Navigating a cancer diagnosis that has a surgical intervention is pretty complicated. In the case of breast cancer the mastectomy or lumpectomy scar is right there for you to look at, it is hard to hide from, even in a case where the patient has opted to get reconstruction.
Girly bits, the lower ones, cancer is a little different.
Both breast and cervical cancer are traditionally considered women's cancer (though men can and do get breast cancer). Our breasts and vagina's are the most obvious parts of what makes us women (yes, yes, yes, aside from all that inside touchy-feely kind of stuff).
I have not had breast cancer, but I used to sit on a board for an organization that served women who had breast cancer, and as such I heard a ton of stories. Women's sexuality, for many of us, are tied up in our boobs.
Are they small. Are they big. What kind of nipples. Do they sag. Do they perk.
People we, as women, love intimately, typically love them.
I can't imagine the mental turmoil surrounding losing your breasts.
I know too well the psychological turmoil in losing your lower girly bits.
For starters, here is a pictorial cartoon like representation that I took from the ethers about what those girly bits look like. I would have used actual body parts, but really, it can be hard to tell from something like a medical school cadaver image.
It should not be a surprise to anyone that I owned these parts. These parts are also part of what made me a girl. Aside from boobs and all that other stuff. Gender identity... I believe that is the new buzzword.
|This is me, before the surgery.|
So, below is a picture of me after the surgery. I had to use some fancy apps on my phone to remove those parts which I had removed. But this is all that is left inside me. Most of my vagina. And my ovaries. Everything else was taken out. My uterus - OUT. My cervix - OUT. My Fallopian Tubes - OUT. There were some other things that got taken out too; lymph nodes, tissue... but those aren't girly bits. Oh, and you may be wondering what is up with my ovaries. For now, since I plan on asking my oncologist about them at the next meeting, I just imagine that he blinged them up and hung them on my ribs or something once he separated them from my uterus and Fallopian tubes. I imagine that they are dangling like a disco ball for my abdominal region (what seems to have gotten big enough to play host to an CRAZY internal organ dance party).
|This is me after.|
But this is my trying to make light of something that is far more serious. My scar from this surgery is on my abdomen. It has not really exemplified what exactly happened to me.
I had all those parts removed. My vagina was shortened.
For the past 5 months, I have been terrified to think about what my new body was like. I knew and celebrated it being cancer free, but it changed. it changed in ways that make it very obvious.
But these are things I cannot see. And because I can't see what my new vagina was like, I had created horrible images. These were courtesy of words like scar tissue and granulation that were tossed my way in my post surgical exams.
Those are not pretty words, images of keloid and granulation in my mind as to what my new vagina looked like. I had images of puckers tough tissue reminiscent of the ears that a bullfighter cuts from a bull. In my head, my new vagina was hideous. I was ashamed and horrified.
So, finally, after five months. I got up the courage to take a feel and see what it was like.
It wasn't hideous to the touch, there were no areas of puckered keloid tissue with granulation that I could identify. The tissue was smooth, taut, moist. Just what it should be, though missing the nose tip of a cervix.
I cried with a sense of relief.