Many Cancer Conquerors are faced with an emotional trauma which is peripheral to the cancer itself: Infections. I had to combat that ugly beast. I want to share some of the writing I did during that raw time. Being on the other side of that mountain, I hope what I’ve written let’s others know that they are not alone. Most importantly, please know, you are always beautiful! Your inner beauty and strength shine from the inside out! You will rise from the ashes and soar through the horizon as gracefully as a Phoenix!
Before I share what was written the, here’s a little background to lay the foundation. Throughout my breast cancer journey, I’ve had a total of seven surgeries. Four of them were entirely due to a deadly infection, pseudomonas, contracted during my first mastectomy. The infection invaded my body and pitched tent like a squatter in an abandoned building.
Since bacteria likes to attach to foreign objects in the body to evict the unwelcome vagrant, my doctors switched out the expander first, but the infection still raged on. Eventually they had to remove the expander. It took about two months for my body to clear the nasty bacteria. Once the infection was gone, they put in another expander. At this point, both implants are in.
Of the seven surgeries I’ve endured, the very worst one emotionally was the one where they had to remove the expander and leave one side of my chest flat. Words cannot express how that felt. Enter a couple of pieces I wrote during that time.
Players in my story below: Lola and Roxy were my left and right breasts respectively before their individual nipple sparing mastectomies. Lola was replaced by Lexi, who for a short time became Level. Roxy was replaced by Rylee.
Mirror, Mirror, On The Wall, Please Be Gentle With Me
Most of my writings are positive and full of humor. Optimism and laughter not only keep my spirit strong, they also help to heal my body. There are the moments when the enormity of the situation stare me in the face and mock me. This is one of those moments.
On this journey, I want to help anyone I can, in whatever way possible. Because of that desire, I am stretching myself beyond my comfort zone, and sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly. Below you will find an open door to my current despondency told with robust and bare honesty.
I just looked in the mirror for the first time since the fourth surgery. I am deformed. After the first surgery, I looked better than I thought. Not bad at all. In Lexi’s eye, I could still see traces of Lola.
The second surgery was just a little skin removal, no big deal. Lexi looked good. She was still working her show girl magic.
The third surgery was not good. Lexi was a little smaller, because the infection was already working against her, but still had remnants of Lola around her. It was Rylee that looked deflated. Sure, Roxy was still in her wink, but she looked like a misshapen tire that had lost half her air.
The forth surgery was the worst. It was easier with lack of pain and physical recovery, but it was the most horrible emotionally. It wasn’t even the cancer that caused this massacre. It was a damn, unnecessary infection. You can bet, even with my positive spirit, I am mad as hell that I got this damn infection, which has only further deformed and deflated those sacrificed in this battle.
I feel like I am walking in place, trying to run forward, and not only am I not gaining any ground, but I am being catapulted backwards by leaps and bounds. This infection has not only disfigured my body, it has also kept me running in circles, focused on a peripheral problem and has distracted me from the real combat before of me.
The vast majority of the time, my attitude is optimistic and I feel strong. At this moment in time, discouraged, disheartened, and dejected do not even cover how I feel.
Lexi, now Level, is worse than flat; she is deformed. Deeply mutilated. I know, I know, “Work in progress.” She will rise again like a Phoenix out of the ashes. Intellectually, I know that is true. Right now, emotionally, the intellect is not helping me. My vision is blurred by what I see before my eyes.
I love that my husband consistently reassures me about how beautiful, gorgeous, and sexy I am. But I am having a hard time believing that he really thinks I am sexy right now. How can that be true?
For the first time in my life, I do not want to look in the mirror! The mirror used to me my friend. She is not anymore. Now, she taunts me. She makes me feel deformed, not beautiful. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, please be gentle with me.
I don’t want to look. I don’t want to see what this disease has done to me. I don’t want to see what this infection has taken away from me. I don’t want to see any of it.
I’ve always loved being naked. I don’t want to be naked anymore. I want to stay covered up. At home, I used to bare my body freely. Now, I’ll stick with only baring my soul to the world. Right now, my soul is all I want exposed. My chest should be covered up from everyone, especially me.
Moments like these happen on an expedition like this one. You can be certain though, I will bounce back. I will rise again, just like Lexi, the Phoenix. My spirit is stronger than any disease or infection ever can be. I will be friends with the mirror again. I. Will. Survive.
As Melissa Etheridge, a fellow survivor sings in her song, I Run for Life, “They cut into my skin and they cut into my body, but they will never get a piece of my soul!”
Nancy L.B. Michlin, M.Ed., C.H.C
Friday, May 11, 2012
My mind’s eye
brought neon lights
to my scars.
All attention was on them.
The world sees
what is expected,
a full bosom.
What’s under my shirt,
is no secret;
yet Scarecrow Stuffing
keeps the illusion in place.
the facade is removed.
He sees the truth.
When he gazes upon me,
my breasts feel like they are burning
a deep crevice
straight to my heart.
Two sets of eyes.
Two different views.
One from the inside out,
the other from the outside in.
His lenses have a rose colored hue,
mine are clouded,
When I look in the mirror,
I still see my beauty,
yet I also see the deformity.
My former girls
look like a 90 year old man,
who smoked his whole life,
with a sunken, croaked smile,
and a protruding chin.
is starring me down.
My husband sees
a mirror cannot show.
His eyes paint my glory
over the seams
He sees through the scars
to my heart and soul.
His eyes may be
from the outside in,
yet he see me
from the inside out.
I need to look through
his eyes for a while.
The strength of my spirit
healing my flesh,
disarming the Demon,
winning the stare down.
and outside in.
Nancy L. Baskin Michlin, M.Ed., C.H.C.
June 17 & 18, 2012