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.
During the course of this relationship I and we have had some amazing times. It is definitely the case that I have had more sex during the past 5 years than I had during the previous 30. But we have had some lean periods during that time, when my, his or our mind and body don’t work together. Sometimes the body is willing and able but for emotional or psychological reasons sex doesn’t happen. More frequently though, the problem has been physical.
Emotional and psychological health
We are in the fortunate position that we live together and neither of us are working. This wasn’t always the case and certainly until last summer tiredness was a major factor for me. I had spent a couple of years juggling a demanding job, preparing to move and care for my widowed mum. On top of that were the not to be underestimated effects of the menopause. Feeling exhausted doesn’t necessarily mean sleep comes easily and even if you fall asleep hot flashes and night sweats make you wake again. Additionally, anxiety about the end of my marriage and decisions about the house often caused me to lie awake at night.
Master tends not to be troubled by an inability to sleep. Though from time to time he struggles to get enough sleep, he certainly needs far more of it than me.
Tiredness has interfered with my sexual appetite and for a long time I felt I could take or leave sex. Luckily, Master often wanted to take it and has some ingenious ways of getting me in the mood. Being his slave means that I rarely say no to him, even if I don’t feel much like it. Not because I can’t refuse him, but because I have made a commitment with him which I want to honour. In the past I might have said no and turned over. But now I wait to see how my body responds first. Often, I start to become aroused even if my brain is saying no and when that happens, who am I to deny my body?
There is no doubt that physical health problems have got in the way of our ability to enjoy an active sex and kinky life. The first issue we encountered was Master’s frozen shoulder. This made it difficult for him to find a comfortable position on top of me . It also made impact play painful for him. We had to adapt our favoured positions, which led to the purchase of the swing. But really it wasn’t until he recovered that things returned to normal.
A physical effect of the menopause was pain during PIV sex. Luckily this didn’t coincide with the frozen shoulder, when I was often on top. There were times when my vagina would go into spasm as soon as his cock came anywhere near me. This caused pain and a lot of upset. I am so luck that Master is a patient man, who happens to love touching me with his fingers and mouth. Also of course there is plenty I can do with my mouth too. Thankfully those, I think menopause related issues have disappeared and sex is pain free.
Strangely my mastectomy and subsequent treatment have had limited effect on us. Within a couple of weeks of the operation we were able to have sex again, though he was scared of causing me pain. For me, position was an issue and I couldn’t lie on my right side of lean on my right arm. These have mostly resolved, though I still can’t lie on my right side for any length of time.
Our ability to play has probably been affected, partly because we haven’t wanted to go to events while treatment was ongoing. But also because I have been very tired over the past months. Daily trips to the hospital and lack of sunlight over the winter months have affected him too.
We intend to grow older together and we now know some of the things we might encounter. His ability to ejaculate frequently is already something that happens. I can come many many times for his once and so we make that one time meaningful. Our bodies take time to recover from exercise and activity. We don’t always have the energy that we think we should.
But recognising the effect of mind and body over our ability to have a fulfilling sex life and relationship bode well for the future. We’ll certainly keep going in whatever way we can for as long as we can.
It’s been a few weeks. February was a crazy month blogging wise. February photofest is always fun, but fitting in other posts too makes it all a bit of a challenge. I know I have the time these days, but normal life still has to be fitted in. Also February was challenging for another reason – post radiotherapy blues well and truly set in. Thankfully at the end of the month we headed off on holiday and now I am feeling fit and healthy once again (well kind of).
Diet and weight loss
February was a right off for weight loss. I put on a couple of pounds early in the month and spent the rest of the month losing and putting on the same two. Then I went on holiday and so am where I was at the end of January. Thankfully that gain was just 1.5lb, I guess if I hadn’t had those pizzas and that extra wine I would have lost weight. But where is the fun in that. I only really eat pizza on holiday anyway. It is 6 weeks till Easter and my next trip away, so I’m going to knuckle down and try to shift a few pounds.
