I now inhabit a new body. I do not like it.
My left breast is hard as a rock. It is totally numb. It feels like someone stole my breast and left a stack of books in its place, shoved underneath my bruised skin. My body is angry, and the fury is evident in the pooling of fiery red liquid blood-pus in the drains* snaking out of the bandages. It seems like I produce more liquid each time we measure the liquid in these drains, like my body is getting more and more pissed off the less and codeine and morphine there is pulsing through my veins. Rightly so.
I can only wear pajamas. My healthy boob hangs on my torso, wishing for a bra, but there is no hope. The damage done to the right, the drains hanging out collecting the pooling body-anger in the form of reddened liquid, nerve damage that makes my skin feel as though someone is touching it with a fire-hot poker and singing it until it melts away, the fact that my rock-hard-book-boob is a quarter the size and three inches higher than the healthy breast— all of those makes a bra totally impossible. I hate it.
I was prepared you know. Prepared with button down shirts, easy to pull on over a mastectomy and pair with skinny jeans and cute flats for meetings and teaching. That is not going to work without a bra. All those cute artist-inspired, sleeves rolled up boyfriend buttons downs? Please. They allow the healthy boob and normal nipple to scream to the world, “I’m bra-less!” And they also allow the healthy boob to say, “And I’m pissed because I’m alone, and the matchy matchy boob that inhabited the space to my left is now small, hard, fake, and painful.” Excellent. It’s exactly how I wanted to greet the world, with this horrific boob situation that wears itself right front and center on my body.
At the bra store-regardless of which one- it’s all about the perfect rack. Now I can happily rail against the regime of control around women’s bodies. Anytime, folks. But it’s a knife in the heart that doesn’t stop twisting when all I see are perfect racks, matching racks, racks without cancer, and entire stores built on the existence of women with racks who will fit into bras meant to hug the perfect rack. So, right. There is a mastectomy store, a store for folks like me. But at the mastectomy bra store, it’s all about women who are old and who made a lot of money and who are now retired. Everything is seven times as much money. This is a place for old, wealthy women with breast cancer. Everything is breast cancer pink. It smells like old lady. And there are goddamn bows everywhere. I refuse to wear bows on my lingerie. I am not six. I will not wear bows and I will not wear breast cancer pink. I know I had breast cancer and I don’t need a constant reminder that is breast cancer pink to hold my breasts inside my t-shirt: my library-book expander is enough of a reminder, thankyouverymuch. Yet again, a breast cancer space built for someone else, a space into which I cannot fit. This is not made for young women. Shocking.
They all say we (women who have had breast cancer) are “warriors” who “fight battles.” That’s fucked up in its own right, but even if it were true, where do I find the bras for said warriors? Warriors wear black and red and sparkles and spikes. I am pissed the fuck off. I want black and red and sparkles and spikes. I need some steel-toed boots but more importantly, I need some steel-toed bras. Why is the store for folks like me filled up with ribbons and bows? Where the eff are the spikes?
I hate all the options. I hate breast cancer. I hate pink. I hate bows on bras. I hate bras. I hate shirts that scream to the world, “you only have one nipple!” I hate stores made for old women with mastectomies because they don’t have spikes and sparkles and black and red for young women with mastectomies. I hate bra stores because they are premised on the non-existent perfect rack, which now definitely doesn’t exist, not even in a dream world, on my torso. I hate mastectomy. I hate surgery drains. I hate nerve-damage-pain. I hate tight skin. I hate bruises. I hate shopping for clothing to disguise a body I wish I didn’t have. Just, I hate.
***I have two drains that collect the fluid coming out of my surgical site. They are the size of lightbulbs, and they collect tons of fluid. Sammy measures the fluid every twelve hours, and I look away, because seeing them makes me nauseated. Soon, the surgeon or the nurse will decide that my body can handle the fluid without the drains, and then they will yank them from my body, and I won’t be walking around with these bulbs hanging from me anymore.