I usually try to hide my tears from my kids. And my breakdowns. But not this time. They knew I was having a REALLY rough day. Sammy kept sitting next to me, holding my hand. Michael stopped when he walked by to give me a gentle side hug. Sophia was my gopher girl, filling my water bottle without complaint. Chad took care of everything so I could leave whenever I wanted to nap. I feel so stupid writing this, but I’m still learning in this college of life. And since I don’t mind acknowledging I’m a student who doesn’t have all the answers, I can share my weaknesses. For starters, I recently learned, I’m vain.
I thought my stress was because of the physical pain I was in. I thought my outbursts were because I was worried about the inconvenience and financial strain of a potential additional surgery. I haven’t been healing so well recently. How much more time would these complications take me away from my family, especially my homeschooled kids? But while those topics were on my mind, the bigger fear, the motivator for the mommy-tirade was vanity, was frustration about my appearance.
I opted for a preventative mastectomy at 34 because it meant I would have the best chance of healing well, losing minimal tissue, and looking the most like me post-surgery. But the skin on one side has struggled. The discoloring is bad. Sores are forming, in addition to the Frankenstein stitches of the actual surgery. I’ve just hated how it looked. Along with the fears of infection, I’ve been afraid to look at myself. Disgusted at times. And that fear and disgust turned to anger, and then rage.
I spent most of Sunday sleeping.
I hid, trying to refuel my exhausted soul.
Monday morning I tried to pull it together for a full day at our homeschool co-op, where I could be surrounded by friends and teaching kids, something I really enjoy. But after waking up with more pain and more fear of infection, I chose to rest during the morning instead.
By lunchtime I headed out, still bitter about the pain and discolored, festering skin. But the kids had an egg-drop activity I was NOT going to miss. So, since I’d stopped taking the strong pain meds 24 hours in advance, I carefully drove myself over. That’s when my day began to improve.
I saw my beautiful children smiling and laughing as they watched their contraptions drop from the tall ladder and they pulled out those victorious, safe eggs! I saw them dancing with their friends to the Macarena during an after-egg-drop celebration (Homeschoolers are the best!) I saw myself creating art with them, reading science facts I’d hid around the room for a game, and we worked together to do things I couldn’t do bymyself, like load the car, reach for items on high shelves, and carry other heavy supplies. For the first time in a long time, we had a NORMAL DAY!! And where things had to be slightly different, we made modifications and ROCKED IT. Yes, I had pain but I had joy too.
I was reminded what I’ve known inside all along. I LOVE MY LIFE. It’s not perfect. I’M FAR from perfect. But “I wouldn’t want to be anybody else.” Who cares if some of my skin becomes discolored for the rest of this life? Who cares if I have to have another surgery to remove dead tissue or even a nipple? Who freaking cares if I’m lopsided under my clothes? Who says I’m not worth it? Who says I’m the only one who’s hurting? Everyone goes through hard times. THROUGH hard times. That means they make it to the other side of them, and my family will too.
Today I was reminded of this funny lipsync video I did a few months ago. I did it to let loose and laugh at myself, to show my kids their mom can be a clown, and to remind myself that I am WONDERFUL just the way I am. It’s easy to think that when you haven’t been wondering the things I’ve been wondering the past week, like if my skin is dying and if the scarring will ever look less scary. Well, today, I believed the lyrics again.
I believe I am beautiful just the way God made me.
I believe that no matter what my body becomes, I am still the best mother for my children.
I believe that no matter my scars, I am a fantastic wife.
I believe that it’s in our trials that we come closer to God, closer to our greatest selves, and closer to true beauty.
I don’t have to be what any magazine cover tells me to be. As someone who’s struggled with my body image, it’s amazing to type that and mean it. I am beautiful because I love, I serve, I sacrifice, and I surrender my life the best I can to the Lord. I know He will make more of me than I ever could. I have nothing to be insecure about when I live by following His promptings. I know it was His will to have this surgery. I still have faith in that. For a while, I thought that meant things would go smoothly. They still might improve, and they might not. Either way, though, I know it will all be okay in the end. That means it’s okay right now too.
Tonight I apologized to my kids and husband for being so emotional this past weekend. I was frank and told them I had been scared that part of me didn’t look the way I wanted it too. I told them my skin was a different color now and it made me sad.
“Will it change back?” my daughter asked.
“I don’t know,” I said. And then I looked my daughter and sons in their eyes and clearly stated, “But that doesn’t matter! I’m still me. It doesn’t matter if I lose a leg, an arm, my sight, or anything. I can still be a great mom and wife. Besides, I’m lucky. This is all under my clothes anyway! Right? This is no big deal. Everything is going to be fine. Right?”
“Right!” they said back. I’m seriously the luckiest woman in the universe, stitches, drains, and all.
I’m thankful I could earn that testimony tonight and share it with my children. I’m thankful they let me learn from them and with them.
Life is too short for vanity. Each of us has so much we can enjoy. So enjoy it! Don’t take life too seriously. Kiss the people you love longer than you usually do. Sing louder than expected with your car windows down. Shake what your Mama gave you and laugh all along the way. Pain is inevitable, but we don’t have to dwell on it. We can move past it. We can be grateful within it. Life has all the goodness we take the time to create. So create something wonderful, loving, beautiful, or just plain silly.