On June 26th two years ago, I was heading into what would be thirteen hours of surgery. Most of you know the entire story, have followed it from the months of decision making pre-surgery to the surprisingly difficult post-surgery months and now years. I have one more step in this journey and it turns out it’s going to be as significant as every step I’ve taken thus far.
I never anticipated breast reconstruction would be such an arduous, intricate process, but it turns out it’s tougher to achieve a perfect rack than one might think. With that said, my steadfast plastic surgeon wasn’t going to quit until he got it right, and indeed he did. Up until this last go around of surgery, I continued to second guess the choice of reconstruction. But at the end of the day I’m glad I did it. At the time, my doctors really pushed for it saying that I was 40 and single and with all the changes I was about to undergo, it would be too easy to throw in the towel with regards to dating and sex and oh yeah, love, in my future. So I followed their lead and in doing so have been given another chance to reach out to people with these nasty little fucker genes.
At the suggestion of a friend, I contacted a tattoo artist, Zoey Taylor, and sent her an email by way of introduction giving her a brief history regarding my BRCA 1 & 2 genes, my choice for a prophylactic mastectomy and hysterectomy, and the fact that I wanted something beautiful on my body in hopes of reclaiming what I’ve lost along the way. While there is an amazing tattoo artist, Vinnie Myers, who is known for tattooing pigment for reconstructed nipples, I wasn’t looking to have what I had before this all began. And frankly, if I’m going to get tattoos- something I’ve ALWAYS wanted to do and haven’t, they are going to bold, glorious, bad-ass tattoos.
So I went to meet Zoey and immediately knew I was in the right place. After chatting and looking at images that I’ve been collecting for YEARS, we made a plan of attack. With reticence, she asked if I would consider being interviewed for a documentary about tattoos and the impetus behind them. The documentarian would also want to film me while being tattooed. Now- I have no problem flashing my new boobs to anyone who asks- they’re not really mine, so I have no investment in hiding them, but I have SERIOUS body image issues. Like, SERIOUS issues! But some things are even more important than my flabby tummy- as hard as that may be to believe. While not keen to be seen half naked for an audience, this serves a larger purpose.
I started this blog, roughly two and a half years ago, because I know of three people in the world who have both BRCA genes, and we’re all related. I naively thought that if I put this out in the world, and friends passed it along to others, surely I would find people who were in the same boat. On the journey, I have made contact with so many BRCA positive women, stories sometimes similar to mine, sometimes vastly different. Still, I have yet to find another person who is a carrier for both genes. But somewhere along the way, the search ceased to be the point. What replaced it is an ongoing desire to gather and disperse as much information as humanly possible in hopes of helping other women make this very difficult choice. So, if I allow this experience, the process of getting my new (and after five surgeries, nearly perfect) breasts tattooed with bright purple dahlias, to be seen on film- I continue the conversation about genetic testing and prophylactic mastectomies and hysterectomies. That’s good enough for me. Flabby tummy be damned!
June 26, 2014 looks very different from the one in 2012. And while I can’t predict the future, I can say with relative assurance, that it ain’t gonna be breast cancer that takes me in the end.
I went back to look at my facebook entry for the night before surgery and was awestruck by page after page of my ongoing battle cry. Post after post you sent me into surgery with my very own cheering section:
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Thank you all for getting me from there to here.