Published in: UNMENTIONABLES OUT LOUD

UOL: Processing My Bilateral Mastectomy in Real-Time

Dr. Jessica Zucker, a Los Angeles-based psychologist specializing in reproductive and maternal mental health, speaks about the shifts towards acceptance following her bi-lateral mastectomy.

Just a handful of days after my bilateral mastectomy, my daughter not so gingerly opened the shower door to join me.


I wasn’t prepared for her arrival. I wasn’t prepared for her to see my fresh scars. And I was even more ill-prepared to talk her through what she saw.

Her mother, changed.

She looked into my eyes — a familiar greenish brown mix of colors to my own — and gently made her way down my face, chin and clavicle to my newfound set of breasts. No longer the voluptuous breasts she suckled for over a year and a half, her face crinkled. Not in disgust, but in wonderment. “When will you have nipples, mommy?” she queried. Before I had the chance to answer, she had more to say. “They don’t look how I thought they would. They only have one cut.”

As I washed her hair and her mine, we talked — about my surgery, the healing, the pain, and the fact that her mommy has changed. My body has changed. I didn’t venture into how I’ve also changed on the inside as the result of receiving a cancer diagnosis—she’s only 7 and I’m well aware of the need to remain a bit more concrete and discuss things as they arise.

I am processing this in real time, silently. I am processing the internal and external. The alterations. The loss. The gains.

Last night Noa wanted to hug me so badly we erupted in laughter over the ridiculousness of not being able to, given the current state of my tender body.

“Can I see the scars mommy? Will you take off your bra, please?” I lifted my nightgown over my head and with pride, showed my daughter what life sometimes entails.


Change.

Because, believe it or not, the truth is, I’ve actually fallen in love with my breasts-in-process. I love how they feel, their weight, the shape. I love how they look, even. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to feel this way just two weeks out, but here I am unclipping my bra to show my daughter what process/progress/time/healing looks like.

Change doesn’t have to include shame, self-blame or admonishment.

To model for my daughter that we can gracefully navigate hard things is a gift I wish I didn’t have to give.

Reposted with permission from Jessica Zucker, MD

image credit: laura ise


 

Dr. Jessica Zucker is a Los Angeles-based psychologist specializing in reproductive and maternal mental health. She specialized in this field long before experiencing a second trimester miscarriage firsthand.

Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, NBC, BuzzFeed, New York Magazine, Vanity Fair and Vogue, among others.
 
Her first book, I HAD A MISCARRIAGE: A Memoir, a Movement is available now (Feminist Press + Penguin Random House Audio).

Jessica has been featured on The TODAY Show, Good Morning America, CNN, and NPR. Jessica earned advanced degrees from New York University and Harvard University.

Unmentionables Out Loud is a monthly series centered around our mission to break the silence surrounding taboo topics.
We’ll share your real and raw experiences— the things we still don’t talk about enough to open our minds and hearts to greater knowledge and empathy. We’re passing the mic to YOU. Let’s get loud.

 



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