Thank goodness for holidays. For a whole week neither of us drove a car and apart from taxis from and back to the airport in Cape Verde we used either public transport or our legs (mostly the latter). Walking beside the sea is much more enjoyable than walking down to the shops at home. Plus exploring new places is always fun. So, not surprisingly my step count shot up and I surpassed 10k steps each day for 9 or 10 days in a row. I also swam while away and was pleasantly surprised that I have full range of movement in my right arm. Now I plan to start going to the local pool to swim each week.
Sao Vicente is quite a hilly place, as is Lisbon where we stopped over on our way. Many of the steps while away were up (and down) hill which will have helped keep the pounds off. Keeping up the walking at home is also an aim, but since we have been home the weather has been awful and I am a fair weather pleasure walker.
I guess I naively thought the worst effects of radiotherapy would come at the end of treatment rather than 3 weeks later. I was wrong. The skin under my right arm shed and the area was absolutely raw. My chest area was sore but had nothing on my under arm. Thankfully the dressings supplied by the radiotherapy radiographer helped immensely and by the time we left for holiday I was healed.
The after effects of treatment also brought with them an anticlimactic feeling that I know is written about. I felt very low and lethargic. Our holiday couldn’t have come at a better time.
I was very careful to protect my skin and wore a 50 factor sun block on my chest and moisturised very regularly. I also chose clothes that covered my chest a bit more than usual. for swimming I had my new costume and also a gel prosthesis that doesn’t retain water. It’s a little lighter than the other one I have so win / win.
Since returning I have had one day where I felt exhausted. A combination of travel and lack of sun light I think. But now I’m feeling good. I have a small piece of work to keep me occupied till Easter, so can expect some income in April. I am also very much looking forward to Eroticon, which is next weekend.
In so many ways, the person I am now is the person I was then. I look the same, dress the same, know the same people but underneath I am different. I am living a life that runs parallel to the one I had before. But it is and I am different.
This isn’t just about cancer or about the surgery I had in October. Nor is it because I split up with my husband, started a new relationship, gave up my job and moved house to live with Master.
But those things are important, they are part of the person I now am. Just a year ago I was a busy professional who came home to an empty home most evenings. How I both loved and also hated that feeling. On one hand to close the door behind me and know that no one could or would turn up. But on the other that my life had just a hint of sadness about it. At times in the evening, I felt a little lonely. Now, I am not often alone.
I enjoy living with another person again and am happy with the person I have chosen to be with. We have a great time together, do fun and interesting things, visit great places and enjoy good times. But I do feel I have lost a little of what is me. The fierce independence I fought to have and the drive to do just as I wanted. It isn’t that I can’t have those things but I am not yet quite clear how to be the person I want to be. The cancer diagnosis has definitely changed me. I feel less sure of myself as a person, as a woman. It made me more dependent, in a good way but that also irritates.
The experience of having cancer, surgery, copious numbers of hospital appointments, radiotherapy has taken something from me. I feel I have become reliant on Master in a way that is good because it is something I needed. I know I don’t have to be the strong and silent type any longer, but that doesn’t stop me feeling insecure. Not having my own house, a job has freed me from some of the shackles that bound me to my old life. But they make me anxious too and fill my mind with what ifs.
I have savings now, something I didn’t have before but I need a larger financial buffer than I have. This week I had a meeting about a new project. Over the next few weeks I will be writing professionally again and not just blogging about life and sex. There isn nothing wrong with writing for my blog, but it doesn’t pay. Also this project will help me to refocus on myself as an expert in my field and escape the sick role I have allowed myself to slip into. Post treatment I have experienced a malaise that caused my mood drop in a way that I think is rather dangerous. I could quite easily settle into a new way of life. One that is just as claustrophobic as the one I had before I began this journey.
There are many aspects of my life that I wish to retain but there are new challenges that I want and need to take on. It is healthy to look back and to reflect and to be sure that the life we have is the one we want. This time the changes will be small and discrete, life will run in parallel but not be quite the same. That feels healthy and exciting too.
