It Keeps Getting in My Way

A mastectomy is an amputation plain and simple. An appendage, if you will, has been removed from the body. Obviously it’s not as traumatic or life altering as the loss of a limb, something you rely on to perform every day tasks. I don’t know of many women who use their breasts to perform every day tasks. At least not personally.

One does have to learn to adjust, however. Some of the more chesty women I know who had one breast removed had balance problems at first. Their center of gravity seemed to be skewed directly proportionate to the size of the breast removed. I was not what you would call a buxom woman to begin with so I never had the problem of veering off to the side while trying to walk a straight line. Well, not because of that, anyway.

I noticed it when I reached across my body with my left arm but that eventually became “normal”. Nowhere did I noticed the loss more acutely than when I was trying to sleep. I’m a tummy sleeper and I had to learn to hold the pillow just the right way so I wouldn’t roll to the left. As with all things, I finally adapted and it became second nature.

Now that I’ve had the reconstruction I find myself having to “reach around” my left breast which seems so funny to me. My pre-BC boobs very seldom ever got in my way. But last night was the first time since the surgery that I decided to try sleeping on my tummy. It didn’t last long at all. I’m back to square one and am going to have to retrain myself again.

On A More Serious Note

I know you all have heard about Elizabeth Edwards’ metastasis to her bones. No matter how good a prognosis a breast cancer patient has (or any cancer, for that matter) there’s always the fear of spread lurking in the deepest recesses of your mind.

I have a particular mechanism that is both beneficial and detrimental to me. I push unpleasantness so far back that sometimes I don’t even realize it’s there. It has served me well over the years and helped me to deal with things rationally and straight on. But holding big, scary things in means they’re just going to grow until they break out eventually.

I broke like a water main when the Edwards made their announcement Thursday. I desperately hurt for both of them, their worst fears being realized. And I cried for me and every other woman I know – and those I don’t – who have been cursed with the disease. So many strides have been made in breast cancer treatment, but there’s still not a cure and that’s a scary thought.

Several people have said they need to quit the campaigning and focus on their family. That is certainly what I would want to do in the same situation. But we all deal with things so differently and it could very well be that keeping her focus on something other than her disease will be just what she needs. Not that focusing on her family isn’t a good thing – it’s vital. But focusing solely on the family only brings your own mortality closer to the surface.

Regardless of personal or political beliefs the Edwards deserve our thoughts, our prayers and our admiration. They are both a good example of strength in the face of adversity.


  1. JenniferTX on March 24, 2007 at 11:09 am

    Oh, Jen, if I ever wondered why I think you’re so special, this post would have reminded me. You have an uncanny ability to bring humanity to just about any story, whether it’s your own or a public figure’s. Thanks for being you, Jen. :)Love ya!Jennifer

  2. Em on March 24, 2007 at 11:23 am

    Please believe me that I mean no disrespect when I say you made me laugh with your “reach around” and the veering to the side comments. I can not imagine losing a part of my body. Both physically and emotionally, it must be a huge hurdle. And now you get to ‘retrain’ yourself again. Thank you for sharing in such a real and humorous manner.And yes, I admire the Edwards. I want want to curl up in my house and have my spouse curl up with me. But perhaps the best for them is to do what they believe in…and that is campaign for their vision of a better America.

  3. Katybug on March 24, 2007 at 11:31 am

    I always look forward to seeing what you have to share, Jennster. You have such a talent with words. I always know a giggle is just around the corner with you, but you are also very thought-provoking. Thank you, as always, for sharing. My prayers are also with the Edwards family. This isn’t something I would with on my worst enemy. I don’t know what their spiritual status is, but I can’t imagine facing this without knowing the Lord, altho’ people do it all the time. I will be praying along with you that they do know Him and that He will carry them thru this victoriously.

  4. Jenster on March 24, 2007 at 11:37 am

    Jen – If I ever wonder why I love you, your comment just reminded me! LOLEM – Absolutely no offense taken. I’m glad you laughed with me.Katy – YOU have a talent for words. I know a lot of people who have gone through much worse than me with strength and courage who didn’t know God, but I know I couldn’t have done so. He was my Peace and Joy.

  5. Trish on March 24, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    You are an amazingly brave woman.

  6. Slackermommy on March 24, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    You are so wonderful and thoughtful. And courageous and brave. I admire you. Cancer runs in my family and it scares the Hell out of me. I hope I’m as brave as you if cancer comes knocking.

