Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Sunday 19th October

The question of ‘to reconstruct or not’ is slowly resolving itself.

One of the things that I know that is weighing quite heavily on me and influencing the way I think is how this whole cancer thing has affected what I can and can’t do.

I am usually the first to go rushing in (where angels fear to tread, my relatives may say!) – the first to really get stuck in. And I do mean, really stuck in. Near the beginning of this whole thing, I couldn’t do any of that because I got a cold that went to my chest and I had to make sure that I would recover quickly enough to have the necessary operations (/ surgical procedures!). This meant avoiding dust and over-straining myself at 55.

Then there were the ops and having to deal with the after-effects. After the first one, it was not so bad, because, I suppose it was not so sore – but I still couldn’t do everything I wanted to do to help clear Mum’s house and sort everything out.

Now, like for the last two weeks, I am living through the aftermath of the big op. I can’t lift heavy things (hell, I fell as though I can’t lift much at all) with my right arm, because the muscle and the tissue must be allowed to heal. Also, I don’t want to put extra strain on the ‘web’ that is already developing seeing as I had so many lymph nodes removed. Then there is the ‘you’re recovering from surgery’ sense of concern that everyone brings to bear – and which means that I end up doing much less that I can actually do; and which I would normally do.

All this is so frustrating.

Now, I just know I’m entering the ‘keep healthy for chemo’ and the ‘recovering from / dealing with chemo’ era.

I find this all so frustrating.

And I think it makes me see myself differently. I hate not being involved. I hate not doing things. I hate not feeling 100% helpful.

I also hate relying on others to do things for me. (Again, so like Mum!)

Of course, I’m not sick. At least, I don’t feel it. I have had a helluva operation and my poor old body must be allowed to recover 🙂 – but I’m not actually sick.

This is fine and all very well – but so irritating in some ways too.  🙁

And it makes me think about the whole reconstruction thing.

The feeling of ‘I’m a woman because I have breasts’ means zilch to me. Losing the one boob will not change the way I conduct, or see, myself. (Amazon and all that!) Which is why I wonder why I would want to go through many more months of pain and recovery just to look ‘normal’.

What I am finding does really affect me, and the way I see myself, is what I am able / allowed to do. (Actually, I know this affects me – it’s not only having cancer that has made me realise this.)

We were at the dam today, because Dani was paddling in the Enduro. This is the second year in a row I haven’t taken part since I got my butt into a long boat. Last year, there just weren’t enough Mams / Mums who wanted to / could paddle to form a team. I also know I wasn’t so stable and confident in my own paddling – not as much as I am now – at least, was before this cancer thing.

I can deal with not being able to run, or get onto a tennis court, or be able to paddle because I am recovering from the operation that was necessary to get rid of the cancer. I am not so sure that I am willing to be what I see as so ‘feak and weeble’ (as Dad would say, a la Spooner) simply to have a boob reconstruction.

In some ways, it would be almost like denying my own attitude of ‘this is as it is, so get on with it’.

I am 51 years old. My boobs are 51 years old. They have breast fed 4 children. If I only have one now, then maybe that’s just how it has to be.

After all, it’s much the same as I feel about losing my hair, as I found out when I had my head shaved for the Shavathon: I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror and experience the thoughts about how strange I look with my ‘sticky-out’ ears 🙂  Similarly, I don’t have to look at myself in the mirror and think about what I really look like with one boob.

It’s my choice. And, if those who do have to look at me (with no hair, or one boob) have a problem with it, or think I look weird, then so be it.

As my kids often tell me, “Mum, you are weird.” So, what the hell!


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