A “whole” person

I was up early yesterday morning after a fairly restless night. The prospect of surgery, pain and the unknown is definitely a combination that kills sleep, even if the boys were, for once, rather calm and quiet. I got most of the chores done that I needed to do before I left for the hospital and finally it was time for my shower.

I got the water running and just as I was about to step in I stopped — something in my head said to me, “This is the last time you will do this as a whole person.” That got my attention. “Whole person”?

I’ve had teeth removed. That didn’t make me less of a person. I’ve had my gall bladder out and that didn’t make me feel less than a whole person either, so why are two pieces of flesh, fat and ductwork making me think I will feel like less of a whole person? That’s goofy. I will just be missing a couple of parts I really can live without — not like i was losing a lung or my liver or something. A 92-year-old friend asked if I were going to have reconstruction and when I said I hadn’t made up my mind yet, her response as “Well, why do you need it then? You don’t have a husband!” She’s right, but I’m not sure I’d have put it in exactly those terms!

Why would I need them? My clothes would fit a little better (given the right foundation) and the darts would do what darts are supposed to do. People look at you sort of funny if you’re flatter than a third grader when you’re obviously in your sixties or more. My liver now sticks out and makes me look a bit pregnant (and the Immaculate Conception I’m NOT) and I think it is going to take me a long time to get up the courage to wear t-shirts out in public again. The boys don’t care. They’re just glad Mom’s home from wherever she went that she came back smelling so funny.

As for being a “whole person”, I now have to think of that in terms of a new reality. I still have my brain, my lungs, my liver and other necessary parts. My eyes still work pretty well and even if I have some false teeth, they manage to do what teeth are supposed to do. So what is this “whole person” bit? Breasts may be gender identifiers and a lot of women are bound up in that identity, but I don’t think I have ever really been one of those. I’ve never been a clothes horse, so having a perfect fit isn’t all that important although I do like comfortable clothes that don’t make me look like I’m a little kid dressing up in her Mama’s dressing gown and fancy slippers (reserved for her hospital stays). Still, I am a whole person, even without a couple of mammary glands that have served their purpose and that I can have prosthetically replaced — if I really feel like I need them.

But then, I was too shy to burn my bra in the 60s, so maybe now it’s time for me to do that. Who knows, being without might be a really nice thing — no droopy straps, no cutting, binding or riding up, no wondering if they’re going to shrink any more and make me go buy a smaller cup size.

You know, this might not be so bad, once I stop feeling like I’ve been run over by a semi. I may not be a “whole person” with all the parts I was born with, but I’ve got what I need. That’s the important part.

Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho’s Daughter

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