I’ve been having dreams about breasts.
A few nights ago, there was a dream where I had a baby. I’m not sure whether it was a boy or a girl, it was a mystery. The baby was still very tiny. The baby started rooting – I lifted them to my breast, and they fed.
I could remember exactly what it felt like.
But I will never again feed a baby from my body.
Last night, I dreamed I put on a dress with a tight bodice. In the dream, I had done my mastectomies, but there was still the normal flesh you might see on the chest of a man, and I managed to squish the flesh of my chest together to create a modest but alluring cleavage. (Much in the way drag queens can create this.)
It felt so real that this morning, I put my hands on the sides of the chest to push them together.
There is no flesh there to even imitate breasts. If anything, I’m slightly concave.
I was never interested in reconstruction. I think this option should be available to every woman who wants it. But to me, it would just feel like prostheses I couldn’t take off – with a whole added host of added health risks.
Reconstructed breasts wouldn’t have function, they wouldn’t have sensation – who are they for?
I have no regrets about this decision. I don’t want implants. I don’t want flap surgery, where they have to take tissue from another part of my body. (I don’t need scars, or pain, or loss of sensation anywhere else.)
Still, I’ve found myself wondering recently why there aren’t breast transplants. I googled this, but all the information I found was about reconstruction. They are doing face transplants now – why is this something that hasn’t been explored?
But part of me wishes I could have a transplant, or that I lived in an age where laboratories could magically regrow breasts using my own tissue. I wish I could have them back.
Should I be in the situation where I have another child, I could savour those first few magical moments of feeling them latch and getting to know them as they feed. I could feel the touch of a caress. And re-experience particular wiggle and bounce that cannot quite be mimicked by anything else. (Though this bouncing was something `I always complained about before.)
The risks of transplant surgery, or nursing a child while taking immunosuppressant drugs are serious enough that I can understand why this isn’t something being pursued. And for those of us with the BRCA mutation, I’d imagine that adding breast tissue would be an unconscionable risk. But what about everyone else? If we can transplant faces, why can’t we give women actual breasts.
After my surgeries, it was in a state of shock that I reflected that I couldn’t remember what it felt like to have breasts – this only two weeks after the radical change.
I knew this was probably my mind protecting itself.
I can remember now.
I am grieving now.
And the only way to do that is to make space to honour and acknowledge what has been destroyed.
I joined a meditation group recently. This was partly inspired by reading a book that was gifted to me that talked about the importance of the mind-body connection in healing and preventing cancer relapse.
I also signed up in hopes it would help with the crippling insomnia I was experiencing, fuelled by jet lag from our trip to the States. (Which it has.)
Last week, we worked on mantras. These are phrases you repeat silently with your mind, in time with your breath. There were two that were introduced. The first was ‘So Hum’ (‘I am that’).
This ended up feeling like a rather magical way to find connection with everything in the universe – from the cramp in a foot, to the sound of traffic, to whatever feelings might be welling up inside. It dissolved the resistance and just let the feelings pass through me, and was a rather powerful experience.
The second mantra didn’t immediately connect with me: ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. The meditation teacher hadn’t explained the full translation before we started, simply saying it was to the god Shiva – I looked it up afterwards and discovered this translated as ‘adorations to Lord Shiva’ or ‘universal consciousness is one’ – but the literal translation is ‘I bow to Shiva’.
I have no objection to meditating on the power of a god from a different religion, it just didn’t connect with me as deeply.
But today was different.
I sat down to do my meditation practice with this morning’s dream still fresh in my mind. The tears were still wet on my cheeks
Shiva is the god of destruction: ‘destroyer of worlds’. I was initially surprised to learn that one of the three primary Hindu deities was a destructive force. But it makes sense when considered with his partners from this trinity who look after the creation (Brahma) and upkeep (Vishnu).
Destruction is as essential to the continuation of the universe as creation. (Let us remember that cancer is havoc wreaked by cells that won’t die.)
Destruction can be cleansing, offering the promise of building something new. But at the very least, it is accepted as something welcome.
I sat on the floor, cross-legged, and repeated the words in my mind: ‘Om Namah Shivaya.’
And this time they resonated through my whole body.
There was the release of admitting my own powerlessness and loss in the face of the changes that have happened in my body.
I have no choice but to accept the power and blessings of the god of destruction. As I think of the scars on my chest, there is nothing else to do. I can’t deny it, I can’t escape it. It is part of existence for all of us.
I cried again, but in a cleansing way.
Today these words gave me space to feel my loss, but see it as a part of creation. After all, how does Shiva accomplish his feats? Why, through the dance of destruction. He is often pictured mid-movement, surrounded by a ring of fire, as he clears way for the new world.
The world is reborn.
Isn’t that beautiful?
Photo by Ernesto on Flickr Commons