me and my best interest in mind when she made the suggestion. Am I opposed to others getting plastic surgery? Hell no, especially if it’s an issue that makes you feel bad about yourself, you can afford it, and it would improve your life. Go for it. But in this case, for me, it’s not the right answer.
So, in a week or so, I will have the next surgery to remove the rest of the cancerous area, and to get “clear margins.” And I will thank my body for giving me an indication that there was a problem when I had no idea there was one, one month after a mammogram that showed nothing. And maybe, when all is said and done, I might exercise a little more and drink a little less beer, and then my breasts might naturally be a little smaller but no more “perky.”
But then, I am 54 years old, and that is ok with me.
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