Being balanced

New month, new season, new haircut, new tits. I am finally balanced! (Physically. Not emotionally or mentally, obviously).

It was quite a dramatic event, in the end, for a bog standard breast reduction to match my big ol’ Good Boob to the littler One Which No Longer Has Any Caaancer In. I went into hospital on the Friday at 7.30am, having not eaten or drank anything since midnight. Said goodbye to DH and the kiddies. An hour later I was told I was third on my surgeon Tracey Irvine’s list so I wouldn’t be having the op till the afternoon and could have some breakfast. Hung around on short stay unit all day, then was finally prepped for theatre at about 4pm. Shaking ‘like a shitting dog’, as DH would say in his usual delicate way, as the anaesthetist put canula in. I thought happy thoughts about my babies. Then sleep.

I woke up in the recovery room, had all four shots of morphine, wheeled back to the short stay unit at about 9pm, high as a kite. DH came and brought me sarnies. Famished. Slept. Woke up on Saturday morning feeling fine. The drain had very little blood in it, which is good. I had brekkie while I waited for the docs to come and sign me off to go home. Then half an hour later, it all started to go wrong. I noticed that I was bleeding. A lot. All down my back and sides. The drain was filling up rapidly. The nurse padded my dressings a bit more. And then I realised that the left breast was getting bigger, and bigger, and bigger, and harder. In the space of two hours, it had expanded into my armpit and up to my collar bone. I looked like Lolo Ferrari, but only on one side. (I’m reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the smalls at the moment, and it has just struck me that this sounds rather like what happened to Violet Beauregarde, except without the excessive gum chewing).

Lolo Ferrari: me after the first op, but only on one side...

The doc arrived to check out what the hell was going on with my pneumatic breast. It was bad news. A bloody big haematoma – a pool of blood, basically – that would have to be drained under another general anaesthetic, that day. No one’s fault; just sheer bad luck. Happens to about one in 100, apaz. Easy to fix, no effect on finished result. Still, I didn’t find that very reassuring at the time. I was losing a lot of blood, and combined with the shock of things feeling very wrong, I started to black out. Blood pressure went through floor – it normally struggles to get above 100/60 anyway, and it plummeted to something like 70/50. Oxygen. Fluid drip. Lots of doctors and nurses fiddling with me. Tears.

And panic. Because do you know what I was thinking? In my irrational state, I was thinking: ‘Oh shit. I haven’t got away with this after all. This is the general anaesthetic I’m not going to wake up from. And I haven’t even got any life insurance!’ I was in a state of extreme, stomach-curdling fear. I genuinely thought I was going to die, of the only non-cancer related procedure of the past 16 months. Blackly funny. But you can’t be that scared for that long. Sooner or later, you calm down, and by the time the freak circus act of me and my Amazing Inflating Breasticle were taken up to the ward at lunchtime (since it was clearly not going to be a Short Stay after all) I was just feeling irritated. My blood pressure had stablised so I was no longer an emergency, so I kept slipping further and further down the surgery list, and didn’t go in till about 5.30pm. It was really snowing outside and DH and my mummy kept me updated with piccies and reports of the children’s sledging adventures. Tracey came in to do the Groundhog Day op herself, bless her, and was most apologetic about inadvertantly giving me a bigger rather than a smaller boob.

I did wake up. Evidently. By the time I’d had all the available morphine (gotta love that stuff) it was very late and I was hungry, and DH was waiting for me on the ward, with my own pillow and my bear and some food. Massive relief. Silly girl, being scared of a little anaesthetic. Didn’t get much sleep as the poor elderly woman in the opposite bed was very confused and yelled (literally) for the nurses all night long. When Sunday morning rolled around, I cautiously examined myself. I was not bleeding. The drain looked fine. My breast looked sort of the right size. And by teatime I was home, giving my babies right-sided cuddles and enjoying a roastie prepared by my amazing mummy.

I don’t know how they drain a haemotoma, but I do know that the entire left side of my body was black and blue. I looked like I had been selectively beaten up. Big doses of arnica (200cc) got rid of the bruising within a few days. And the second op may have turned out to be a blessing in disguise, too, because draining the excess fluid away helped the scars dry out and heal incredibly quickly. When I had the Mission Critical op on my right breast last Easter (nearly a year ago, can you believe it?!), it took weeks and weeks to heal, with dressing changes required every couple of days. This time only one dressing change was required, and two weeks later I took them off completely. Amazeballs.

So here we are nearly a month later. Spring has sprung, the sun is streaming through my office window. I sit here at my desk in the house with the blue shutters, looking out at my monkey puzzle tree. I wouldn’t change one single thing about my life, you know, apart from maybe being able to spend my days writing fiction instead of copywriting. And I finally have two tits of the same size. They are a bit smaller than I’m used to (still too sore to get measured/wear underwires, so I don’t know what size yet), and very scarred, plus the nipple on the left one hasn’t settled in quite yet – it looks a bit like Tracey gave my five-and-a-half-year-old daughter some scissors and asked her to cut it out and sew it back on – but they look alright, and they match. I am symmetical once more.

And I am learning to love my new shape, after all my resistance. It is what it is. As the very wise Byron Katie has remarked, arguing against reality is as pointless as trying to teach a cat to bark. You may fight, and resist, and rail against, and wish fervently, and hope, and resent, and feel angry or upset or jealous, and try to control everything and everyone, but in the end, people and things are how they are. We only suffer if our thoughts are out of kilter with reality. Acceptance is far from passive, I am learning. It’s not about just sitting back and letting things happen to you. It takes enormous effort every day, for me to accept how my body is and what has happened over the past 16 months since I was diagnosed, and be at peace with it all.

I’m still a bit resistant to some things, though. That my hair is taking so sodding long to grow back, for one thing. And that I can’t work out what happened at the end of Sherlock. HOW DID HE DO THAT??

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6 thoughts on “Being balanced

  1. My tits haven’t had the travails you’re s have had in the past year and half and I too do not know how the F Sherlock did it either.

    Brilliant blog piece again left sided Lolo…sorry Maja.

    Enjoy acceptance: it is like meditation and power rolled into one. N xx

  2. Blimey you’ve some spirit, lass!
    Haven’t got a monkey puzzle but gazing out of window at my first Jetfire daffodil and thinking of you.
    Thanks for the blog, Maja.
    Love and (right sided) hugs, Jane x

  3. Theresa Murtagh says:

    Oh Maja,
    You had me in tears when I read about the bleeding and how the breast was getting bigger and expanded into your armpit and up to your collar bone! But as usual by the end you had me smiling again with your upbeat way of looking at what you’ve been through, although perish the thought of you looking like Lolo Ferrari lol
    Keep fighting the fight, my thoughts are always with you.
    Theresa xxx

  4. Nicola Howard says:

    You never cease to amaze me Maja, I cannot imagine much in life will ever phase you from now on. So pleased for you that you have got balance under your blouse!! I am off to see if I can download or buy Sherlock!! xxxxx

  5. Bridget says:

    Oh Maja, only just read this but it’s tears, then smiles. I don’t know how you do it, but please do carry on writing. I’m sending the link to your blog to a friend’s sister who has been diagnosed with breast cancer – she’s the same age as us. I’m sure reading your blog will help her. Lots of love, Bridget xxx

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