Removing the Bandages


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Today I removed my bandages. Well, most of them. The nurse said I could. Her words, “If you wait too long, the skin might blister” were the catalyst. I knew all about the blisters. Back in May after my first surgery, I had a small amount of blistering; it was uncomfortable, a little unpleasant, and I wanted to avoid this happening again. So there I stood—me in front of the bathroom mirror, a pail of warm water, a wash cloth, pair of scissors, and a bottle of vitamin E oil.

Slowly, I peeled back a corner of foam tape. It didn’t hurt, not the first few millimeters. Then it did. It pulled my skin, revealing red pain underneath. I’d grit my teeth and pull a little more, then cut the tape away, dab the skin with the wet cloth, then smooth a little oil over the area. And repeat. In some places under the foam tape, there was also clear tape. This stuff was really stuck on, and sometimes I had a hard time figuring out what was tape and what was skin. More pulling, more rubbing. Unfuntastical...

About thirty minutes later, the bandages were gone revealing my new breasts which are: slightly asymmetrical, but not really noticeable. There are yellow and purple splotches here and there. The area around my underarms and the sides of my breasts is swollen with visible foam tape marks. Everything is raw looking and slightly angry. My new breasts aren’t dancing-on-the-stripper-pole large; they’re maybe full B cups. They’re firm now too, not like my childbirth-ravaged before-breast-cancer breasts. They’re higher up, as if I’ve suddenly become many years younger. (This is a bonus. And actually, I’m not sure if they were ever this high up on my body.) Each one has a long horizontal scar across its equator with steri strips in place. They’ll fall off eventually. (The steri strips, not my breasts.)

After my act of extreme bravery—(yes, it was very brave of me to remove my bandages myself, thank you)—my chest is a little sore and feels a little vulnerable since the supporting and shaping foam tape is now gone. At this moment, I pause and reflect on the past few months; I know I can easily lapse into an emotional mess if I choose to, but I won’t just yet. This particular journey may be coming to an end, but there are still areolas to tattoo on. (Yes, you read that right.) And nipples to be sewn on. But I hope my eventual new nipples don’t come off when I towel dry myself too enthusiastically after a shower. This happened to a friend of mine; I swear. I’m not making it up. (Horrifying and funny at the same time; isn’t it?)

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So I’m somewhere like half-way or 90 percent through the process. I look forward to the new year and new possibilities. I’ll be going back to work, and who knows what 2013 will bring. Hopefully good health and good hope for all. One thing I know for certain though: next to my compact new breasts, my belly looks big. I’m going to have to work on that.

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