I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, in February 2011, and went through the full monty with regard to treatment: a double mastectomy, a few months of chemo and radiation, then daily doses of tamoxifen, a drug that blocks any lingering estrogen from hooking up with any lurking cancer like an overbearing chaperone at an eighth grade dance.
For the last two years, I’ve been living in a reconstruction zone, trying to put Humpty Dumpty back together again with the help of a rock star reconstructive surgeon. Rebuilding breasts is not easy — no matter how you do it, it’s sort of a boob job with a Bride of Frankenstein twist — but I’m finally done and have two breast-like objects on the front of my chest to show for all my trouble.
I call them “the strangers beside me.”
And they are strangers — spongy, cold mounds that feel neither pain nor pleasure, that refuse to budge an inch even when I’m running, that don’t quite look — or act — like normal breasts. Instead, they act a lot like the silicone sandbags I used to tuck inside my bra after the double mastectomy, except I can’t take these off at the end of the day when my chest starts to ache.
Welcome to my post-cancer body.