Monday, February 22, 2010

Ce n'est pas normal...

I've had this friend for a very long time in France - going on 30 years now. She's a bit difficult, very Parisian, very particular and quite bitchy. But we've been through a lot together. I remember when I first moved there years ago, I stayed with her while I looked for an apartment. We would fold the linens in the morning, she at one end and me, holding the opposite corners of the sheets. If you've ever tried to fold sheets with someone, it's inevitable that one person will fold in the opposite direction. When this would occur, Marianne would stop and say, "Gail, ce n'est pas normal." - It's not normal to do it that way...When cooking, she would ask me to prepare the salade. As I broke the lettuce and prepared to wash it, again she would say, "Ce n'est pas normal." Any time I would do something that wasn't in tune with the way she was taught or accustomed to living: to her, it wasn't normal. We had explosive discussions about this. And to this day, the semantics have never been resolved.

So, the other day, I had my first appointment with a plastic surgeon. I must interject that throughout these past several years of fertility treatments, premature births, retinal and neurosurgeries and cancer, I/we - the family have had the most wonderful health care professionals. From the ER doctors down to the nurses and PCA's. So, whenever I go to see a new doctor, I come well equipped with my questions and also an attitude of "this ain't my first rodeo". But as I entered this surgeon's office, I felt vulnerable about my discussion of breast reconstruction as an option after my upcoming bilateral mastectomy.

First of all, I have had 4 surgeries in the past 14 months, plus dose dense chemo and weeks of radiation. Now, with this positive BART result to my genetic testing, I am due to have my breasts cut off. Thus reigns the question: to reconstruct or not to reconstruct? I am a AA at best. Perfectly small, Marie Antoinette, non-sagging breasts for which I have never had to invest in any sort of brassiere. I don't want anything bigger and I quite like myself the way I am. That, obviously is not an option. I have grappled with this decision for a while now - do I need breasts? I haven't really had them my entire life and these little ones that I've had have served me well. They nourished my preemies for the first 13 months of life and now, they're done. So, why not just have them taken off and not replaced?

Well, I had hoped to have had an open, frank discussion about this dilemma but unfortunately I have learned that women walk into a plastic surgeons office and are confronted with one thing: the options for the type of reconstruction, NOT whether or not to have it done at all. When I tried to approach the subject, I heard the dreaded words "Women do it to feel normal, to look normal again". Marianne's voice was ringing in my ears. "Ce n'est pas normal."

What the f**k is normal? But moreover, why would anyone want to be...? I will choose abnormal anyday. We will fly the abnormal flag: my daughter who can't see, my twins' who live with tubes in their brains, my husband who went to an Ivy League school and became a cowboy boot collector and artist instead of an attorney, and me...without breasts.

Sigh...I STILL don't know what I am going to do but I do know one thing: I won't be going back to that plastic surgeon.