Archives for posts with tag: Body image

This post is from 8/7/12, the day before my right-side mastectomy. I have re-posted it previously. I include it here because it is a quite bittersweet reminder of the fears I had at the time about my physical health as well as about my view of my own physical attractiveness. My breast surgeon briefly appears in this post to show what a reassuring rock star that he is. And yes, I think I used my humor well to cope with this. This was my third surgery in six weeks. I had undergone two lumpectomies with a lack of clear (cancer free) margins. The extent of the cancer in my right breast had not yet been discovered. My treatment plan was still up in the air. (And yeah, I know I repeat that a great deal but was so incredibly stressful.)

The dress in the post? I gave it away after it became too big for me. I loved it. I felt pretty, mod, and feminine when I wore it, even during the three months after the surgery, when I wore a foam prosthetic. Plus, it was comfortable, a requirement of a middle-aged fashionista.

 

Tomorrow is the day that I say goodbye to rightie, the ta to my other ta, the oonga to my baz, and the crenshaw to my honeydew. And you don’t have to tell me that it’s sad because I already know. I do need to move forward and the sooner I have this surgery, the sooner I can get over the next round of painful and yucky stuff. My outward appearance with go from Elizabeth 1.0 to Elizabeth 2.0 to Elizabeth 3.0 by the time the holiday season comes upon us. (Just pretend that I was never a baby and I started out life as a 46 year old woman. Be creative.)

Elizabeth 1.0 did have a proper send off today. As I walked into Trader Joe’s, I received not one, but two compliments from the Trader Joe’s employee who was working out front. First he said, “Have a good time shopping” followed by, “I like your dress.” He may have even been younger than me. As an extra bonus, he was not one of the drunk guys at the bus shelter in the Junction, ergo the flirting was not the least bit creepy or boundary violating. The bus guys seem to be my main fan club. (And drunk guys, I haven’t heard a lot from you lately. Middle aged ladies need a little encouragement.) So hey, Elizabeth 1.0, you still got it and with a sober guy, too!

I am not going to be bringing my computer to the hospital tomorrow so I may not post anything until I get home on Thursday. John may have his computer and if I am mentally with-it enough I may be able to get him to post on my behalf. Otherwise, please be patient. I’m not sure what I am going to be up for communication-wise for a couple of days. I am confident that surgery will go well and even though it is likely to hurt for awhile and to be very upsetting, I will be okay. During my meeting with Dr. Beatty last Thursday I said, “I’m going to thank you now because next time I see you I may have lost perspective.” His quick and calm reply was, “No, you won’t.” He’s probably right.

Goodbye, Girl; hello, long and healthy life.

The Trader Joe’s guy has an affinity for prints, apparently. I do think I looked better in this dress for the obvious reason. My whole head showed rather than being semi-headless like this model. To have an entire head is more aesthetically pleasing. I learned that in my art history classes. I do like her earrings, though. Buy your own dress at http://www.sierratradingpost.com/chetta-b-jersey-print-dress-v-neck-short-sleeve-for-women~p~4059u/?filterString=womens-dresses~d~257%2F&colorFamily=02

 

Much to my surprise, orange has become a theme in my breast cancer experience. I have written FIVE posts on the topic of orange. Here are two of those posts, the first written in August 2012, right before my mastectomy and the second in September 2012, right after my expander placement.

8/1/13: Future Job in the Chorus of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

You remember who was in the chorus of the Gene Wilder musical classic? Yes, the Oompa Loompas. And what color were the Oompa Loompas? Yes, they were orange. And what color were my roots after using an unfortunate shade of Clairol Natural Instincts? Yes, they were a very deep shade of overripe cantalope. “Natural” Instincts, my ass!

I’ve never messed up a hair color before but I haven’t done it myself for several years and apparently, Clairol Natural Instincts uses a totally different formula than they did when I last used their products. And they are on a melon kick! Not to be seen in public (other than going to Target to get a fix for this), I used a non-permanent, normal looking reddish brown dye today. Ah, much better. Most of the melon is gone.