  7. T-girl on March 25, 2007 at 6:51 am

    Hey I know a few women who’s breast should have their own damn social security number so they can pay taxes they work so damn hard!!!! LOL THAT being said, “damn boobs!” I can just imagine your frustration with the whole damn deal, I am a bit bustier then most and when I had my daughter these puppies grew to G’s!!!!!!! I seriously wanted to lop the suckers off so I can only imagine if someone did, waited a few months then “returned” them. I remember after my daughter was born and ALL I wanted to do was sleep on my stomach and couldn’t because of “them!” So while I can’t feel your pain, only empathis, I can kind of get the whole frustration you could have. All I can say is eventually I figured it out and am now comfortably “settling in!” ;)As for the Edwards…. thanks for making me cry agian!!!! 😉 I personally am a fan of theirs and was pretty sad when I heard the news. I think I get the mentality though. She has ALWAYS been his biggest cheerleader, which honestly these two are a nice example to married people everywhere, they are a very “nice couple” IMO. She said before, “life goes on and you have to live it.” I admire her resolve, I am sure she wants to curl up into a puddle sometimes but she is also a really strong woman, anywoman who has lost a child has to be I think. Either way, I really like her and am sad for her struggles, it just seems like too much for one person to have to face in a lifetime as you know she has had some really terriable things to face already. I just feel for them both, they are so devoted to one another. Very sad all around. Ok, I am going to go before I flood your blog and you have to rename it “Jensters boatride!” LMAOHugs- T

  8. T-girl on March 25, 2007 at 6:54 am

    Oh, I just saw your lables. I have to tell you the word “reconstruction” always makes me think of the South and the rebuilding of it after the civil war! Kind of ironic huh? LOLHugs to you- T

  9. Jenster on March 25, 2007 at 8:36 am

    Trish & Slackermommy – I admit I am brave. But no braver than so many other women who have gone through the same thing or even more tragic circumstances. I have no doubt you both would be just as brave.T – Sorry about the crying thing. LOL And maybe I should change the label to “breast reconstruction” so you won’t think I’m getting all historical and everything. :o)

  10. Rosie on March 25, 2007 at 1:37 pm

    Jenster, maybe…probably I should be emailing this. I feel so dumb because today I clicked on your name to go to your blog thinking I’d been here many, many times. I hadn’t and I feel so clueless especially after all the times you’ve visited me. I always like to check out the blogs of the people who visit mine and they make up the majority of my blog hopping. How’d I miss you for so long? Weird, unbelievable and color me sheepish.Anyway, after reading this entry I’ve been going back through your history and smiling at some of your adventures, especially loved the trip to LB and the missing clothes. I’m so glad I have the correct address and can come back and visit now. Final thought, the guy I live with and I were talking about the Edwards’ decision to continue the campaign last night. Frankly, I don’t know that I would have the courage to live through that diagnosis in such a public way. We came to the conclusion that the campaign would/could be a life affirming distraction for them to concentrate on instead of having the focus (which was my experience with my mother’s leukemia) of their lives be her illness. Finally, what is the best gift a couple can give to each other? Might it be something bigger than themselves besides their children? It’s my hope that this campaign is as much for themselves and their passionate belief in each other and that John Edwards is the best candidate for the job. I’m not saying that for political reasons. I have no plans to vote (or have voted) for him. I just hope it is so.Well, see me step off the soap box now. Sorry this is so long.

  11. April on March 25, 2007 at 11:31 pm

    Jenster: Thanks for being so candid. It helps me understand in a ever so small way how hard a mastectomy can be on a woman. I appreciate how strong you have been. My mother is a breast cancer survivor. She also had a mastectomy. She is 61.

  12. Swishy on March 26, 2007 at 3:00 am

    I admire you so much! You’re such an amazing woman.I read a story today about the Edwards and I got chills all over my body. I wrote down one of her quotes, which I’m about to butcher because I don’t have it with me … something like, “If I don’t continue to do what I was planning yesterday, that’s when I’ll start dying.” It takes a special kind of person to look at things that way.

  13. Prunella's cousin Edith the poetess on March 26, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Wow, I just read through your whole page and I just want to say that you blow me away! You are one amazing chick. I’m glad you are blogging about your experiences.

  14. terrillr on March 26, 2007 at 4:59 pm

    I thought of you and Mom when I heard about the Edwards. Prayers for all. I just had a comment about their decision to continue with the campaign… I happen to know and love one young lady (okay, just younger than me!) that encouraged her husband to accept a new job, 1500 miles away from their home, about the time she was diagnosed and had the mastecomy. He was not able to be in the same STATE during her chemo treatments, coming home every other weekend (I think it was every two weeks or so). Yes, I know she had a support system around her, she probably was in “survival mode” until he was home each time, and her kids went “above and beyond” at being great kids. But, she also did not put everything on hold – she focused on their future.

  15. terrillr on March 26, 2007 at 5:07 pm

    oops! I went to preview while I gathered my thoughts, and it didn’t let me go back, only “publish”. She, like others going through difficult situations, came through stronger than before; with a different outlook and a knowledge that life is precious – that few others have. I think this lady is incredibly special, and I’m very proud to be related to her.

  16. Jenster on March 26, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Rosie – No worries! LOL Glad you stopped by.April – Thanks for sharing about your mom. It’s always such an encouragement to hear about other BC survivors.Swishy – I like EE’s attitude, too.Pru/Edith – Thank you!Terri – You made me cry. :o(

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