every now and then i experience a feeling of disappointment and unwomanliness, a feeling left over from my mastectomy 20 years ago. the events of the summer of 1997, and most of the rest of that year, were not captured, on film or digitally, and there are no memory books with clever captions and die-cut shapes and designs. i have never been able to recall much about that time, except for the bouts of chemo (unbelievably emetic, each and every time) and radiation (which was painless, but strangely made me feel like a slab of meat under a warming lamp).
for the most part, i think no thoughts, have no memories of that time in my life. i plowed through all the appointments and hospital visits and soldiered on through healing and attempts to “make believe” i hadn’t lost a breast. the reconstruction was a fiasco, several months wasted on stretching (painful doesn’t begin to describe it), insertion (hooray!) and then removal due to the skin’s failure to heal (the “renowned” plastic surgeon attributed it to my fair skin and it’s weakened state from radiation). the only other option, if i wanted to give the impression of being a “normal” woman, was a prosthetic, which i have worn for 19 years.
lately, and on occasion in the past, i’ve found myself comparing myself to other women. no matter what the situation, my fake boob always puts me at the bottom of the list. whether the other woman is a little heavier or has bad hair or never smiles, at least she has both breasts. that is, to my mind, a win.
is it vanity if one is overly concerned with negative body image? one definition is “excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance…” another is “the quality of being worthless or futile, as in “the vanity of human wishes.”
what i hope to attain before i die is acceptance of myself, inside and out, with more emphasis on the inside. this vessel is not going to improve going forward, that’s for sure, but there is hopefully more ahead for my heart and soul.