Self-Love After Breast Surgery
When I took this picture in September 2018 I was unaware of the issue in my left breast. I knew about the one mass in that breast because of the mammogram and subsequent biopsy I had back in 2013. The mass was benign.
But, the two new masses that had cropped up were news to me. Because of my family history of breast cancer I wasn't too surprised when the results of a breast health assessment led to the recommendation that I have a breast MRI.
I went in for the test and a few days later received a call that there were two areas in my left breast that looked suspicious and would need to be biopsied. I was concerned, but because I'd had a biopsy before I wasn't too worried about the procedure.
I went in for biopsy of the masses and waited for the results. This time as I waited for the results I was a little more concerned than when I had the first biopsy in 2013. I waited with bated breath to hear from the doctor. Finally, the nurse called and told me there was good news and news I probably didn't want to hear. The good news was that both masses were benign. The news I probably didn't want to hear was that the masses were diagnosed as Pseudoangiomatous Stromal Hyperplasia or PASH. PASH is a rare, benign breast lesion caused by an overgrowth of myofibroblastic cells.
I was referred to a surgeon to discuss my options. Based on my family history of breast cancer (mother, maternal aunt, maternal first cousin), the decision was made to remove both masses. I had surgery this past January (2019) and while I have no regrets about my decision, the healing process has been more difficult than I anticipated.
As I am healing, I am noticing changes in by breast that will more likely than not become permanent. Because there was over 100 grams of tissue removed, my breast is taking on a new size and shape. The coloring is darker than on my right breast, and the skin around the areola feels different. The healing process is also bringing about sensations in my breast as the nerves regenerate that are quite annoying; tingling, burning, and a chaffing feeling.
The thing that has been hardest, aside from the pain and appearance, is the scar. I wasn't prepared to feel this way about the appearance of my breast. I've been feeling sad and frustrated, but most of all unattractive. When I look at my breast in the mirror I feel disappointed. Then I immediately feel guilty. I know I am so blessed that the masses were benign. If the results had come back as cancer I probably would have had to have a mastectomy. My mother had a mastectomy in the 1980s when she was diagnosed and I can only imagine how difficult that process was for her.
So, why the hell am I complaining about a scar?
I remember in the early 2000s when I was in therapy and was feeling guilty about a situation. My therapist explained to me, "If you lose your toe in an accident you'll be sad. If you then meet someone who has lost his foot in an accident you'll have that moment where you feel like you shouldn't complain because you only lost a toe and that fella has lost his whole foot. But, him loosing his foot doesn't take away from the fact that you lost your toe!"
We can't compare our trauma to others and then minimize it because "it could have been worse." We have to allow ourselves to process our trauma and to grieve the loss caused by the trauma. I have to allow myself time to process this new normal for my left breast. I have to embrace my breast just the way it is NOW. I want to see the beauty and the blessing in my new normal. I know I'll get there. My first step? Acknowledging my scar and being kind to myself about my breast's appearance.