Remembering The Details: A Sum Of Parts

One of my goals when I started this blog was to create a record of myself. Over the years, I have written many things from memos at work to newsletters/party invitations but never a journal. When coming across some of the memos while sorting through old documents and files at my office, I’ve found myself amazed that I don’t remember writing them even though I recognize the subject matter and have no doubt that I wrote them.

There’ve been times in my life when I’ve attempted to keep a diary or tried to write a daily thought but it never became a habit. Sadly, it seems that there are so many forgotten details of past events as those memories have been tucked away into the dark recesses, never to be recalled. After the passing of my father 3 1/2 years ago and the realization at the time of my mother’s greatly diminished cognitive abilities, I was struck by the sad fact that so many of the details in the stories of their lives were now lost.

I’d imagined that this blog would wind up being a collection of memories that I could look back or that my children or maybe even future grandchildren could read to learn more about me. There was no cause that I would be championing nor would there be any special focus, I’d intended to write about everything from fashion to food to hobbies to travel. The one aspect I hadn’t factored on was the time it takes to actually do the writing and posting. Fine, whatever. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I know that many people my age have a parent or parents for which they now provide some level caretaking. To me, it seemed that my experiences with my mother were nothing out of the ordinary so they had only been mentioned in passing in a few posts but in hindsight, maybe I should have written about it more. I also know that many people of all ages are battling cancer. Whether or not my experience with it will be ordinary or not, I want there to be no regrets about forgotten details so I’ve been determined to incorporate it into my blog.

And even so, time has slipped away since my last post on the subject. I had started with a journal type format but without writing notes every day, later I couldn’t remember some of the details of each day so putting out an update post in the same format became an impossible task. A bit of a perfectionist, I kept coming up with new concepts for the next update post only to scrap it and start over. Time is running out, this needs to get done.

Shortly after my initial consultation with the general surgeon, I knew I wanted to have a few “before” photos taken of me, one in particular. Not only did I have a vision of a blog post that would include this photo but I also wanted a personal record of how I looked before surgery, no matter which option I chose. How often have you seen a magazine article of someone’s personal transformation and the before photo is grainy and/or out of focus? I wanted a clear and sharp memory of looked before the battle began in earnest because I knew that I wouldn’t be left unscarred by the time it was over.

My body is not without its blemishes but none are as bold and as plain as day as the scars I will soon have. To minimize to the extent possible of the risks of recurrence, I’ve opted for a mastectomy which will be followed by immediate reconstruction. It’s my personal preference to not want a foreign object implanted in my body so the reconstruction of my breast will be done with tissue to be taken from my abdomen. Fortunately, I have plenty of excess in this area so that this is an option for me and on the up side, I wind up with a tummy tuck. However, besides the scars related to the mastectomy, I will also have a hip-to-hip “bikini line” scar.

We all have scars and imperfections in one form or another and I certainly have my share. Intellectually, I know that I’m not imperfect because of them but it’s not my desire to seek out more of them. I suppose that I’ve had far too much time to dwell on the new ones that I will soon have and I worry that they will cause me to feel less desirable. I don’t just mean sexually, and I must tell you that The Husband has no blame in this. He has told me over and over that he doesn’t care what scars there might be as long as I’m alive and he gets to have me for 30 or 40 more years. He’s a rock.

The cancer has been caught early and it’s highly curable so the likelihood that I will live for another 30 to 40 years is quite good. As part of my healing, I will need to learn to accept the scars as the markers of a battle won and not allow myself to believe that they diminish me in any way. They are destined to become part of the details in my story, much like the rest of me.

My hair with its abundance of curls and changing color, my back with its curves and hollows, my legs with their strength and dimples … all details that have morphed and changed over time. I’d envisioned this post to be an artistic study of the body, my body. A dispassionate examination of its elements and discussion on whether the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. As I’ve culled and selected the photos, and sat to write this post, my intention has not changed.

These are not the photos of a fit and trim figure, I get that. I am what I am … a post-menopausal woman in her mid-50’s who sits far too much and sleeps far too little. I don’t mean to sound vain but it still matters to me how I look. I know that in my day to day activities, it’s not likely that anyone would know that I had breast cancer unless I told them. Obviously, I’ve not been shy about that and perhaps it’s because, so far, physically I’ve felt no different. Will it be different after the surgery? Even though my scars will not be on public display, and for however much they are concealed, will they still be visible in the way I carry myself?

I must remember that I am a “whole” no matter what pieces are removed and what changes I go through. The whole of me is more important than the individual components and sum of its parts. It’s all well and good to highlight the best and camouflage the worst but it all comes as a package deal. I will be no less and no more than I am today.

These posts have been my therapy. Besides being a record of the details, they’ve helped me to organize and articulate my feelings, thoughts, and fears. I know far too many women who’ve faced this battle before me and their counsel has been greatly appreciated. There’ve been so many heartfelt and kind messages of support and encouragement from friends and family near and far for which I’m also grateful.

Surgery is scheduled for July 10th. I still have a lot to finish my to-do lists to get things in order at work and at home as well as on the blog before then. There will be two more posts plus my Saturday link up post published before I go under the knife so stay tuned. I may have cancer, but it doesn’t have me.


Photo credits: Victoria Schmitt

21 thoughts on “Remembering The Details: A Sum Of Parts”

  1. When I met you in Arizona you seemed reserved, thoughtful, intelligent and poised. Clearly you are so much more, and although I knew that at the time, I did not know how open, spiritual, loving, brave and strong you are as well. I suspect it is not your focus to so spiritually impact the lives of your blog followers but please know that by sharing your humanity and vulnerability you have moved me to rethink, reevaluate and even rejoice.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful photographs. Thank you for sharing your mind, heart and soul dear Rena. I will be thinking of you on the 10th and sending love and prayers. Namaste.

  2. Oh, Rena, what a wonderful and thoughtful – as well as thought-provoking – post. You are beautiful inside and out. I will be thinking of you lots, especially on the 10th. Sending strength, positive and healing thoughts and love your way.
    Hugs, Adrienne

  3. Rena, you are an amazing woman. Brave, courageous, strong, beautiful, kind, wonderful, loving, passionate, and inspiring. I applaud you for this post and I am cheering for you all the way, my friend. These photos are absolutely stunning and I am so glad that you chose to document your body and your journey this way. I am grateful to know you and I will always be inspired by you. I am sending tons of positive energy your way! You’ve got this!


    1. Shelbee, thank you for on-going support and friendship. I’m feeling good about what’s ahead of me and trying to channel the experience into something better.

  4. Your words are so dear and from the heart, Rena! I love these photos and can relate so much. I’ve been scarred since birth with my cleft lip, and even though I can put makeup on it, it is front and center. I know time has made it easier to live with the scars and imperfections, but it is a process….
    We are sending prayers and healing thoughts for Monday.

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