Three Years

decorative painted heart

i. The breast cancer diagnosis was delivered to me three years ago today. I was surprisingly unfazed with the news. My life didn’t change in an instant, I didn’t fall down the pit of despair. I feel like I handled it really well. Maybe that is a false memory, but looking back at my posts from that time period, I seemed matter-of-fact and not full of worry, anxiety, or stress. If I’m honest, that could very well have been dissociation. There were a lot of other things going on at the same time, which I refer to as the Trifecta Trauma, so things weren’t great to begin with, then throwing a giant cyst and breast cancer in the mix. Ugh. I remember I didn’t cry until much later, after the stress of surgeons telling me I was too fat for the procedure I chose–that got to me. It was the crushing weight of my weight and all the childhood trauma that I hadn’t realized was still there that pushed me right over that edge of being able to maintain composure.

ii. I’m used to my new body, sans natural breasts, now. DIEP flap reconstruction was the best choice I could’ve made and I don’t regret it at all. My reconstructed breasts are soft and bouncy and feel quite real. They’re much, much smaller, but I like the size. I miss my nipples…yes. Definitely. When I think about how bad things could’ve been (Jill) I feel like my diagnosis was caught early enough, and to live without nipples instead of being dead, I’m good with my choice. Phil loves my body. There isn’t more to dwell on.

iii. It is three years later. That almost doesn’t seem possible.

iv. I’m strong again. I’m swimming laps (albeit slow laps) for four hours each week and I do yoga daily. At fifty, I feel pretty fucking good. And I also think I look pretty fucking good, too.

v. Sometimes it feels like it never happened and that’s weird.

vi. I had some yearly appointments, bloodwork, CT scans (I have a seroma, but it’s not of concern,) and everything is good. Really good. This is probably the healthiest I’ve ever been.

vii. I’m mostly marking this anniversary because nothing is bad. Truly, everything is good and that is a shock to my system.

viii. I still want to get 3D nipple tattoos. I still need another revision surgery, but I’m waiting until I can go back to Houston. Then the nipple tattoos can happen a year after the final surgery. So I’ll still be going through some stuff, but nothing major.

ix. I learned a lot about how people bail on you when you’re in a serious situation. I’ve forgiven them and moved on, and I don’t really want them back in my life.

x. me. today <3

photo of Michelle Pendergrass

3 thoughts on “Three Years”

  1. Question: Can they not rebuild your nipples from tissue? I ask because my mom got new nipples. They created them using grafts from her upper inner groin area. They said that the skin there is closer in color to what nipples are than any other part of the body. It was the military that did them and surprisingly they did a damn good job. She got hers around the 5 year mark as I recall. She had to wait over a year to get breast implants though, which with the skin stretching techniques they used was an horrendous process. The new nipples were fairly easy and very exciting for her. I’ve seen some fantastic nipples tattoos though!!

    • I think they call those origami nipples…and yes, I can choose to get those, however, for me, I’m not sure that I want them. I’m enjoying being bra-free forever and now that I’m working outside of the home, I’d either have to wear a bra to cover the hard nips or go bra-free and deal with all the staring and comments of always-hard-nip. Plus the origami nipples (from what I hear from others who have them) go flat and most say they like the 3D tattoos better.

      Getting implants is still horrible and they still do the skin stretching. I feel lucky that I was able to keep my own skin and have the abdominal tissue and veins transplanted into it.

  2. Origami nips! That’s a new one for me! lol But the tattoos I’ve seen ARE fantastic. I get what you mean about the nipple points!


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