our trip to Holland offered so many photo opportunities. But unusually many of those opportunities were of him rather than me. Plus in these two photos I had the chance to photograph him in two ways. Both fabulous and exciting. Before and after or after and before.
Lingerie Is For Everyone is probably the only meme I haven’t yet taken part in. Hosted by Violet Faukes Lingerie Is For Everyone is body positive, inclusive and also a great place to see beautiful bodies and fabulous lingerie.
But I have been hesitant to take part. I have a drawer full of lingerie that I rarely wear. Well I can put on most of the knickers, though some are currently a little tight. But I’m unable to wear any of my pre- mastectomy bras.
For the first few months post mastectomy I wore bras for comfort. So underwired ones were out. I also needed to go up a couple of sizes. It turns out I had a larger back size and smaller cup than I knew.
Finally though I’ve begun to source bras that not only feel comfortable but look good too. This is one of them and I have it in white too. I’m planning further purchases and maybe some matching knickers. It’s take time for me to begin to feel happy with my body again and sharing this photo is part of that process. Because, lingerie really is for everyone who wants to wear it.
I think I have mentioned before that I am a member of a facebook group for people with or who have had breast cancer. It is a place where people support each other through treatment and recovery, recurrence and general daily life. People who are struggling with problems they can’t speak to loved ones about. Of course, there are positive posts too, news of a wedding, baby, new house, new relationship. One thing has struck me though. While people will happily describe the symptoms of their cancer or side effects of treatment in graphic detail, often including photos. They skirt around sex and relationships in the most interesting way. Breast cancer can play havoc with your sex life. But sadly it seems that the word sex is pretty much unmentionable.
Sex as a taboo subject
I wonder how many people talk to their friends about their sex lives. It is easy to sit here as part of a sex blogging community and imagine that every one does it. But in reality they don’t. Indeed I don’t discuss my sex life with people I know, but then I also don’t have a close friend to confide in. But if I did, would I? This spot on the internet is a safe place, most of us are anonymous to a greater or lesser degree. I find it much easier to describe my most intimate moments on my blog than to describe them in public.
But I have no qualms about using the actual words for what I am trying to say. I wouldn’t act like some 70’s sitcom cast member and wink or blush if I needed to say the word sex. I prefer to use proper anatomical names rather than a euphemism. And certainly if someone asks a question on an online forum then I am going to answer with reference to the actual word.
I actually think the lady was brave to raise an unmentionable topic
Even though she referred to sex as ‘being intimate’. Indeed she might not have meant sex, she may have meant that she didn’t want her partner to see her naked. But unfortunately everyone who responded skirted around the topic in the same way she had. Mentioning relationship issues and the fact that the tablets they were taking had stopped them feeling like letting their partner close.
Further conversation though identified her actual issue. She was frightened that if she became aroused and orgasmed then the hormones would make her cancer worse. This is because like mine, her cancer is hormone dependent. So she had put 2 and 2 together and made 22.
I and another lady were able to reassure her that the hormones we produce during sexual pleasure will not affect or cause breast cancer. But I wonder why it is left to an online forum of peers to impart this information. It does feel like a reasonable assumption to make when people vaguely refer to hormones.
Mentioning the unmentionable
Sex is such a difficult topic to raise as a patient. In the mix of surgery, treatment options and general issues of body image, sex is pretty much no where. As a nurse I found it a challenge to discuss with my patients too, though I did. In my last clinical role, I worked with people with rheumatoid arthritis, often with young women. Being able to find a comfortable position, dealing with the side effects of treatment and general tiredness and pain were all factors. So I made myself ask the unmentionable questions, even though I’d really rather have not.
Society in general would rather people didn’t mention sex or their sex lives. But if we are to move away from sex as taboo we need to start somewhere. I guess an online forum for people with breast cancer is as good a place as any to start.
I won’t deny that my last post was rather negative. I hadn’t intended to write in that way, but as is often the case it felt right in the moment. Having one tit really does suck. However there is much to celebrate about myself, my body and my situation.
I really do intend to post more photos of myself as I am now. I don’t intend to hid behind lingerie or just post photos of my backside (though as the guru of sexy photography Exposing 40 advises they often come out looking fabulous). Instead, I plan to celebrate and be body positive. Then when I get my reconstruction, well hopefully I’ll be ready to share even more.
At the end of Eroticon Hy from A Dissolute Life Means…. organised a special Boob Day photo. 20 something of us got together and bared our breasts and Missy took some amazing photos. Although she doesn’t appear she was topless thought and so was definitely one of the group.
I think this photo sums up what is so good about Eroticon and why you should attend if you can. Ok, it is a conference for writers and bloggers, but honestly there is something for everyone who is kink minded.
