(Liza’s note: There is a photo journal of my scars towards the end of this blog. Not the whole image, just the scar samples. I’ll indicate where you can, if you want, stop reading if you don’t want to see them. Thanks!)
“But Simba,” said Scar. “Truth is in the eye of the beholder.”
It’s officially been 4 weeks since my mastectomy, and I’m really thankful that this blog exists. Most notably, I’m thankful that it has given me insight into my own experiences these past 28 days — some which I can’t quite remember, and some which I hope never to forget.
In the days leading up to my surgery, I found a wonderful blog by a woman who, too, chronicled her journey, surgery and recovery in her bilateral prophylactic mastectomy. Just recently, I emailed her to let her know how much her writing, pictures, and words meant to me. Her words and photos helped me get a better understanding of what I could expect (except for the part that she went for a 3 mile walk just days after surgery, drove at Week 2 and went for a run even though she couldn’t feel her arms!!). In my email, I simply thanked her for the courage to post her journey and for allowing me to learn — in a way that my doctors just couldn’t explain — about the personal struggle of being post-mastectomy BRCA.
Rebecca wrote back this:
Liza, I’m so glad I helped you out in some way, and thank you for letting me know. There were so many daily journal entries, so many photos and articles that never made it online, but 2 years out from my surgery, life has moved on, as it should. Although my blog is outdated, the photo galleries continue to help women more than I think. I hope your recovery is going well and that you are in a good state of mind. Sounds like you are!
At the 4-week mark, I’m so thankful for the lessons of the 1/2 Marathon training that continue to pop up when I least expect it. While the physical benefits are obvious, the emotional and mental awareness that running and training have brought me are priceless. I am more aware of how my body moves, what it needs, and how it heals. I am more aware of when I should push myself and when I should hang back. And, the mental endurance of “just a few more miles.. just a few more miles..breathe in.. breathe out…” has gotten me through the most painful, and some of the most frustrating, times during this recovery.
I’m at the point in my recovery where my strength is starting to come back. Yesterday, I was adventurous and actually left the house for a few hours (driven by my sister, Grace). Together, we did a number of errands — including going to my work to get some stuff done. There were so many times when I wanted to say, “Grace, I’m done. Let’s go back home.” but I’m glad I kept gently pushing myself to explore the Real World again (even if it was 20 degrees outside).
Though I’m trying not to keep up with the Mastectomy Joneses, I am proud of my recovery and embracing the way my body is healing … as it should.
Next section: photo journal of one of my scars. If you are dropping off here, then here’s to “peace, love, and beholding the truth — Liza.” 🙂
If you’re continuing, here we go!
At 4-weeks out, I’m finally comfortable posting some pictures of my scars. It’s not the entire breast — no lewd acts here! Just a progression of the scarring on one of my breasts. I’ve been obsessed with the color, size, shape and positioning of my scars these past few weeks. After all, they represent this journey for me; my scars are the entry way for the tools that removed my potentially deadly breast tissue. So, on our 1-month anniversary together, Dear Foobies, I figured it would be nice to honor our relationship…
So, here we have Day 7 post-operative. You can see the glassy reflection of the Tegaderm tags that keep my stitching both compressed and clean. The Tegaderm tags were placed on at the conclusion of my 8-hour surgery and stayed on until Day 22. The wound, obviously, is very fresh, reddish black, and open. The stitching is internal with the external “knot” towards the center of my chest which was held together by “surgical Super Glue”. The length of the scar goes from just under my arm pit to the center of my chest (approx 8 inches). This isn’t how everyone has it done — my incision is long because the surgeon had to remove so much tissue. The tissue is extremely swollen, and as the scar progresses, you’ll see it take a different shape (even though I’m showing you the exact same cross-section!)
One week later, it still looks much the same, but there are subtle changes in the skin. The incision is healing and starting to look a little cleaner. There is still Tegaderm on the wound. The swelling has gone down a little bit on the left of the picture, which now reveals a more prominent dent in the tissue.
At Day 22, the Tegaderm tags were removed which allowed me to actually cleanse the incision site. With some fresh water and exposure to air, the incision actually looked pretty neat. Scabs developed quickly and then soon started to peel off, leaving a faint red/pink colored scar behind. There was one area (upper right corner of the photo) that was slightly opened (think, small cut) that I covered with gauze for a day or two. Notice the bottom left corner where the scar is starting to lighten in color! 🙂
At Day 28, with more than a week of cleansing, exposure to air, and dried skin coming off, the scars are starting to lighten. While I hated posting this photo, you’ll notice that some scar tissue has developed at the bottom left corner of this photo. I had seen it, first, under the Tegaderm but thought it was just my skin tucked under the compression. Alas, it has gotten increasingly more pronounced over the past few weeks as my swelling has almost totally subsided. But, overall, the incision has healed really nicely and the scar is starting to turn a lovely pink/skin tone.
Pretty soon, the once thick, dark, and ominous scars will fade to a thin line across my chest. Though they will be nearly gone, I’ll know the truth. I’ll know the truth that they carried even before cancer hit my family. I’ll know the truth they carried — back when Liza was just a few cells colliding in my mom’s body — and the code they followed 35 years in the making. And, in the next 10 years, we’ll discover whether they hold the code for my children. If they do — if BRCA found its way to my own kids — they we’ll know exactly the truth it carries.
And, if BRCA has, indeed, been the truth for my children, they will know the strength and courage of those who came before them ….. as they should.
Peace, love, and continuing the journey,