Radiotherapy took much more out of me than I expected. The journey to the hospital, waiting around and receiving the short treatment was fine. It has been the ensuing 3 weeks that has been difficult. I have been sore, very sore and I have been tired. Surprisingly too my mood has been low. You would imagine that reaching the end of treatment would be a high and it was. So why do I feel so low? Finally this week I admitted to Master, not only am I dead tired and weary but I feel depressed. Not seriously, just a little.
I have rarely in my life admitted these kind of feelings to another and I still feel slightly surprised that I can. Maybe not quite the astonished of the Wicked Wednesday prompt, but surprised all the same. Acknowledging my vulnerability to Master is something of an achievement. Admitting it to friends and family, now that would be something. But actually, I have.
There is strength in not admitting your vulnerability
That was what I believed for many years. I wanted to appear strong, not weak. But then was often surprised people did not see through it. People, including my husband used to tell me how strong I was. While all the time I would be crying inside, unsure which way to turn, what to do. There was always someone I needed to be strong for – my son who was a young child when my husband was cheating, my husband when he was made redundant, my parents when my dad was diagnosed with cancer. The list is almost endless.
The longer you keep that stiff upper lip going the tougher you and others think you are. But in the end something has to give and when I reached outside of my marriage for another man to love me I was searching for something else. It is no surprise that I found men who wanted to use my body, who wanted to restrain and beat me. Luckily I chose wisely and neither of those men turned out to be in any way abusive.
Over the past 5 years, Master has helped me reveal my vulnerable side. He has helped peel away the layers of armour with which I had surrounded myself. I always held secrets, things I didn’t want to tell others. Sometimes because I didn’t want to hurt another, or because I wanted to hold something back. Now though, there is nothing to hide. There is nothing I can’t tell. Secrets and lies multiply over time and then when they are told they have a greater effect. By admitting a vulnerability at the time takes away some of the weight of the problem.
It is amazing I didn’t recognise this in me before. When my son was small, around 6 or 7 he worried about so many things. We found a book in the library which, was all about a little boy like him, who learnt how to share worries so they didn’t become a huge burden. It seems a shame I didn’t make the link then, as I would have saved myself a huge amount of heart ache.
My doctors, nurses and others said that the period just after treatment would be difficult. That people often feel vulnerable and they were right. The soreness, even though I knew it might happen, surprised me. As did the extent of the exhaustion. But thank goodness I am with someone who had listened and read about the effects of diagnosis and treatment. Someone who understands and wants to care for me.
This illness has allowed me to be vulnerable and to allow my family to see a different side of me. Some have embraced it and reassured me while others have chosen to ignore it. But it has taught me about myself and my body and about what is important. I hope that in the future I will take the memories from this experience and choose not to try to rebuild that armour. I’m sure Master will have something to say if I try.
Maybe I am a little bit astonished so this piece fits nicely into the Wicked Wednesday prompt of ‘astonish’ as well as the Safeword D/s club prompt of vulnerability.
There was no time last weekend for a fit for Friday post. After a quiet January, we burst into February with a vengeance. There have been old films to see, concerts to attend and a couple of gallery exhibitions. We are culturally on top of our game. But this meant a lot of meals out, wine and beer. Enjoyable but not necessarily conducive to weight loss.
Diet and fitness
We’ve had some great meals out as well as in. When we are home we try to eat healthily, and include lots of vegetables. When out though it is difficult because even when you think you are choosing wisely it can still turn up smothered in oil. Mind you, being out and about lends itself to tons of walking and an improved step count. Unfortunately one doesn’t cancel out the other, so the net gain over all has been another pound. Today though my weight stayed the same so perhaps I can turn things around next week. Steps averaged 7000, with some highs of 12,000 and more. But there are some post radiotherapy lows that have definitely got in the way.
They tell you that the after effects of radiotherapy continue for a few weeks following treatment. Also that effects are cumulative. They aren’t joking. I am now 16 days post end of treatment and am as sore as someone who lay in the sun for 14 days without sun lotion. Worse, much of the burnt area is under my right arm. It is red, bruised and bow the skin is peeling. On Wednesday I went back to the hospital for advice and dressings. I know this will pass, but it is seriously unpleasant. I am also tired and fed up.