This week’s food for thought Friday is about loss and asks: what is your most significant loss?
This presents me with a conundrum. What is my most significant loss? Is it the loss of trust I experienced when my husband cheated on me early in my marriage? Is it the loss of my grandmother 20 years ago this year. After all she was a massive influence on me as a person. Indeed she still is. Is it the loss of my father in 2014, after all the loss of a parent is a significant thing for anyone as they travel through life. Losing a parent makes you face your own mortality. As I head towards 60 (only 3 years to go), I do think about death more. Mainly because I want to pack so much in before that happens.
Those things are all massive milestones in my life. But I guess they feel inevitable, even betrayal. You have to be lucky to get through to the end of your life without someone doing the dirty on you.
No, the most significant loss is that of my right breast. Look up at the picture above this text. At the voluptuous cleavage, that woman is me. The loss of that part of my body does not get any easier, no matter what kind of brave face I put on it.
I can no longer wear whatever I want
Walk down any bra aisle in a department store and only a small proportion are suitable for me. I love beautiful lingerie and while there are specialist providers of beautiful post mastectomy products, they aren’t what I want to buy. I long for plunging necklines or balcony bras. If I wear one of my many low cut tops or dresses with one of my current bras you see lots of lace. That is fine, but I want to show off my cleavage.
Loss of feeling
Since my surgery last year my body doesn’t feel the same. Not only is there a large piece of me missing but what is there is numb. Around the scar line the sensation is reduced and under my arm it is absolutely absent. Strangely I can’t feel if I pinch myself, but I can feel hot water as it runs down my body. These days I spend longer in the shower because of this.
All is not lost of course
I am alive and I don’t have cancer. The chance of me dying of breast cancer in the future is miniscule. I am also going to see the surgeon soon about reconstruction surgery. So there is every chance that I will get my cleavage back and be able to wear low cut clothes again. It is likely that my new breast will be smaller than the old one, and I may need a reduction on the left side. But hopefully it will help me to feel whole again.
So many people have commented on my bravery, (which I acknowledge but don’t really see), when I think I was just coping as best I could. In truth I am still angry and upset this has happened. I feel guilty for these feelings because so many people are worse off than me. After all I have fully recovered.
I am ready to share photos of me as I am now, starting with this week’s Boobday (link to follow). The photo was taken at the end of Eroticon with (I think) 26 other people. I am used to how I look and I accept it. But I am beyond sad about what I have lost and that feeling won’t go away. Even after I have a new boob made of fat from my abdomen.
Week 4 hasn’t quite gone to plan, you could say I’ve had a bit of a hiccup.
Diet and fitness
It started a week ago. Before I’d even posted week 3, I had fallen off of the Dry January wagon. I did have every intention of climbing back aboard, but that didn’t really happen. Intake of wine has been much lower than before, but I have had at least a little each evening. Food intake has been pretty average and we have had some lovely meals. So my half a pound gain is directly due to alcohol. Plan for next week is not to drink at home on week day evenings.
In terms of exercise, I had an amazing day on Monday. After my radiotherapy, we headed into London for an exhibition at Tate Britain. I really enjoyed the paintings and the walk through London afterwards. My step count by the end of the day was just shy of 15,000. That’s the best in a long while. Unfortunately the rest of the week hasn’t been so good. A combination of feeling tired and the weather (cold then snow yesterday / today). My average though was 6600. Once the snow goes I plan to step things up. In fact, we will be in London on Saturday and Sunday and will be walking lots.
The radiotherapy is finished. It is difficult to imagine that 15 short bursts of radiation can cause such weariness in a person. But I really have been lacking energy this week. Also the skin on the right side of my chest is pretty red and sore, so I have stepped up the moisturising. Apparently I received some bolus does at the end of treatment which account for the skin issues. Effects are expected to continue for a couple of weeks. It is a month till I have my hospital follow up appointment so I can enjoy the freedom from hospital waiting rooms and car parks (and so can Master).
The slug at the top is from outside the Tate Modern. Rather fetching for a slug wouldn’t you say?
So many people have commented and indeed congratulated me on my strength. It is true that I have surprised even myself on how I have coped. Much of it is to do with my personality, the no fuss and drama me (though I can create both when provoked). Also because I like to have information before panicking and try to be optimistic in these matters. But make no mistake having breast cancer was the worst and scariest thing I have ever had to face. Losing one of my lovely breasts has been terrible, I morn it every day. In this post I will try to explain my then and now. There is no need to be sorry about any of this, I don’t need sympathy, just the chance to tell.
