Following the discovery of a lump above my breast implant, I have set out on a journey uncovering the lies told through omission within the medical device industry. This is my story.
“I’m having a bad day” is not something I ever think, let alone say out loud. It sounds like I’m determining that the remainder of my day will be, at the very least, as bad as it is in that crappy moment. Today, this day, was bad all day. Contemplation or positivity were luxuries I could not afford when I was up to my neck in it. I imagine walking through molasses in thick fog would be a similar experience.
I was taking my first steps on a journey that day, down a road to somewhere I could feel safer, healthier. My appointment to have an ultrasound was delayed but I was more curious than annoyed. “Both breasts today?” the sonographer mumbled as she carelessly prepared the bed and console. Once I was on the bed, she announced I needed to get up as her attempts to move it with me on it were not-surprisingly unsuccessful. The tone was set for the next miserable hour or so. “Looks like you have a rupture,” she said from the silence I had tolerated in the hope she would do her best work for me. But because the doctor she summoned had left early, she tried to assure me it was nothing to worry about anyway.
Even though they had given me the wrong slides with the correct report, I was glad to know I wasn’t imagining something. “Ruptured implant suspected”. I was to see a plastic and reconstructive surgeon the following week to learn about my options.
For the past 12 months, I’ve had a pinching feeling at “seven o’clock” on my left breast. I thought it was the stitches or titanium mesh I was told was used to support the implants. Turns out it was/is the silicon goo oozing into the space where my boobs used to be. It stings like an ant bite.
What if they offer to replace the dodgy implant with a new one? They will still be cold, heavy and numb. What about the cost, when they were expensive to begin with? The alternative is something I’ve fantasised about when I’m feeling strong. I never thought I would be ready to be sans boobs! I did, however, often think of how nice it would be to just be me under my skin, lay on my stomach, forget to remember I am tethered, encumbered somehow. Surely I’d be happier being more authentic? I regret not having the courage to show my bare chemo head. What was I thinking? No one will know there’s nothing under this hat! I look ridiculous in any head covering but I hid under my hats to reduce attention and avoid people giving me “that look”.
So, here’s my chance it seems, to embrace the natural look, albeit confronting – even freakish. It’s like my body has so much more to say! My neck tells of surviving metastatic thyroid cancer with a scar that reaches almost all the way around and the asymmetry that causes my head to tilt slightly. My abdomen discloses the narrowness of my pelvis exhibiting the scars from three C-Sections. Even my left calf speaks of a playful three-year-old whose knee slipped into a hole in the car seat and met with a metal spring. If I have my implants removed, I won’t be able to muffle the truth my chest will tell that I am a breast cancer survivor.
The implants have let me pretend until now that I didn’t have breast cancer. Shame and pride are curdled in my sense of self, and like silicone and human tissue, they too must be separated so that what is true remains.
I have enjoyed pretending I’m a healthy, normal-looking woman wearing these boobs. I still have ovaries so that’s a consolation, but even if they weren’t there I would still be me. Without most things females have to distinguish us from males, I can survive sans boobs. I’ve survived all my other “ectomies”! I suppose I’ll look less feminine but why is that important? I might feel more true to myself than I ever have? What I do know is I’m grateful to see in my 60th year, a privilege denied much stronger women.