As I type, it’s nearing on five weeks since surgery and people have been asking how I’m doing ‘down there’. The following notes are thank you letters to my surgical team which will explain the situation best.
I quite literally feel like I won the surgical lottery. Hit the jackpot. I know it wasn’t quite like that. You were chosen for me. But I feel so damn lucky to have been your patient.
Even past the bruising and the swelling, I see a breast that looks just like mine. It IS mine. I have my own skin. I have my freckles. I have the same shape, and I also know that what is inside is mine, and is me.
So, I don’t feel at all like I’ve had a mastectomy in a funny old way. It just takes a little re-framing of the situation – I’ve had something really really horrible taken out of my breast, and a bit of me from somewhere else popped back in – a re-org, as it were, a tissue re-shuffle.
My boob is fabulous and SO ARE YOU.
Thank you. You are, actually, the best.
An edited version of the thank you letter penned from my hospital bed to my Consultant Breast Reconstruction Surgeon.
It can’t be easy being registrar when the consultant surgeon gets all the damn credit for the boobs. I wanted to write and say thank you for the bits you probably don’t get thanked for very often. Like the belly button bit.
I’ve always had what could be conservatively described as a prominent outy. An ‘out there’ outy. An extroverted, flamboyant outy verging on body-political ambitions for abdominal take-over.
Then with two pregnancies, dear GOD, my belly button grew to such grotesque proportions it cast its own shadow across my abdomen at high noon.
And so I resigned myself to one piece swimsuits.
Then came breast cancer-reconstruction surgery. Once I’d gone home and the swelling had settled in my abdomen, I did not, in a million years, expect to wake up one day, lift the sheets and look down to ‘New and Improved Shiv’. Not only a svelte new abdomen but what appears to be a new and improved belly button. HELLO YOU!
And perfect neat scars, healing nicely thank-you-very-much due to some mighty fine stitch work at the tail end of a long and exhausting surgery sesh on nothing more than bean stew.
For the new and improved me, I salute you Sir. Your belly buttons ROCK Dan. Thank you.
My draft letter to Dan, the registrar who played a key part in my surgery.
So people, really, don’t feel sorry for me. I am going to wang on and on about the unexpectedly fabulous new me thanks to awesome surgery by awesome people who work for the NHS, all in the name of ridding me of the cancer and putting me back together again. I will go so far as to say I may become intolerable. I may even resurrect that belly button ring from my late teens. Hold the phone, I might even wear a crop top this summer.
Watch out world, this is Shiv version 3.0.