Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Pecs of Steel
I was and continue to be thrilled that the drains were removed on Monday; however, my body doesn't seem to know what to do with the fluid. Suddenly, I have "pecs of steel" as well as underarms of steel (though that one isn't so catchy). Although according to St. Johns Mercy Medical Center's web site, swelling of the breast area is a common complication of mastectomy (a really well done site that thoroughly explains the mastectomy procedure). I really do feel as though my breasts may explode without notice. I wonder if that can be seen from space like Mt. Vesuvius or Mt. St. Helens. Perhaps it won't be the magnitude that will send villagers running for their lives, but it certainly feels like the same intensity inside my skin.

I've written a lot about the medical side of all this and haven't spent much time on the emotional or psychological implications of this procedure. Partially this is because I haven't allowed myself the opportunity to sit back and absorb the big picture from diagnosis to future lifestyle impacts and everything in between. I have simply taken this process on one step at a time handling each task placed in front of me. I'm sure that at some point in the future I may need to spend significant time sorting through my feelings. Or I may not. I may be stronger than I realize. However, I have had emotional days and feelings that I have had to address.

After my first post op appointment, the doctor told me it was okay to shower as long as I treated the incisions gently and managed my drains. No problem. I couldn't wait for a shower. Once I came out of the shower and was face to face with the mirrors, that first look was a hard one. I began to get agitated the longer it took to dry off and dress. Without warning, tears streamed silently down my face. I wasn't upset my breasts had been replaced with long incisions and swollen tissues. It wasn't even that I was disappointed that the breasts weren't there. I was comfortable with the decision to have this procedure so the results weren't shocking or upsetting. I was just sad to lose my girls. I mourned my loss that day.

I avoided the mirrors for the next couple of days while I adjusted to my new profile. What is left behind will transform over the next few months into a substitution for my former self. It won't be better or worse, it will just be different. The best part is that these ones will be cancer free. And that makes all the difference.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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    "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12