153. Happy scar or sad scar?

”How are you?” I hear you ask.

A week post-mastectomy, I’m fine, really, I am. I have been amazed and rather delighted by the easy wound. How on earth can you have your entire breast chopped off without any pain or bruising?

I am unexpectedly happy about being breast-free.

Breast-free = worry-free: No breast = no breast cancer. But it’s not just that. Somehow, I feel more myself, more whole rather than less whole.

That is the unexpected part of this journey, but when I stop to think about it (and I’ve had rather a lot of time to stop and think this week) it begins to make sense. During the eight years since my first mastectomy, I have become at home with my flat half. It belongs to me and my life story. As the years ticked by, it was increasingly my breast side, rather than my flat side, that seemed out of balance. She was like part of the cast that appeared in Act II (adolescence) and rose to a starring role in Act IV (early motherhood), but whilst her sister was spectacularly killed off in Act VI, she remained in the background trying to pretend that Act VI didn’t happen.

Now, I’m getting my balance back. I think here lies my very personal answer to the Dolly Parton question. I will not be ashamed, but proud of the story of my life. Grateful that I am not yet in the final Act, and looking forward to skipping into Acts VIII and IX unburdened by bras, Dolly-sized or otherwise.

That’s the profound answer to your How are you question. None of this comes without major adjustments, which (added to the intense fatigue - see below) is why I remain in hiding. And although my bold statements on The Future Is Flat are now on the internet, I reserve the right to change the script.

The bandages came off yesterday.

I’d been looking forward to this, as I was eager to find out whether my scar was happy or sad. Who knew there was such a distinction? When one of my surgeons popped round as I was whoozing in the Recovery Room, a few hours post-surgery, he explained that the Chief (who had wielded the knife) always tries to make a scar look happy.

“But then we looked at your other scar and thought, hm, that one looks a bit sad.”

Sad? Surely not? See above: I’m rather fond of my other scar, so I felt rather protective of her. But once I got to a ward with a bathroom mirror, I checked and saw what they saw, a down-turn at the sternum.

I’d been too taken aback to ask whether they’d gone ahead with Happy or decided to mirror Sad.

So, off I went to the breast clinic yesterday, eager to find out. I was also rather eager to have the fluid drained that had gradually accumulated in sufficient quantities to fill, perhaps not a Dolly Parton cup, but at least a Twiggy. They had to do this several times with my previous mastectomy, even after removing my drain - extract the excess fluid with the help of an oversized needle. Alas, not nowadays. They prefer to let my body do its own job, rather than risk introducing an infection in the wound.

So, I’m still lob-sided, as you can see. But the bandages have stayed off and the scar looks almost healed. I marvel at the body’s capacity to stitch together two bits of skin that haven’t previously met.

Now, let’s talk tiredness.

The word TIRED doesn’t cover it. I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel for enough energy to write this blog post, and you’re only reading this because it suddenly occurred to me that I don’t have to sit at my computer, I can write this on my phone, lying down in bed.

I’ve done some gentle daily Pilates and half hour walks, initially with the aim of getting strong again, but the real benefit is earning the right to go back to bed. I’m a bit frustrated that after a week of serious resting, I all but collapsed in the shower this morning as I’d been up for two hours.

On the upside, I shall emerge as the country’s most knowledgeable amateur sewer, as I’m now on the fifth series of The Great British Sewing Bee. That’s almost 30 hours (and counting) of watching people sew.

What I have yet to see someone make, though, is a garment that fits a breastless woman. Perhaps I should come forward to fill that gap in the market? I can feel a Project coming on. That’s assuming my energy will return, and (minor detail) I won’t find myself back on the chemotherapy rollercoaster.

I’ll get the lab results in four days’ time, and am pushing that possibility to the outer edges of my mind.

Now… Before I sink back into the pillows, here’s the answer you’ve been waiting for.  

Happy scar or sad scar?

Can’t be entirely sure yet (as it’s stretched across that mount of fluid) but I’d say it’s neither. Just straight. Which is perhaps as it should be, as life is never just happy or sad.