I never minded having implants. In fact, I considered myself quite lucky to live in an age when they were possible. But I minded not having them quite a bit.
When I awoke from anesthesia, however, I had a surprise. The surgeon had found evidence of an infection. He started me on IV anti-biotics and had me admitted. I could get a new implant when the wound healed, in four months.
At first, I railed. Not because the implant had been removed. There was no option; I knew that. But I had no chance to mentally prepare for not having a breast. Although my actual mastectomies were 19 years earlier, I had immediate reconstruction. There was never a period when I was actually without a breast…until now. The next morning, the nurse removed my dressing, and I gazed at my left breast, where the implant had been.
I was determined to get a prosthesis right away. I found a speciality lingerie shop that was open on weekends and had my husband drive me there on the way home from the hospital.
The woman who fit me was incredibly gentle as she maneuvered around my dressing and drains, explaining that the foam prosthesis could be exchanged for a gel one once the incision healed. I stared at my image in the mirror, unsure how I felt.
In the dressing room next to me, I overheard a young woman trying on a bra for her wedding dress. On the other side, I overheard a new mother being fitted for nursing bras. And then it hit me. Here we were: three women at such different points in our lives — a new bride, a new mother, and me, newly breastless — all starting a new phase of our lives. As different as we were, we met in this small lingerie shop on the same day at the same time, all connected by our womanhood. And just like that, in a split second, I knew I would be all right.
I wrote this four years go and decided to post it every October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. I have since had reconstructive surgery. I am whole now and I was whole then. I am not defined by my breasts.