So, Tuesday morning, before I read the news of Angelina Jolie’s bilateral mastectomy, I was having a pity party. A big, old fashioned, woe is me kinda gathering.
The pity party had to do with waking up at 2 in the morning when my husband chose to go sleep in the guest bedroom. I have to confess that I snore. I’m not sure when it became an issue, but it has been noticeable throughout my 11 year relationship with my husband. However, it has never led to us sleeping in separate beds. In the past 2 months, my snoring has either intensified thanks to my Ortho Depot shot induced menopause or my Ortho Depot shot induced night sweats are making me more agitated and restless at night and causing me to sleep in positions that have led to increased snoring. It’s become a problem and I’m going to have a sleep study done tonight, so I’m being proactive, but I was in a feeling sorry for myself place Tuesday morning and that was that. Tuesday morning, I was focused on just how unattractive I have become: snoring like a sailor, husband sleeping in a separate room (now doesn’t that make me sexy?), lack of estrogen sucking up my interest in sex, no longer able to wear tops showing my cleavage thanks to my mastectomy (and in NOLA, with warm weather comes lots of accentuation of ones cleavage…), clothes not fitting me right, and the list went on.
But the set-up for the pity party got its start late last week. I went to a teacher appreciation party Friday night, at a beautiful private home that included a pool. It was a really wet night after a day of some major storms and most people did not bring their bathing suits. But a few did and they went in swimming. A couple of things helped set up the pity party mindset such as the realization that pushing or throwing me into a pool these days without a bathing suit could lead to a very rude awakening by whoever is around and that it is a bummer that I can’t wear bathing suits that show off my cleavage anymore–especially considering it was the one area where I was ok with my body prior to my mastectomy. Cute suits? This year’s selection of Lands End suits aren’t making me happy and seem really fugly.
At the party, I was also talking to one of my colleagues about my BC. She is 15-20 years younger than myself and she has a considerable family history of BC–paternal grandmother and a number of paternal aunts have suffered from BC and a number have died from the disease. She’s avoiding doctors and afraid of her family history. I strongly encouraged her to start going regularly to a doctor. At one point she made the comment that “well at least you got new and improved breasts.” But I didn’t. And that brought out those doubting demons…Did I make the right choice not to have reconstruction at this point? Am I attractive without one of my breasts?
Anyway, by Tuesday morning I was feeling extremely frumpy and very unsexy and this feeling of not being attractive is the fallout I sometimes experience thanks to my BC diagnosis and mastectomy in late 2011. That is my reality. I don’t feel the role of the ugly duckling very often, but with the right mix of ingredients, it’s periodically inevitable.
That I had a sobbing jag Tuesday morning because I didn’t feel attractive–let alone sexy–is a reality that Angelina Jolie, Most Beautiful One, will never apparently experience. As Angelina says in her piece (I highlight for emphasis),
Two weeks later I had the major surgery, where the breast tissue is removed and temporary fillers are put in place. The operation can take eight hours. You wake up with drain tubes and expanders in your breasts. It does feel like a scene out of a science-fiction film. But days after surgery you can be back to a normal life…Nine weeks later, the final surgery is completed with the reconstruction of the breasts with an implant. There have been many advances in this procedure in the last few years, and the results can be beautiful. I wanted to write this to tell other women that the decision to have a mastectomy was not easy. But it is one I am very happy that I made. My chances of developing breast cancer have dropped from 87 percent to under 5 percent. I can tell my children that they don’t need to fear they will lose me to breast cancer. It is reassuring that they see nothing that makes them uncomfortable. They can see my small scars and that’s it…On a personal note, I do not feel any less of a woman. I feel empowered that I made a strong choice that in no way diminishes my femininity.
I’m happy for Angelina that she has improved her chances of avoiding breast cancer by such a large margin, but her description of her bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction gives the impression that the decision and the procedure itself were easy peasy. Good lord, where did my medical team go wrong? How come I wasn’t back to work a couple of days after surgery? The thing is, my story is easy peasy compared to some of the stories I’ve heard since joining the BC Club…
I’m also happy for Angelina that she has support from Brad, because I know how important Terry’s support is to me. She says:
I am fortunate to have a partner, Brad Pitt, who is so loving and supportive. So to anyone who has a wife or girlfriend going through this, know that you are a very important part of the transition. Brad was at the Pink Lotus Breast Center, where I was treated, for every minute of the surgeries. We managed to find moments to laugh together. We knew this was the right thing to do for our family and that it would bring us closer. And it has.
Lucky you, Angelina. It’s hard not to feel a little cynical about this area either. It’s hard to compare a partner’s support for a 3-month period to those partners who have to go through an extended period of illness and there is a new normal in both the role of the cancer patient as well as that of the patient’s partner. Frankly, there are points where cancer has brought Terry and I closer, but there are also points where there has been a huge gulf that wasn’t there before. The ex-husband of a woman I work with didn’t visit her in the hospital after her lumpectomy, just dropped her off at the hospital and said ‘good luck’. There are many marriages that don’t survive a hit like cancer.
So, how did I get over my crying jag, by the way? I started crying again when I was feeding the dogs breakfast Tuesday morning. Terry figured out that I was upset and took me in his arms and held me while I cried. The cry–and supportive arms–washed away the pity party.
Anyway, there are quite a few bloggers that I read regularly who have weighed in on Angelina’s Op Ed piece that you might want to check out:
- Marie at Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer was the first one to weigh in with Angelina Jolie Tackles Cancer Head-On
- The Pink Underbelly writes Our Newest Spokesperson: Angelina Jolie
- Jennifer Merschodorf at the Young Survival Coalition (YSC) writes The Sexiest Woman in the World Had a Bilateral Mastectomy? Really?
- Cheryl Lemus at Nursing Clio writes about The Jolie Treatment
- Elizabeth at My Eyes Are Up Here weighed in with I can respect Angelina Jolie
- Katie at a time for such a word writes about Her Medical Choice
- Katherine at I Hate Breast Cancer wrote Some Quick Facts about Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Following Angelina Jolie’s News
- Catherine Brunelle at Bumpyboobs wrote about how It’s Not Cool to Patent Our Genes
- Tales of a 3 Time Breast Cancer Warrior asks Was Angelina Jolie Being Honest About her Mastectomy?
- Jackie Fox at Dispatch From Second Base wrote on Angie’s Choice
- Adventures at the OBB wrote on The Day Mastectomies Became Hip
- Nancy at Nancy’s Point writes Angelina Jolie’s Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy–If She & I Could Chat
- Yvonne at considering the lilies asked So Who Owns Your Genes, Angelina?