The other morning Little Mr. B. set up the tiny plastic Playmobil hedgehogs like this and said, "The baby hedgehogs are drinking milk from the mama hedgehog." Most days I don't spend much time thinking about the fact that I had a double-mastectomy when Little Mr. was 9 months old, but moments like this bring memories.
The nursing hedgehogs brought me back to an afternoon about 4 years ago (Little Mr. was almost 3.) We were playing with 3 stuffed-toy kittens. Little Mr. told me they needed milk so I found a little bowl, pretended to pour some milk and presented it to the kittens. Little Mr. said, "No, they need milk from breasts." While I was rummaging around to find a suitable stuffed toy to represent a mama cat, he said, "But they need milk from your breasts." Well, I thought to myself, even if these reconstructed water-balloon breasts aren't good for anything much, at least I can nurse some stuffed toy kittens." Bitter-sweet, indeed.
Every day I'm grateful. I'm grateful my mother is alive after receiving treatment for breast cancer. I'm grateful for medical technology which can isolate the familial genetic mutation which conferred to me an 80% lifetime risk of developing breast cancer. I'm grateful I had medical insurance which covered the genetic screening, the double mastectomy and reconstruction. I'm grateful for my sweet Mr. B. who picked up Chinese food on his way home from work no matter how many times as week I asked for it. I don't love the fact that I have reconstructed orbs (sometimes referred to as my "feminine enhancements") but I'm grateful.
I volunteer through a peer support program at a local agency which provides free services to women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. At least once a month they call to ask whether I'd be willing to talk to another young mother who is facing a mastectomy. It's not easy to feel gratitude while dealing with chemotherapy and surgery, but it's my hope that every woman I talk to will, at some point, be able to feel grateful.