The Oompa Loompas would say that my parents are to blame for this mishap (“…the mother and the fa-ather”). However, the same thing happened to my mom and she warned me about it. When did I remember this? After I rinsed the color out of my hair! So, I’ve decided to blame Roald Dahl.

It will be so nice to be able to go back to the salon. It will happen.

P.S. The color was just like this except MORE orange. No lie.

The Oompa Loompas after disobeying their lax parents in the Clairol Factory and falling into a vat of Natural Instincts “Dark Auburn.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9/29/12: Wonky Wonka Boob

I forgot to mention the lovely fact that my breast looks like it is jaundiced or has carotene poisoning or something. This is because during surgery, Dr. Welk used betadine as an antiseptic, which contains iodine. Dr. Beatty, my breast cancer surgeon, never did that so I wasn’t expecting to be re-traumatized once again by having a part of my body turned Oompa Loompa color. It is a pretty wonky boob at this stage of the game and wonky is close to “Wonka” so hey, life is just having a little word play on me because it knows I’m always on the look out for good blog material. Maybe they’ve been reading my blog over at the Polyclinic and they actually used Clairol Basic Instincts, “Dark Auburn,” instead of betadine. (I’m totally kidding, wonderful people at the Polyclinic. I know you would never ever do something like that. I’m just getting my daily dose of humor about my breast cancer. Tee hee hee! Ho ho ho!!!)

I read online that hydrogen peroxide would take it off. It took off a little so now it’s slightly more yellow than orange. My skin is really sensitive so I should probably just leave it along for a few more days. But again, I blame Roald Dahl.

 

 

This post is from 7/31/12, the day of my first visit to see Dr. Welk. It was surreal. I have re-posted this previously. It is a favorite of mine. Personally, it took me awhile to feel comfortable in a plastic surgery office. I have such strong associations between plastic surgery and poor body image. But I now feel at home there and Breann and Judy who work reception are always so friendly to me when I come in. They are now requesting that I visit them from time to time as it is clear that I have very few remaining appointments with Dr. Welk. (Knock on wood.)

This afternoon I met with Drew Welk, M.D. a plastic surgeon at the Polyclinic. We had a good meeting and it was interesting to shift from a physician who focuses on disease treatment to one who focuses on aesthetics. I found out that my incision is not in the best place to which I replied, “Yeah, my cancer insists on being all kinds of inconvenient.” To his credit, he laughed at my ribbing. I did learn that I have very favorable “breast geometry” with only a little post-partum loss of muscle tone. Yay, my breasts got complimented! They’ve been a little starved for positive comments lately, especially the right one, which is currently looks like a more than a  little like a dented tin can these days.

Dr. Welk is talking to Dr. Beatty tomorrow to share his input regarding the best way to make incisions for the mastectomy so that he has something reasonable to work with later after the fat has been removed from my skin, the latter of which I get to keep. He took pictures in the clinic photography booth, which was set up like the DMV, except for the fact that I was partially disrobed and he had his choice of three different expensive looking cameras. (Or maybe the other cameras belonged to other surgeons. That makes more sense.) He took the last picture after he’d drawn a little incision map with a Sharpie.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I liked him. Plus it was a surgery day for him so between his energetic demeanor and the fact that he was wearing scrubs, he looked like a surgeon action figure. (Not to be confused with 1973’s surgeon Barbie and yes, she was real; click the link. Also, not to be confused with an action figure for the character, Surgeon from Hellraiser 2. Mom don’t go to that link: That surgeon doll is heinous.)

