Before you go any further, you should know that this post contains a medically graphic photo of muscle, tissue and skin. I had to look at it regularly, but you don't. (It's all better now, by the way, the tissue and skin having been regenerated with the help of the anti-bacterial wonder-food, manuka honey. It's true; my three year old daughter still thinks I've got honey on my boobs.)
As I said. If you're at all squeamish, please don't look.
Another friend, Nic, who came to the orange mastectomy and reconstruction workshop courtesy of Mr A, has written to me to tell me what she thought of the evening with my surgeon. We've talked about my surgery many times, and more than once she's brought up Frankenstein. (Despite that, we're still friends.)
"As you know I was pretty amazed by the whole evening (thanks to you) and felt honoured to sneak a peek into the world of a surgeon and his orange boobs - witnessing the processes and knowledge behind the knife. I felt a little concerned for the oranges but they were transformed from mere fruits into models of scientific genius. Quite eye popping really. Watching the orange-bodies being moved about and adapted by human hands as though it were living flesh, listening to him explain how they take parts from the back around to the front to make a better version - it all conjured up memories of Frankenstein being made, and I can see how a complex relationship could form between surgeon and patient - almost like the creator and his creation. But this is different. How incredible that a human being can save your life through his knowledge, skill and attention to perfect detail. Humans rock xx"
I'm intrigued by Nic's references to the relationship between creator and creation, surgeon and patient. If there is any analogy, I think it is this. Frankenstein's monster feels abandoned and lonely; he recognises that he isn't like everybody else. I felt lonely, and frankly a little abandoned, after my mastectomy; after it's over, you're on your own and you just have to get on with it. When I looked down at myself after my operation I felt reduced, hurt and ugly. It was made worse by the extensive necrosis that made part of the reconstructed breast turn black. I was unlucky; this was apparently another unusual complication. The dead tissue had to be cut away, and what lay underneath was quite horrifying. Oddly, though, the manuka honey treatment made me feel kind of special (god I'm weird), and I think that, along with my rapport with the nurses and especially Mr. A, got me through.
Even so, it took some time for me to turn that sense of the monstrous around, and it's still a work in progress. The necrosis is completely healed, though my surgery isn't over yet. But as time goes on, the scars fade, and I get closer to the finished breast, I find myself returning to the world feeling whole again. A lot more attractive. And a lot less lonely.