In some ways I am very sensitive, squeamish even. I hate scary movies so much that I just won’t see them. When I was young, it felt like I was the only one who refused to see these movies or to go on amusement park rides. I don’t like visual gore. I don’t like to watch violence.

Perhaps surprisingly, this squeamishness does not translate to physical health issues. I used to find watching surgeries on television fascinating as long as there weren’t “sound effects”. As I recall, I often turned the sound off. I used to work in a medical lab at a hospital where they did dissection. It was not my favorite thing to view, but I handled it okay and I liked the job.

I know that some people have a hard time handling their surgical drains, looking at their surgical incisions, or the aftereffects of a mastectomy. I am not one of those people. My natural curiosity about the human body as well as how surgeons work to help fight disease and sculpt the body distracted me from any revulsion I might otherwise feel.

A week ago I had a set of surgical procedures as part of my breast reconstruction. Part of it was the liposuction of small amounts of fat from my hips and thighs, which were injected into my natural breast to improve symmetry. It was something I had planned to do after my TRAM but had held off for a year because I needed a break from surgery.

As I’ve previously written, I was actually kind of looking forward to this surgery in an odd way, because it would take me off of the treadmill that was tiring me. The treadmill of responsibility to others and of expectation.

Who was I kidding? That surgery was no break. One of my friends told me recently that she was having a major surgery. Being the multiple surgery veteran that I am I said, “Surgery was not that bad until I’d done a lot of the healing and I realized how much it sucks. But by then, I felt a lot better.”

When I’ve had surgery, I’ve taken it day by day. I’ve discovered that I have a somewhat high pain tolerance.The worst pain I’ve ever had was as a teen and a young adult. It was menstrual pain and it could knock my onto the bathroom floor into the fetal position. That is probably the reason why when in labor, I asked for an epidural early and often. As it turned out, even childbirth did not replicate those years of pain that I had. I was wrong about my pain tolerance. The truth was that I had crazy painful and bad periods.

So here I am after my last surgeries, with a high pain tolerance and being low on the squeamish factor, at least when it comes to real life blood and gore. I was told that the liposuction would create bruising. There wasn’t much right afterwards but then they bloomed like creepy black lagoons on my body. They were tender but didn’t hurt as much as a bruise caused by an injury. But they were big, they grew for a couple of days, and they were just ugly and nasty.

Think I’m exaggerating? Here’s the biggest one, located on my inner right thigh. It has actually healed considerably in the last few days.


Looking at these bruises has been like being knocked upside my head. This one is like an emblem of cancer. It’s big and ugly and crept up on me. Looking at it, I know that I am done with reconstruction. So unless there is a complication that needs to be addressed or new disease, I am done.

The fact that not long ago I was in part, looking forward to these surgeries gives me great pause. I am typically very self aware and deliberate in my decisions as long as I am reasonably calm. Surgery sucks. It really does. At this point, it is not worth it to me to do more but because I had kind of forgotten this recently, I have begun asking friends to remind me of how bad surgery is in the event that I start toying with the idea of more reconstruction. I can already see that I would need at least another couple of surgeries to be fairly symmetrical. I look fine in clothes but my breasts are not only of different sizes but they are also of different shape. It is less so since the surgery last week but they still look mismatched. Today, I think that is just fine and I want to keep being satisfied with this and not do any more to my body.

I am not sorry I had these surgeries. I’m just a little shaken up because I’d forgotten what a disruption that they are to my energy, my concentration, and my ability to take care of myself, even if only feeling out of it for a few days. I have people in my life who I want to be present for. I have things I want to do and feel and say.

I have my post-surgery appointment tomorrow. I think I am healing well. I don’t expect any surprises. I am at peace with where I am going to be when these bruises heal.

I am bruised but not broken.

I am humble but not humiliated.

I am strong but not invincible.