Okay, so Michelangelo is probably not the best sculptor to reference in this post. He was criticized for the way he sculpted breasts, basically that it looked like he’d thrown a couple of softballs on top of a suspiciously manly shaped torso. A better sculptor might be the 20th century artist, Lachaise. That man knew how to sculpt realistic breasts on refreshingly substantial looking women. Hmm. “The Lachaise of La Twins”? I’ll stick with Michelangelo for the alliteration. My cousin, Beth favors Bernini breasts herself. Bernini’s sculptures are absolutely breath taking but the first thing that comes to my mind is “the Rape of Persephone”–not the image I want in my head when thinking about my breast reconstruction. Beth conceded that Bernini tended to show women on the run.  But I present exhibits A, B, and C for your consideration:

One of Lachaise’s fabulous, “Standing Woman” I think this is a clear winner. Unlike “Dawn”, Lachaise’s sculptures of women actual look like a woman modeled for them. Also, Lachaise’s women look like they could fend off a Greek god or random creep in the bushes, unlike Bernini’s stunningly beautiful but nearly defenseless damsels.

Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne. This is Beth’s submission. In this case, Daphne is so desperate to get out of Apollo’s stalkeresque clutches that she turns herself into a tree!

Michelangelo. This is a sculpture I’ve seen in person. It’s from the Tomb of the Medici’s in Florence. This figure is supposed to be “Dawn” Looks like a man named “Don” with softball boobs, am I right?

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Yesterday, on my way to the car after work, I saw a woman in the parking lot. She was perhaps in her late 50’s or early 60’s and was significantly over weight. She was facing away from me, bending over to get a bag out of her car. Since she was wearing quite a flimsy pair of stretchy white pants, I was easily able to ascertain that she was wearing thong style underwear!

Although I had to salute her for the zingy way she was living her life, I must admit that my first thought was, “Eww, is she wearing a thong?” I was also not impressed with the pants or the cellulite that could be seen through them.

Then I felt guilty. I thought, “Look, she’s parked right next to the yoga studio. She’s probably going to a class there. She’s taking good care of herself. You are so very shallow.”

Then I started thinking, “But that is really gross.”

Then I started feeling guilty again.

Then I started to feel guilty because I didn’t feel guilty enough.

Then I started thinking about aesthetics. Why are things, living and non-living, beautiful? One could argue that overweight people are not considered beautiful because being overweight is not healthy. But being overweight is considered attractive in many cultures and in the past was associated with being wealthy, not having to do manual labor, and having ample food to eat.

Now this woman was also older and youthfulness is part of our cultural ideal. Now if I imagine a younger woman, of the same size, in the same outfit, I can’t say I would have been positively impressed.

So instead of offering this woman some of my famous granny panties, or riding on this sling shot of guilt I’ve created for myself, I have one thing to say to this woman.

Namaste.”

All people are worthy of my respect and this is not contingent on something as trivial as underwear choice.

This post is from 8/7/12, the day before my right-side mastectomy. So I am reposting it now on the day before I have my reconstructive surgery and will get a new breast. I’ve had a plastic or foam breast for seven months.

Tomorrow is the day that I say goodbye to rightie, the ta to my other ta, the oonga to my baz, and the crenshaw to my honeydew. And you don’t have to tell me that it’s sad because I already know. I do need to move forward and the sooner I have this surgery, the sooner I can get over the next round of painful and yucky stuff. My outward appearance with go from Elizabeth 1.0 to Elizabeth 2.0 to Elizabeth 3.0 by the time the holiday season comes upon us. (Just pretend that I was never a baby and I started out life as a 46 year old woman. Be creative.)

Elizabeth 1.0 did have a proper send off today. As I walked into Trader Joe’s, I received not one, but two compliments from the Trader Joe’s employee who was working out front. First he said, “Have a good time shopping” followed by, “I like your dress.” He may have even been younger than me. As an extra bonus, he was not one of the drunk guys at the bus shelter in the Junction, ergo the flirting was not the least bit creepy or boundary violating. The bus guys seem to be my main fan club. (And drunk guys, I haven’t heard a lot from you lately. Middle aged ladies need a little encouragement.) So hey, Elizabeth 1.0, you still got it and with a sober guy, too!

