How do you define yourself? Are you the mother of beautiful children and your role is to care for them? Do you work from 9 to 5 each day, and your career is the center of you? Do your looks define your worth, so that you do everything possible to keep yourself as appealing as possible? Do you bend and break to accommodate everyone else to avoid potential conflict and keep everyone happy?
Without knowing it, we place these things on center stage. But when was the last time you checked in with you? The little girl or boy that you once were, playing in the yard and venturing to the creek to look for tadpoles. What was your heart’s desire at age 8, 10, 12, 15? Have those inner longings and rhythms changed all that much?
Breast cancer and a bilateral mastectomy have challenged the ways I view and define myself, without previously realizing what those definitions were. I went into surgery one day and came out a little later that same day completely transformed, unable to look beneath the bandages to see the me that was no longer me.
When I decided on this drastic surgery, I was thinking of the remainder of my life and reducing the risk of recurrence. I wasn’t thinking of the physical me, I was thinking of the Me who needed to be around for my children in 5 years, in 10 years. The Me who wanted to be around to listen to my husband play the guitar every day and enjoy his companionship for years to come.
I was terrified when I first unwrapped the bandages. I waited until nighttime to shower so I could turn off the lights and not have to look. Fifty-one days since surgery and I am still careful of how and where I undress.
But slowly, slowly, slowly – I am adjusting to all that is new. This new body of mine is in the midst of reconstruction and is not what it once was, but it is working hard to accommodate and accept the changes. My wounds are healing, and the pain has lessened. I am becoming Whole again, and I realize how I define myself has less and less to do with my physical self, but the brave and courageous soul, the child of God, who oversees this mind, body, and spirit.