Warning: This post is not for the squeamish, that is for any of my brothers who do not like reading about their sister’s breasts, even though nearly half of you are old enough for membership in AARP. Apparently, it does not matter that as a sister to five boys, I was regaled with endless tales about your boy parts (“Look, I can write my name in the snow!”) as well as your less than scholarly fascination with GI tract functions. But I’ll stop teasing now because you all have been particularly nice to me lately. But consider yourselves warned!

Last Thursday, I had an appointment with Dr. Beatty. This was my first appointment with him since my mastectomy due to his vacation schedule. As I mentioned previously, due to the location of the incision from prior surgeries, he had to perform his first “upside down mastectomy.” Ordinarily, the incision would be below the breast but he had to work from the top for mine, which is apparently a rarity and a first for an extremely experienced breast surgeon. I was pretty sure that Dr. Beatty’s first question following “How are you?” was going to be “How is your nipple?” (Guys, I told you that this post might be too much for you and it’s going to get worse before it gets better.) This was not a surprise to me since he was concerned about necrosis (cell death) of this area because he saw a little on the underside during surgery, which was one of the reasons I was instructed not to use ice after this surgery. He wanted me to promote blood circulation by keeping the surgery site warm, which not hard during that mini heat wave we had in early August. In the healing process there was an area of superficial skin (including the nipple) that did not look so good for awhile, to put it mildly. Let’s just say that from an aesthetic standpoint, I disliked it both in terms of color and texture. By the time I saw Dr. Beatty, it was obvious even to me that everything was going to be a-okay.

He was very pleased and also told me that doing the upside-down mastectomy was “kind of fun.” He also asked me if he could show off his handiwork to a colleague, Dr. Hanson. That was just fine with me. I don’t know if Dr. Hanson just happened to be available or if Dr. Beatty had given him the heads’ up earlier in the day. Dr. Hanson was also suitably impressed and told me that Dr. Beatty had done a great job. I thought it was nice to see two people very experienced in their profession still be so enthusiastic about their work. I know that for myself, I love what I do but occasionally worry that I won’t like it as much in 10-20 years, so this was encouraging to me.

At the end of the appointment, Dr. Beatty told me that he wanted to see me again in six months. Waaah! Six months? I knew this time was coming and it means that I am getting back to a more normal life. But Dr. Beatty and the other kind folks in the clinic, Martha, Rhea, Candace, Penny, Alysia, and Chris, have all been there for me from the very beginning, just one day after learning about my cancer diagnosis. Thanks so much and you can only imagine how much you helped me stay calm, make good decisions, remember to breathe, think positively, and keep joking through a very frightening and totally unexpected challenge in my life. A couple of people said that they would miss me, which was really sweet. I guess there’s not a lot of laughing at the cancer institute. I told them I’d laugh extra loud from the 5th floor (Dr. Rinn’s office) and maybe they’d hear it on the 6th floor. I also noted that my normal laugh volume might break through the sound insulation between floors. (It has been raised to my attention, a time or two. My college Italian professor, Franco Masciandaro described me as “Signorina MacKenzie of the explosive laughter.” My laugh is not always met with affection. Most notably was the concern raised by two of my grad school advisers. They had only heard me cutting up in classes and were perhaps concerned that when interacting with patients I might say, “You’re depressed? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!” Over time, two years to be exact, they kept hearing good things from my clinical supervisors and let it drop. Maybe they experienced some happiness related childhood trauma. I kid, I actually liked both of them quite a bit.)