I often wonder what the aliens would think if they arrived on earth after a future apocalypse. These days, I wonder what they would think about all the women they'd find with no breasts; just scars. I wonder if they would recognize them as part of our race.
In their search for answers, they would likely find the women who had had mastectomies and implants but had no nipples; the smooth new breasts of a mannequin. And then, they would find the women with mastectomies and implants and tattooed nipples.
Would they find the cancer in autopsy and wonder why the breasts were removed; hacked off? Would they wonder why we treated the tumour and not the body? Would they wish they had got to us sooner, to tell us, to let us know what they know?
Recently, I took my Mom to a support group for young women with metastasising cancer. I was glad to learn when we got there that "young women" pretty much applied to women in their thirties. There were twelve of us there. Eleven with breast cancer; and me.
"They've decided to take off the other breast" she said. "They've got to take the breasts off" another said. "The Tamoxifen has been really hard on me" she said as she stared into her lap. "I'm finding it really hard to be at work" another one said. "I'm really afraid of what I will feel like when I look down; I'm terrified, this is appalling." she said. "I've been coming to this group since my mastectomy in 2001, my cancer has returned." she said.
Another women talked about her cats; she said one of her cats was sick and died. She realized after her mastectomy how nice it would have been to have her cat around.
I tried to offer my own fears and the sense of horror I had at times. "I have an opportunity to research a surgery in Germany." I told them as I wiped the rain off my face. "They would take everything out, including my bladder and rectum. They would sew up my bum. I would wear two colostomy bags." They really listened in. "I'm afraid of existing like that." I said.
They wondered if the cancer would be gone after that horror. I could only tell them what the German Doctor told me: "maybe."
When we left, the lady who talked about her cats a lot gave us a picture of her cats.
The next day the facilitator called me at home to thank me and my mother for joining the group. She said she was sorry there were "no other cancers" in the room. She said that last week there were "a couple colon cancers and a lung cancer"and that those groups are naturally more diverse. She thanked me for trying to empathize with them and for speaking so eloquently. She said she was sorry for my situation, that it was grim. She invited us back.
We didn't go back. Maybe we'll try another group.