I just got back from a trip to paradise (which explains why this blog has turned into a bit of an abandoned amusement park this month. Here's to cranking up the ol' carousel and calliope one more time). It was my first vacation since my surgery and, in many ways, it was a celebration of a return to normalcy, to health, to happiness. I left G at home this time and set sail with my dear friend N (whose loyalty and companionship I've extolled several times on this blog) for a girls getaway to Aruba. It was a trip designed to commemorate many of my new boobs' firsts: first time on a plane, first time out of the country, first time in a bikini, first time in the ocean. And it was a incredible success: we had restorative, sun-soaked, and booze-filled fun while picking apart (in the way only girls can) the minutiae of life and love. But there is nothing like wearing a bathing suit for a week to put you back in touch with your body. Here are some things I learned about my boobs on vacation:
1) They like to make surprise appearances
I was emailing with another recently reboobed BRCA babe this week (the incredible Lizzie Stark, whose piece in the Daily Beast last week, "Goodbye to My Breasts," engendered comments both clueless and congratulatory) who mentioned her new boobs seem smaller because, as she put it, "the shape of the implant gives me a lot of boob above the nipple." I have the exact opposite problem: my nips are positioned on the top third of implants so that they are always reverently pointing towards the sky. Still, after all these months, I am startled when I look down and see a nip seemingly near enough to poke me in the eye. Because of this, covering them in the bikini I wore, a sort of retro-bandeau halter, proved more difficult that I imagined. N was on constant nip patrol, ready to warn me when the shadow of my areola appeared above the horizon of my top. I gave up a few times, however, especially while snorkeling; I gave the rest of my diving group a free show on more than one occasion, I'm sure.
2) They won't pop while getting a massage
I got my first massage since surgery on the second day of vacation, and I was a little worried that my implants would get in the way/explode/cause my masseuse would run out of the seaside hut screaming in horror. I still have not returned to stomach sleeping yet, so the sensation of laying on my breasts like that on the massage table was odd at first, but I quickly forgot about it (most likely because I was being rubbed with oil and it felt oh so good). And my massuse didn't say a word about my breasts; I'm not even sure she noticed.
3) They don't behave any differently in the water than the old ones did
Much to my disappointment, they are not personal flotation devices. But much to my surprise, they don't feel much different than my old breasts. When G and I were in Costa Rica last summer, I remember floating in the warm Pacific and trying to imprint on my memory the sensation of what my body felt like at that moment, weightless, supported by the buoyant seawater. But what I discovered shortly after sprinting into the ocean about sixty minutes after touching down on the tarmac at Queen Beatrix International Airport is that, when you're floating, you feel nothing. It's like that weightlessness, that numbness that your feel through your entire body when you surrender to the waves, ensconces you. For a moment then, my boobs didn't feel different at all; they felt like the rest of my body, enveloped in warmth.
4) I'm not ready to go topless
Nudity is circumstantial. In the context of my BRCA life, I find myself taking my top off for just about anyone who asks, proudly showing off my new rack. But when it comes to just being nude, not as a woman who's had breast reconstruction but as just a woman, I have discovered I'm a little more shy. The beach where we sunned ourselves all week wasn't exactly topless, but the act tanning your ta-tas was not frowned upon. I fell asleep in the beach chair under the shade of the palapa one afternoon and woke to the sight of a woman laying not ten feet from me defiantly, proudly topless. Whoa, boobs, I though. Real ones. I haven't seen real boobs in ages. All the boobs I see are reconstructed, like mine. I thought about going topless all week, but I found I wasn't ready yet. You see, when I pop my top off for someone to see my new boobs, I'm reinforcing the idea that my breasts are abnormal, that they are something to be inspected and remarked upon, studied and analyzed. And I'm comfortable with that. They are still oddities to me, too, and because of that otherness, I feel comfortable treating them like specimens rather than parts of me. I don't feel normal yet, so the act of doing something natural, like lying topless on a beach, isn't something I can do yet. I was worried about my scars. I was worried about the stares from passing cabana boys. I was not ready for my breasts to just be my breasts. That's a work in progress. I'll get there eventually, and when I do, I'll return to that swath of white sand and say, "World, check these out." But I wasn't ready to that yet, and that's OK.
5) Everything I've been through is worth it if it means I get to go to beautiful places and live a long happy life
Nothing makes me happier than traveling. There is nothing like that first moment when you arrive at a new place and your eyes take in the scene, full of wonderment, knowing that you'll never see things again quite like you see them the first time. I want my life to be full of moments like that, where I go some place new and see new things and get so giddy inside I think I might cry. And that's, in a lot of ways, why I did what I did. Because I want to be healthy. Because I want to live a full life. And I want to see as much of this incredible world as I can. And I know that having significantly reduced my risk of developing breast cancer, I hope to have many years of health, travel, friendship, and awe. I feel so lucky, so incredibly lucky, to have chosen a life less burned by fear, and I plan to make the most of it.