I am not going to be bringing my computer to the hospital tomorrow so I may not post anything until I get home on Thursday. John may have his computer and if I am mentally with-it enough I may be able to get him to post on my behalf. Otherwise, please be patient. I’m not sure what I am going to be up for communication-wise for a couple of days. I am confident that surgery will go well and even though it is likely to hurt for awhile and to be very upsetting, I will be okay. During my meeting with Dr. Beatty last Thursday I said, “I’m going to thank you now because next time I see you I may have lost perspective.” His reply was, “No, you won’t.” He’s probably right.

Goodbye, Girl; hello, long and healthy life.

The Trader Joe’s guy has an affinity for prints, apparently. I do think I looked better in this dress for the obvious reason. My whole head showed rather than being semi-headless like this model. To have an entire head is more aesthetically pleasing. I learned that in my art history classes. I do like her earrings, though. Buy your own dress at http://www.sierratradingpost.com/chetta-b-jersey-print-dress-v-neck-short-sleeve-for-women~p~4059u/?filterString=womens-dresses~d~257%2F&colorFamily=02

This blog was posted on 8/1/12. This stressful period of my life was good comedy material, prompting my brother to quip, “Cancer has made you clever.”

You remember who was in the chorus of the Gene Wilder musical classic? Yes, the Oompa Loompas. And what color were the Oompa Loompas? Yes, they were orange. And what color were my roots after using an unfortunate shade of Clairol Natural Instincts? Yes, they were a very deep shade of overripe cantalope. “Natural” Instincts, my ass!

I’ve never messed up a hair color before but I haven’t done it myself for several years and apparently, Clairol Natural Instincts uses a totally different formula than they did when I last used their products. And they are on a melon kick! Not to be seen in public (other than going to Target to get a fix for this), I used a non-permanent, normal looking reddish brown dye today. Ah, much better. Most of the melon is gone.

The Oompa Loompas would say that my parents are to blame for this mishap (“…the mother and the fa-ather”). However, the same thing happened to my mom and she warned me about it. When did I remember this? After I rinsed the color out of my hair! So, I’ve decided to blame Roald Dahl.

It will be so nice to be able to go back to the salon. It will happen.

P.S. The color was just like this except MORE orange. No lie.

The Oompa Loompas after disobeying their lax parents in the Clairol Factory and falling into a vat of Natural Instincts “Dark Auburn.”

This post is from 7/31/12, the day of my first visit to a plastic surgery office. It was surreal.

This afternoon I met with Drew Welk, M.D. a plastic surgeon at the Polyclinic. We had a good meeting and it was interesting to shift from a physician who focuses on disease treatment to one who focuses on aesthetics. I found out that my incision is not in the best place to which I replied, “Yeah, my cancer insists on being all kinds of inconvenient.” To his credit, he laughed at my ribbing. I did learn that I have very favorable “breast geometry” with only a little post-partum loss of muscle tone. Yay, my breasts got complimented! They’ve been a little starved for positive comments lately, especially the right one, which is currently looks like a more than a  little like a dented tin can these days.

Dr. Welk is talking to Dr. Beatty tomorrow to share his input regarding the best way to make incisions for the mastectomy so that he has something reasonable to work with later after the fat has been removed from my skin, the latter of which I get to keep. He took pictures in the clinic photography booth, which was set up like the DMV, except for the fact that I was partially disrobed and he had his choice of three different expensive looking cameras. (Or maybe the other cameras belonged to other surgeons. That makes more sense.) He took the last picture after he’d drawn a little incision map with a Sharpie.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I liked him. Plus it was a surgery day for him so between his energetic demeanor and the fact that he was wearing scrubs, he looked like a surgeon action figure. (Not to be confused with 1973’s surgeon Barbie and yes, she was real; click the link. Also, not to be confused with an action figure for the character, Surgeon from Hellraiser 2. Mom don’t go to that link: That surgeon doll is heinous.)

