Monday, November 30, 2009
Movin' On Up
Well, I did it. I'm a homeowner. After months of delays and setbacks, my husband and I closed on our first condo earlier this month and moved in this weekend. And just in the nick of time: my boobs are on the endangered species list -- they have only two and a half weeks to live! I have been so comically busy the last month or so (I was traveling seemingly constantly, and when I had a moment to spare, I was packing) that I haven't had much time to dwell on the surgery. But now that we're finally in our new place (but by no means settled... I find it a personal triumph that I went to work clothed today, wearing matching shoes even. I can't find anything in our new house, including my sanity), I find myself not so much relieved as I am disoriented.
After our first night in our new condo, I turned to G and said, "Doesn't it feel like we're squatting in someone else's place? Unpacking our dishes in someone else's kitchen? Sleeping on someone else's king-sized bed? Admiring someone else's new furniture?" Because our new home doesn't quite feel like it's ours quite yet, nor does it feel like home. And I know it will take some getting used to. And I know it will come in time. But instead of a euphoria that comes with accomplishing a major goal, I feel a little melancholy. And I think it's a preview of what's to come. Because buying this house and having this mastectomy are both things I really, really want (I know that sounds strange saying that about surgery, but it's true; I'm SO ready for this. I'm SO ready to get it over with and get on with it) but they are events that completely change your life. And with that change comes a little nostalgia for the way things were, because even if things are better now, they're still different.
Here's the thing about our old apartment: it was a dump. The heating barely worked, the water pressure was inconsistent, the floors squeaked, and the back porch sagged precariously. There was no A/C, no dishwasher, no washer or dryer, no luxuries beyond basic amenities. When I moved into that apartment, I was just out of college, barely making more money than I now pay in taxes. It was definitely time to move on. But at the same time, that dump was my home for nearly eight years. My husband proposed to me in our living room. I felt safe, comfortable, and most of all, happy there.
Our new place is stunning. It has floor-to-ceiling windows that face out onto Lake Michigan. We have granite counter tops, marble sinks, a soaking tub, central heat and air, in-unit washer dryer, a dishwasher, and a balcony on which we'll sit on hot summer nights. It has everything I wanted in a house and more. But as wonderful as it is, it's just so different.
And here's the thing about my boobs: they're going to try to kill me. They're fundamentally flawed: they can't stop tumors from growing, and once they go bad, they're likely to try to kill me over and over again, until they do. If my boobs were a consumer good, they'd be subject to a recall: they are dangerous, and they pose a threat to my well-being. But at the same time, these boobs are all I've ever known. They are a part of me, literally. They fill out a sweater nicely and look fabulous in a bikini. They have many fans, and they will be sincerely missed.
My new boobs will be stunning. They will be slightly bigger, less droopy, and more symmetrical. They will be so perky, in fact, that I'll never need to wear a bra again, because they'll support themselves. And best of all, they won't try to kill me anymore. They'll be everything my natural boobs aren't. But as wonderful as all that is, it's just going to be so different.
You see where I'm going with this. And perhaps I'm over-dramatizing moving or oversimplifying surgery by suggesting they resemble each other in any way. But to me, they are remarkably alike. I had a moment when I was unpacking the dishes when I thought to myself, "What if this is a big mistake?" And I was both terrified and comforted by the fact that, even if it was, there was nothing I could do about it now. The papers were signed. There was no turning back. And that's probably how I'll feel sometime after my surgery. And they'll be nothing I can do about it once it's done: you can't sew your boobs back on, and they certainly don't grow back. It's a permanent change, and one to which I'll acclimate slowly, just like we're slowly settling in to our new house. It's all about reaching a new normal.
This has been a big year for me. This is the year I learned I carried the breast cancer gene, the year I bought my first house, the year I voluntarily gave up my boobs. And with all this momentous changes comes anxiety, excitement, and, yes, some relief. And now that I'm so close to the finish line, I can that life on the other side will be better -- whether it's in my new house or in my new boobs -- but it's going to take some getting used to.