Luckily we are off on holiday in a week and to be frank I cant wait. I’m hoping that by the time we get home I’ll be ready to step up the steps and exercise in general and lose so e weight.
When I took this little selfie I had no idea that the target was slightly out of focus. But sometimes imperfections are just the right thing and today feels like one of those days. This is my nipple. It’s the only one I have and it is time to celebrate what I have, imperfections, blurriness and all.
From time to time I post on facebook a lot. Checking in to bars and restaurants, announcing my departure for and arrival on holiday. Posting daily holiday snaps, often of churches and historical buildings. Friends and family expect this stuff of me. They pull my leg about the number of trips we take and my brothers expect the churches etc. (mainly so they can wind me up). Recently though I have been quieter. For one thing, we have been to fewer interesting places. But mainly it is because I don’t write about breast cancer there.
All of the people who need to know about my recent diagnosis do so. But I feel guilty that I haven’t told some people. For one I couldn’t cope with telling people who aren’t close or I don’t know well. Others it just felt wrong sending a message to give them that information. Last week I felt tempted to write an end of treatment general message, I felt happy and wanted to share. But it would have caused something of a storm, so I didn’t.
There is one place on Facebook I can go to though and that is the Breast Cancer Facebook Group I have joined.
Checking in, support and sharing experiences
Shortly after I had my mastectomy I searched facebook for Breast Cancer related groups and found one that is UK based. Posts now pop up on my timeline on a daily basis. It is very friendly and supportive. It contains practical resources about equipment, lingerie, insurance etc. But respects that there are many types of breast cancer and that everyone’s journey is different. It is a place for people who have or have had breast cancer, but excludes family and partners. This is for a good reason as everyone needs a safe space. Like me, many haven’t told family and friends and are unable to express themselves elsewhere.
As people will know, I couldn’t post the image above on Facebook. Not that I would since I don’t want my family, friends, ex work colleagues and acquaintances to see my bare tit. But anyway photos of breasts are banned so it would get removed quickly and no doubt I would be suspended from the site too. Thank goodness though I can show photos on twitter, though of course that is my secret account and I am not followed there by vanilla friends. We are allowed though, to show mastectomy photos on the breast cancer facebook page.
This is how I know that my mastectomy scar looks similar to others who have had one that is skin sparing. It is also how I know that the red skin I have from radiotherapy is about right and doesn’t warrant a medical opinion. The page has helped me understand the treatment plans that occur for different types of cancer and recognise mine is on a par. This is reassuring stuff.
Doom and gloom
Checking in to the breast cancer page though, can be a bit depressing. There are people of all ages from young women often with little children to those in their 70s and 80s and often have other illnesses. Many people are calm even when frightened about their diagnosis but others are full of panic and anxiety. People don’t read and take account of what has already been said and so the same questions are asked time and again. The journey of diagnosis and treatment are frightening and this is a safe place for people to express their fears. Sadly too, some people have recurrence, or secondaries at diagnosis. There are those for whom this is a palliative journey and that is really sad.
I’m not sure how long I will stay a member of this group. I may already have taken most of what I need. However it is a useful place to go and to know you are amongst others that understand what you have been through. I am lucky that I have a supportive partner, friends and family I can talk to as well as a whole community of sex bloggers. I have my twitter account to post pictures to and rant on if I wish.
This experience with breast cancer has made me think about what I place in the public domain though. Whether it is here on my blog, on my @MPB twitter account or on facebook. That is probably for the best.
I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of family and friends over the past few months. People checking in regularly to see how I am. Those who sent or gave me cards and flowers following my operation. But I have been most touched by the generosity of people I don’t really know and those who are more like acquaintances.
On Wednesday at our local Munch, I received a beautiful gift. when we last met a couple of weeks ago I told her about my forthcoming holiday and of the anxiety I have about showing off my body in a swimsuit. On Wednesday she gave me the beautiful shawl / sarong that I am modelling below. I was overwhelmed by her kindness, but also I love it so much. I am very much looking forward to wearing it while we are away.