Until pregnancy I was quite small busted, but while pregnant they grew and never went down. I always had a good cleavage and many people, men and women have admired it. High necked clothes don’t suit me, my face and neck look too fat in them. I prefer a lower cut dress or top. My bras were all plunging, not padded as they made me look bigger than I wanted, but underwired for support. Not that I was sagging especially; I was told I had great tits for my age (former relationship) and great tits full stop (this one). To me, with my expanding middle and puckered hips, my tits were my best asset.
Once I gained confidence with my blog and began posting pictures of myself, they were often of my breasts. My pierced nipples, me bulging out of a leather waistcoat or wearing a leather harness. Master called them my jugs and played with them a lot. My nipples, especially the right were very sensitive and I have had nipple orgasms more than once. To me my breasts were my best asset and I am fucking angry and mightily sad that I now only have one.
The skin around the wound is soft and smooth, but the scar line itself is kind of puckered with little folds. The area under my arm remains numb and puffy. No one can tell me if and when it will recover. I touch the wound area quite a lot. During the day the area under my bra gets hot and itchy and sometimes I can’t help but rub it. Obviously not out in public but in the comfort of my living room. Lying in bed too, I stroke it. You see, most of the time I can’t really tell I don’t have a boob there and of course neither can anyone else.
I have a silicone prosthesis that fits inside my bra, it looks (and feels according to master) pretty realistic. But you can’t wear this kind of thing with a skimpy bra with a plunging cleavage. This means that I have bought several new bras, but not thrown any of the 15 or more old ones I have away. However I may soon move them into a box under the bed for the future (see below).
Master still loves to play with the breast and nipple on the left side. He strokes and nibbles, pulls and pinches. He also strokes the place where my right one used to be. But it isn’t the same. Even when I am aroused by what he is doing, I am thinking of what I have lost. His fingers on my wound area and surroundings are pleasant, but there is no sexual arousal from it. Instead he concentrates on the left and my other erogenous zones.
The biggest challenge for me now though is looking at other people’s tits. While I still love to look at everyone’s Sunday and other day blog and twitter posts. I can’t help but feel a twinge when I see a lovely pair of tits staring out at me. Likewise looking at old photos of myself makes me happy that I have so many, but sad that there will be no more like them. I also find myself looking for signs of the cancer within, of course there was never any sign.
I know these feelings will pass. It has, after all only been 3 months since the operation and my treatment won’t be completed until the end of this month.
In the future I hope to have a breast reconstruction. To be able to show two breasts to myself, to Master and this little area of the world would be wonderful. I know any reconstructed breast won’t be the same. It is likely that the surgeon will have to reduce the size of the left one, so I would be smaller than before. But I know it is what I want. To be able to wear any bra, or to be able to go braless. Summer days with no bra, that has to be something to aim for.
Before that, well I will try to be as body positive as I can. But don’t imagine that this has been easy or that it ever will be again. I loved my boobs and I will have to learn to love having one again.
This is a time of year for celebration, but also reflection. My blog has been pretty reflective of late, but that doesn’t stop me joining in. This week’s Food For Thought Friday asks the following questions:
When do you feel happiest in your skin?
Whatever the problems of the past few months, I am pretty happy. There are no specific pressures on me and my time. We are spending more time together and there have been few arguments. Over time, we have settled into a routine and things are easy going. It is good to know that we don’t have to go away from home to be together, but do like to do so. Some of our happiest times have been while travelling and there is a lot more of that to look forward to in 2019.
How do you maintain balance in your life? Is there anything you need to change?
Not really. As anyone who reads my blog regularly will know, there have been a lot of changes over the past year or two. It felt as if I was talking about my move for ever, but now it has happened. We have a balanced life and plan to keep it just that way.
What has been a particularly challenging situation that you have faced? How did you handle it? What did you learn from it?
The break up of my marriage was extremely challenging. Taking place over a protracted period meant that it was very stressful. There are many things that could have been done differently. I should have been clearer with my husband when I no longer wanted to be with him. But managing the emotions of a grown man at the same time as working out how to move forwards is not easy. We are still married to each other and that is the next job. But because he is now living with his new partner in what was our house I believe he is ready for divorce. It has taken over 5 years to get to this place and that is far too long.
What does it mean to live authentically?
I guess living authentically means being true to yourself and those around you. For so long I lived something of a lie. Even though I knew I was unhappy, I did nothing about it. Fear of being alone and of what others might say, led me to stay in an unhappy relationship. But I can now say that has changed. Family don’t know the nature of the relationship Master and I have, but that doesn’t feel like an issue. We love and care about each other and all can see that. But there is no need to go into details, anyway they definitely wouldn’t understand.
What are the things that inspire you and how do they work for you?