Okay, so Michelangelo is probably not the best sculptor to reference in this post. He was criticized for the way he sculpted breasts, basically that it looked like he’d thrown a couple of softballs on top of a suspiciously manly shaped torso. A better sculptor might be the 20th century artist, Lachaise. That man knew how to sculpt realistic breasts on refreshingly substantial looking women. Hmm. “The Lachaise of La Twins”? I’ll stick with Michelangelo for the alliteration. My cousin, Beth favors Bernini breasts herself. Bernini’s sculptures are absolutely breath taking but the first thing that comes to my mind is “the Rape of Persephone”–not the image I want in my head when thinking about my breast reconstruction. Beth conceded that Bernini tended to show women on the run.  But I present exhibits A, B, and C for your consideration:

One of Lachaise’s fabulous, “Standing Woman” I think this is a clear winner. Unlike “Dawn”, Lachaise’s sculptures of women actual look like a woman modeled for them. Also, Lachaise’s women look like they could fend off a Greek god or random creep in the bushes, unlike Bernini’s stunningly beautiful but nearly defenseless damsels.

Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne. This is Beth’s submission. In this case, Daphne is so desperate to get out of Apollo’s stalkeresque clutches that she turns herself into a tree!

Michelangelo. This is a sculpture I’ve seen in person. It’s from the Tomb of the Medici’s in Florence. This figure is supposed to be “Dawn” Looks like a man named “Don” with softball boobs, am I right?

Yes, I was looking at swimsuits on the Land’s End website today. I have a complicated history with swimsuits. I have avoided wearing them for the most part. Additionally, swimming bothers my eczema. But my skin is doing much better on this wheat free diet and I have dreams of getting a hot tub in the back yard. By summer, I will have a permanent right breast, too, instead of my empanada-shaped temporary one. Woo hoo!

I know that breast cancer changes a lot of women’s view of their own body. We tend to dwell on the negative aspects of loss. They are real, don’t get me wrong. I have to say, though that I like my new outlook on my belly fat (hey, you are going to be transplanted north in 6 weeks) and the fact that I am kind of looking forward to swim suit season, even though I am unlikely to have a backyard hot tub or go to the tropics any time soon.

It’s just good to be looking forward to another season with all of my surgeries behind me. And I do feel better in my body. I eat well, I exercise, I meditate, and I see all of my wonderful care providers. The fact that I have not been reduced to a pile of tear-soaked rubble makes me feel powerful and strong from the inside out.

I have a wonderful support network, including you lovely folks who read this blog. And by and large, I have experienced very little unwelcome advice concerning my breast cancer treatment. Very little. Much less than I expected.

There is one little arena into which some unwelcome advice has crept. I have gotten some negative feedback about my choices regarding breast reconstruction. A couple of voices have opined that I should skip reconstruction. I’ve also fielded the opinion that I should opt for an implant rather than a TRAM surgery (transplantation of belly fact and some abdominal muscle to make a new breast) because the former is a simpler surgery and the latter involves a more major surgery (abdominal and breast).

While I haven’t been floored by the opinions and no one has been super insistent, I would be lying to say that they didn’t bother me. I did examine the part that bothered me to make sure that I’m not doubting my own decision. I concluded that based on the information I have now (since I can’t predict the future), I made the best decision for ME. Also it is a little extra annoying when the opinions have been stated AFTER I’ve already done a number of steps, including two surgeries, which are prepping my body for the TRAM surgery. If I had chosen an implant, which I think is a fine option, by the way, I would have had different procedures done.

We are fortunate to have a number of options regarding breast reconstruction. All of the options have major pluses and minuses. Not all of the options are available for every breast cancer survivor due to finances, particular breast cancer treatment regimen, body weight, smoker/non-smoker etc.

My personal opinion is that there is no perfect solution but there are a number of alternatives, often more than one of them being satisfactory for a given individual. But the ultimate choice is individual so folks, if you would kindly keep these typically well-intended opinions to yourself, we breast cancer ladies would be much obliged.

P.S. I know that I have also lost 31 pounds since May. My plastic surgeon assures me that I still have enough belly fat to make a new breast. Yay, belly fat!

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