A ten point update
So I don’t have tits but I also don’t have cancer
One: Behold! The final moments of my “natural” breasts! On the morning of August 11th, 2016 I decided they would take their bow dressed in a gold lamé bodysuit, climbing out of a black Escalade, held steadily atop my platform Jeffrey Campbells by the hand of a beautiful mystery man in hater shades.
Two: Thank you to R and A for making my celebrity dreams come true, and for making my stay at the hospital one I will remember with mirth and laughter. You two are family, for now and forever.
Three: So what’s it like to fall asleep with the sacks of glands and fat that have been eliciting cat calls from strange men on the street for the past decade and wake up with … uh, I don’t even know what to call these? I mean — exactly. What the fuck is this? I guess you never realize how big your tits are until you’re busy trying to reorient yourself with foreign masses attached to your chest. Like, has my back always hurt this much? Has my body always been this cumbersome? Have my shoulders always been this tense? These aren’t even my final forms. They are expandable placeholders that yes, my doctor will be filling with saline once a week until my skin heals and I achieve the look I want. I can see how eventually my tits are gonna be bangin’ but literally — what the fuck is this? I’ve never stuffed my bra before and now I’ve got shreds of sterilized bandage climbing out of my shirt.
Four: Does trying to pull on ultra tight leggings when I am seven pounds post-op bloated count as “lifting more than five pounds” — ?
Five: If one more jackass impatiently honks at me while I slowly cross the street holding my breasts on my doctor ordered daily constitutional, I swear I am going to rip out one of my drains and lob my boob fluid filled bulb at their windshield.
Six: I am surrounded by the most amazing friends and chosen and given family. My partner put two chairs together so he could curl up next to my hospital bed both nights I was there. R and A jostled my parents with an exquisite corpse of sexy tall tales. My sister brought me booby-shaped cookies to eat while I waited for the nurse to relieve me of my catheter.
Seven: Speaking of hospital stays, we got a corner double to ourselves with sweeping views of San Francisco. I brought my own black satin pillows to sleep on. I demanded bowls of fresh cut pineapple with every meal. The nurses on the floor bowed in amused reverence as D and I walked the corridors with plastic tiaras on our heads, my catheter bag in his hand, its tube running up under my black velvet robe. My slippers were silver sequin.
Eight: There are a lot of seasons and episodes of The Real Housewives franchise to catch up on. Fortunately, I am armed to the teeth with pain killers, anti anxiety pills, a whole month of short term disability, and a strict directive to keep my ass still as much as possible.
Nine: Emptying my drains is fucking gross and I fucking hate it. And guess what? I also got my period this week, and I am somehow more okay with that blood than the blood leaking from my deflated literal titty sacks. Which brings me to a certain point: There’s a lot of bullshit gatekeeping surrounding operations for trans people. Like my operation, their operations are just as medically necessary. I didn’t have to get rid of my good boob, but I decided to, mostly for the sake of aesthetic cohesion and symmetry … and no one required psychiatric approval for me to do so. I could change my mind. (And jeezus, the only thing preventing an echo chamber of “Did I do the right thing?” is the Ativan I am taking.) I could have opted out of reconstruction, choosing a “masculine” chest for the rest of my life. And did I mention that emptying my drains is fucking gross and I fucking hate it? If I could choose something else over this, I would, and for some trans men, this is the only way to become healthy and whole again.
Ten: And oh right … cancer. This is unofficial because I’ve yet to speak with my medical oncologist, but according to my pathology report and the assessment of my surgeon’s nurse practitioner, no further treatment is recommended. My margins were clear, the tumor was so reduced by the chemo that the breast surgeon almost couldn’t find it, and my sentinel lymph nodes were too small for a frozen section biopsy during the procedure. (And later turned up negative for cancer as they have been since the beginning.) It seems that — at least for right now — we are on the other side of this.
I asked my partner to say over and over again the tentative good news my breast surgeon delivered while I groggily came to. It’s because I’ve never known happiness until that moment, and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t still under the effects of the anesthesia. Last night I cried in mourning over my lost breasts, and the night before I cried in my partner’s arms because the cold caps, the IVs, the illness, the fear … it looks like it’s over.
Years and years in the future, I’ll be making small talk with someone somewhere, and I’ll say something like, “And oh yeah … I also had cancer when I was thirty-one.” It will take them a moment to process it.
Shit — I don’t know if I’ll ever finish processing it.
I am a thirty-one year old queer Hispanic woman and trauma survivor battling a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. Devoted to social justice and advocating for mental health understanding and resources, I was just six months into my new career as a backend software engineer trying to make space for marginalized people in tech when I was struck with Stage IIa Grade 3 triple negative metaplastic breast cancer. You can read more about my journey in my publication Never Tell Me the Odds.
If you enjoy my writing and you are able to, please consider donating to my medical expense crowdfunder. I’ve got a yearlong treatment plan ahead of me, and I need all the help I can get. Thank you so much for your generosity.