My bilateral mastectomy was August 6, 2009. I kissed those boobies good-bye and along with them went the cancer! I had stage II cancer in one breast and pre-cancer in the other. I am sharing poems that I wrote during the path to recovery, as well as photos. I hope to make things easier for others like me who experience breast cancer.
Although everyone’s experience will be unique in many ways, there will also always be some common ground. These poems and photos express my own personal journey. It is my way of making lemonade out of lemons by sharing them with others. The poems were written by myself, and the images were made by professional photographer Daniel Zollinger (including the graphic surgical photos).
May the time you take to look at these poems and photos be well worth your while and ease your pain in some sort of way. I’m including a list of suggestions for things that could be helpful before the first surgery. Good-luck to you.
- Electric or battery operated toothbrush
- Walkie Talkies or call device or bell even
- Back rest for bed (to allow incline)
- Clothing that could be stepped into and pulled up from feet (later you’ll want button-down shirts)
- Cook ahead and freeze
- Baby wipes
- Heart shaped pillows for under arms (or any small pillow that fits under your arm to take pressure off from drainage tubes)
- Call your church to get a blessing and/or anointing of sick, if Christian
- Living will
- Check beneficiaries of life insurance
- Regular prescriptions refilled and any given by doctor(s)
Reconstruction or Not a poem by Karen Hebert-Zollinger
To do or not to do, became the question.
Reconstruction of breast or settling for none.
Simply wanted to just swiftly turn and run,
But knew that there was a battle to be won.
A few extra procedures would be needed.
I want to live and do away with cancer I pleaded.
Extra surgeries? But are breasts really needed?
It was Dr. Smith who needed to be credited.
Nine months of having a baby wasn’t always pleasant.
It’s just three months of reconstruction ’til breasts with implants.
You must think that you can and not that you can’t,
And two new perky breasts you will be granted.
Expanders placed same time as the mastectomy,
Followed by saline injections to stretch thee.
Implants at time of ovary removal can be,
And a woman’s appearance once again you’ll see.
There were those who chose not to; met some.
And there were those who chose to get some.
Regrets were with those who chickened out; met some.
None were sorry they got some, so I said lets ’em.
Expanders a poem by Karen Hebert-Zollinger
How appropriate that you are shaped like footballs!
Sometimes you sure throw me for a loop,
Engorged and tight breasts for quite a while.
When saline injections get added is the doctor’s call.
You are on my playing field, which may happen to be small.
You seem to be pulling and feeling cooped.
Oh but to endure you is such a trial,
But in the end it will be worth it all and all.
Shaped like a football, yet feel more like a hard ball!
You sure poke and tackle when I bend, roll, or stoop.
Expanders do know how to take away a smile.
I can instantly become small rather than tall.
It is all to give me breasts that won’t be too small.
I think I have handled things like a trooper.
Looking for help or answers; I was quick to dial.
In the end I’ll be pleased and glad I did not fall.
Expanders, you may have had me at the first down,
But I intend to be able to prance around town.
During this game, I may have shown many a frown,
But in the end, I will feel a victory touchdown.
Surgery Fears a poem by Karen Hebert-Zollinger
It’s been nearly three months since my bilateral mastectomy.
That surgery gave no time for fret, it happened so quickly.
Biopsy, diagnosis, doctor visits, tests, and prayers to Thee,
Within two weeks it was time for the surgery.
Now it’s time for implants and ovary removal,
And I am hoping that I don’t look like a fool.
I’ll just try real hard to keep my cool.
Then healing and overcoming Menopause tools.
As if my own fears weren’t enough,
The hospital added with precautionary stuff.
Bactroban inside the nose against staff;
Shower with Chlorhexidine Gluconate Antiseptic, no bluff.
Preparations of colon cleansing,
And the clear liquid diet isn’t pleasing.
It’s to make things easier while operating,
But hey, I’ll be glad when it’s all done, hooraying.
I hope the recovery will be much easier this time.
And hoping for great looking breasts is no crime.
And what’s most important is that I will find
I’ve remained cancer free forever; I’m fine.
My New Breasts a poem by Karen Hebert-Zollinger
Well, well, well I would have never thought,
But I must say to gain I had fought.
Pain for gain, I suppose it just ought,
So in the end my new breasts were bought.
Looking back, I now realize it was no picnic.
Proud that all the pain and discomfort, I did lick.
My new breasts now indeed look perky and quite thick,
And the doctor accomplished it, with many a trick.
Oh to now realize, I would have never put on a swim suit.
And even in my 50’s, I still want to look cute.
Eventually they’ll seem real; all obtained from pain and loot,
And I’ll eventually think they are all mine to boot.
I have no regrets, and feel my new breasts were well earned,
And through it all I have had so many lessons learned.
And now I look and I do feel charmed,
And the best part is the cancer won’t win; I’ll be darned.