Blessing number 3 was my breast cancer specialist. My specialist was genuinely empathetic, gave clear information and when she listened to me I felt heard. As I had radiation treatment with Hodgkin’s disease at 30, I was not eligible for radiation treatment again with a lumpectomy. This moved the discussion onto mastectomies and for me the answer was clear. I loved my breasts and they had done their job admirably having breastfed three beautiful infants but it was time for them to go.
At that point all I could think was ‘get them off me and then put something back.’ It was like the panicked scream of when I was young and found a leech on me while bush walking. I ran around screaming ‘get it off, get it off’ to everyone’s amusement. In this situation there was no amusement but my internal mantra was the same.
However new surgery restrictions due to COVID-19 were coming in and while category 1 surgeries for mastectomies were continuing, breast reconstructions, classified as elective surgeries, were not. This came as a shock and even though I was assured that reconstruction could be done later, even years later, I was truly upset that I couldn’t have the procedures done together. My specialist then went on to say there are many women who decide not to have reconstructions, nor wear breast prostheses, and this is called ‘Going Flat’. I can now say this reluctantly became blessing number 4, as without the elective surgery restrictions I know I would have had breast reconstruction and missed this opportunity to pause and experience going flat.
Once the decision for a bilateral mastectomy was made there was a two week wait for surgery and my two girls and I self-isolated at home to make sure I didn’t get sick even with a head cold, let alone the coronavirus. Being in hospital during that time was strange and very lonely. I was only allowed one visitor per day for an hour. With three children, one being disabled, this was horrible. Anna and Dominic took turns visiting me but Lara who needed a support person to bring her up to the ward was not able to visit me at all. It was a very challenging time.
Once home, my elderly parents and friends, all healthcare workers, still weren’t able to visit due to increases in COVID-19 cases. I felt isolated, miserable and disconnected. However, I was cheered with delightful gifts of flowers, home delivered meals, many phone calls and texts to ensure I didn’t feel too forgotten. Their support was wonderful and again I felt blessed.
I really do have to thank my three incredible children for supporting me, and each other, during this difficult time. Dominic on the outside delivered meals and groceries to our door; Anna living with me, worked from home for four months to look after Lara and me, with only an overnight bag; and my dear Lara, who lovingly made many cups of soothing tea for her Mummy, and kept me company on the lounge throughout my time of recovery and our isolation together.