I am inspired by some of the great writers and bloggers around and I have a desire to try to emulate some of them. Also the way in which people manage to juggle different aspects of their lives. However, I have no desire to continue to be the person I was. There is no longer any need for me to have a full-time job, I have no children to bring up, house to run and family to keep happy. To coin a phrase; been there, done that!
If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
If I could turn the clock back I would get myself to the doctor more quickly and get the lump I had in my breast removed sooner. Then I could have had a lumpectomy and not mastectomy. But, there is no guarantee that those few weeks would have made a difference. In future though, I will put myself before work, packing up a house and all the other things that made me delay.
The thing that I would like to change though is my weight. 2019 has to be the year I get to grips with shedding some pounds. I’ve been attending a slimming club for 4 years and am only a few pounds lighter than when I started. That is a waste of money. Though I have made some great friends there!
This week we received the best news possible, a real cause for celebration. The Oncotype test, which identifies the risk of cancer recurring came back with a score of 3. Ranked out of 100, 3 is almost as low as you can get and means I have a 1% chance of dying from cancer in the next 5 years. This means I can now get on with living my life and pretty much forget about cancer.
First though there is the small matter of radiotherapy, which will start in the middle of January. I will have 15 treatments, daily except for the weekends. This is necessary because the tumour was larger than 5cm. But there is no need for chemotherapy, which is one hell of a relief.
The tumour was highly oestrogen and progesterone receptor positive, therefore I have been prescribed a drug called Letrozole. This inhibits the production of oestrogen which is still produced by women like me who are post menopausal. This is something I hadn’t known before. So a tablet a day for at least 5 years. There is a possibility of side effects which I’ll talk about if and when they happen.
In other news:
Aches and Pains
I’ve mentioned before about the shooting pains in my right arm that suddenly started about a month ago. These are, thankfully, beginning to subside. I am trying to use my right arm as much as possible and this week managed to vacuum the stairs without too much trouble. Irritatingly I still can’t comfortably lie on my side, not due to the surgery but because of the pain in my arm. Lying on that side seems to start up the pain. Hopefully though that will soon resolve.
I have now bought 6 new bras. 2 are the front fastening soft ones I bought for post surgery. They may come in handy when I have radiotherapy as my chest is likely to become sore. They may also work well under tee shirts. I have 2 really lovely bras (one pink and the other black), that are really a bit small. I realise I was deluded to think that I was still a 36, though they aren’t massively tight. But my new bigger bras definitely fit better. Interestingly the size 42 I bought from the NHS prosthesis fitter is too big. Even on the tightest hooks there is room for it to slip up. So I am not convinced that 4-5 inches on top of your chest measurement is right. So this week I bought myself a new bra from a company called Nicola Jane. They have a fantastic range of underwear and swimsuits. I’ll be buying more from them in anticipation of our holiday after I finish treatment. This new bra, which is black is particularly for my son’s wedding in 2 weeks.
I haven’t thrown out any of my old bras, because I don’t yet know which I will be able to wear in the future. There are still plans for a breast reconstruction and I am trying to lose weight. It is coming off, but very slowly. For now though, I am unable to wear anything that doesn’t provide full coverage of my prosthesis. It looks good under my clothes, feels like a breast and so having to wear different bras is a small price to pay. Unfortunately though they don’t hide well under all of my clothes, however I refuse to start wearing high neck tops. They don’t suit me and I hate to have my neck swaddled too much.
Fun and games
Last weekend we attended a social event at a club and were able to play. Master took along a number of implements and seemed to use most of them on me. I was able to comfortably get onto the bench and lie on my front while he flogged and otherwise hit my bottom. The endorphin rush was wonderful as it had been 3 months or so since the last time. The marks even lasted a few days, which is unusual. It was also good to sit and chat to friends and eat cake. My first for ages since in the main I have given up sugar.
After the news on Wednesday we decided that a celebration was in order and so went out for dinner. We are out a lot anyway, but this was different, special. When Master suggested it, I realised that we should mark good news like this in some way. The next milestone will be after radiotherapy and for that celebration we are planning a holiday to warmer climbs. More of that once we have dates etc.
For now, I leave you with a picture of my latest bra purchase. I can’t promise there won’t be more…..
This month’s Sinful Sunday prompt is Bokeh. This is about producing an image where a blur is produced through parts of the image being out of focus. I thought this would be an ideal way of showing my body in a way I haven’t yet.
We love to have a bath together and having just bought some new bath bombs, Friday was the night. This was taken by the man of the house who then produced a series of edits. The reason there isn’t much water is because he jumped in soon after. Otherwise I would have had far more of my tummy covered! I love the different colours – my suntan, still visible, contrasted with the purple water.