After my journey as a divorced, single mother I remember praying, “God, I just want to be normal again.”
After our journey with cancer, I remember Jeff and I praying for life to just return to normal.
What is it about the word normal that has me searching to live a life just like the people around me? Is that what I truly want? And more importantly, is that what God wants for me?
I received an email from a reader who is experiencing a fear of the unknown after a life with cancer and a husband who chose to walk away. Body image issues can be a difficult struggle for those who haven’t had cancer, so multiply that exponentially with cancer. I shared this story and she thought it would help others. It’s just taken me a bit to get to the point where I could hit publish on this post.
When I went through my double mastectomy I decided to go through the first phase of reconstruction at the same time. Tissue expanders were inserted immediately after my breast tissue was removed. Essentially the expanders are plastic milk jugs with a metal circle.
For 7 months I would go in, Dr. Mosh would place a magnet on my breast to find the metal circle, and then he would insert a long needle into the expanders and fill them with 50 cc of saline (salt water). The gradual expansion allows the tissue to expand and stretch to be ready for the implants. They have to be filled gradually so that the skin doesn’t die, as the skin has very little blood flow – the “stuff” was all removed with the initial surgery.
So the day came for those suckers to be removed. During the surgery, Dr. Mosh took my expanders out, inserted the implants, and then used the extra skin and scar tissue to build nipples.
Jeff and I left that surgery center excited. Finally, I would be able to sleep on my stomach. Also, I would be able to have Emily and Ben snuggle with me. They hated the feeling of the metal and I resented the expanders for robbing me of that snuggle time with my toddlers.
Within a couple of weeks, I would be able to go to a tattoo artist to have the new nipples colored. I told Jeff that I was going to have 2 large stars tattooed that said, “Jeff” or “Jeff was here” in sparkling silver letters. We had a great time laughing about all the things that we could have tattooed and I even had plans for Jeff to get a matching one. He would have chickened out for sure though.
Before I went to sleep the first night my left nipple went flat. Then within 48 hours, the right one was gone too. That was when I felt robbed. Hell, I had mounds. Breasts need nipples, right? So I named them skfoobs (that magical combination of skin, and fake boobs). I really didn’t care about what they looked like but I was concerned for Jeff. Does he deserve at the age of 29 to have a wife without nipples? Do my 2 girls deserve to see their mother look so much different than them and other women? But when Dr. Mo told us that he could do another surgery, Jeff was adamantly against it. He said that we didn’t need another surgery and that it would be totally selfish to make me go through another one.
I remember praying to be normal that night.
Fast forward 7 years later. I have never been a modest person. I blame that on my swimming background where everyone walked around naked. And then combine that with being a nurse, I have just been surrounded by naked people my entire life.
My friend Steph had just dropped Ben off from a playdate at the house with his buddy Luke. Ben closed the door behind him and took my hand and said, “We need to talk.” This is very odd for Ben as he is usually impossible to keep in one place as he bounces from activity to activity.
We went to my bedroom and he explained that he and Luke were playing chase and tag and that they walked in on Steph getting out of the shower. He said, “I’m sorry Mom for walking in on her, but there is something really wrong! I think Mrs. H has cancer.” I’ll never forget the tears form in his eyes.
I asked him to explain further. He explained that Mrs. H had these 2 bumps on her breasts and that I needed to take her to my doctor. The lightbulb went off for me. I smiled and remember tenderly holding him and then my tears fell. Those bumps were normal. Those bumps were nipples.
I explained to Ben that I was the person with breasts that weren’t normal and that Mrs. H was more than ok. He seemed relieved and within 5 minutes was back to his normal world of sports and picking on his sisters. I called Steph and laughed with her about Ben’s trauma.
That night I thanked God for my skfoobs. I was thankful for the answered prayer in which my children were spared of the fear and trauma of seeing their mom as wounded and different.
I was given a glimpse of how God sees me through the eyes of a child – perfectly normal.
Blessings sweet friends – JennyTweet