(The above photo represents the bulk of my memories of the first day after surgery: my morphine pump, and the warning attached to it. In the background is Snuggles, my bear, whom I've had since I was seven. Which makes him old enough to rent a car without having to pay extra for liability insurance.)
At this moment one year ago, I was far away in some dreamless place, silent, unconscious, immobile, while back on planet Earth, surgeons first removed and then reconstructed my breasts. Yesterday, as I was leaving work, exchanging pleasantries with my colleagues about our plans, someone asked, "So do you have anything exciting going on this weekend?" And I responded, "Actually, yes, I do. I'm celebrating an anniversary." And sort of left it at that. Because how do you explain to someone you don't know all that well that December 18 is just as important as my birthday, just as important as the day I met my husband (and the day I married him), as important as Christmas and New Years and every other holiday, too? Because December 18 wasn't just the day I had a mastectomy; it was the day I beat cancer. (No matter that I didn't have it yet. I did what I did so I never would. And that's still beating cancer.)
So what are the characteristics of this most unusual anniversary? First off, it's an exceedingly happy occasion. This is no funeral, people. Today, I'm celebrating health, and marveling at the extraordinary measures I was willing to go to protect it. Today, I don't mark the death of my breasts; today I honor their rebirth. Secondly, today, I will celebrate my body and its capacity for wonderful strength. As I woke up this morning, I stretched -- a glorious, full-bodied lengthening animated by pops and cracks and creeks -- and I remembered how confined I felt those first weeks after surgery, unable to move, afraid to tear something, sore and bruised and afraid of my body. So today I will go for a run; I don't know how far or how fast I'll go, but that's beside the point. I will celebrate my health by doing something good for it. Finally, I will treat myself well. What that means yet, I'm not quite sure: I'm still in my pajamas, working my way through my second cup of coffee (oh, where's my waiter when I need him? Refill soon, darling, please!), with a day full of possibility still ahead of me. Tonight we'll go out to dinner, a boobversary dinner, and toast the new rack. And then we'll head off to two parties, a birthday celebration and a holiday party. But between now and then: I imagine a cookie or two, perhaps some shopping. Maybe some pampering. I've got a busy day.
Believe it or not, I have mostly fond memories of my surgery (though less so of the immediate aftermath). I have, first off, never felt so loved; support and love and flowers and vegan desserts appeared from every corner. And though I was terrified in the months and weeks leading up to it, the day of surgery, I was calm. I remember feeling so lucky to have a husband to hold me and a mother to scratch my back through my thin hospital gown. I was comforted by the many people I knew were thinking of me and rooting for me and wishing me well. So today isn't just a happy day commemorating an unhappy day; it's a happy day in remembrance of a happy day.
And I have a lot of good memories: I remember the food I ate the night before surgery (mmmm... fake duck). I remember the cake my BFF from Texas ordered from the same vegan bakery our wedding cake cake from (mmm... peanut butter chocolate
So today is a good day. Life has gone on, but it's important to acknowledge where I've been: I've gained as much in this process (confidence, certainty, clarity) as I've loss (boobs, but more importantly fear, too). And today's the day when it all started. So I'm unzipping my hoodie and staring down and saying to my hooters, "Happy first birthday, girls." And happy anniversary to me.