21 Aug Beauty Among Scars
The day I decided upon double mastectomy and reconstruction for treating my breast cancer was the day my spouse, Brett, came out as a trans.
When you face your own mortality, it causes you to take stock of what’s important in life. I cried when Brett told me she was trans, not because I was sad but that she was going to be living her truth. I love Brett for who she is unconditionally. I had known for a while that she didn’t really identify as male, but this was the first time she’d said she was trans. She had been considering this difficult, lingering question of her gender identity for years, but answering whether or not she was trans became urgent following my diagnosis.
We were pretty upbeat after meeting with the breast surgeon because we had known for a few weeks that I had breast cancer and the surgeon then believed I could be done with cancer in one go. However, my diagnosis turned out to be more severe. The biopsy showed stage 0 invasive ductal carcinoma, but it wasn’t until my surgery that we discovered my left breast was filled with rivers of cancer that had made their way to eight lymph nodes. My diagnosis became stage 3a invasive ductal carcinoma.
It was a beautiful and unexpected journey to go on with Brett to discover what being a woman meant for each of us. Being a woman is about how you feel on the inside, not whether your breasts are made of silicone or grown as the result of a hormone prescription. I ended up needing multiple surgeries to fix my chest after a cellulitis infection. I lost all my hair from chemo. I had a year of herceptin that wore me out. My shoulder is still stiff from 28 radiation treatments. I no longer have ovaries or Fallopian tubes. I have a permanent cancer-related disability with lymphedema in my left arm. Despite all of these things, I’m still me. I’m still as much of a woman as I ever was. And Brett is gorgeous with her refined, elegant look and long hair. It’s helped me cope with all of the changes to my own body to watch Brett blossom.
I have become a queer cancer advocate in the past two years. I write publicly about my experiences being openly and visibly queer while going through breast cancer treatment. Cancer discourse, particularly around cancers that affect reproductive systems, tends be hetero- and cisnormative, and I want to make a more inclusive space for other LGBTQ2S people to share their cancer stories. This is a big part of why I’m pleased and grateful to be part of Lorna’s Scars Project. I also want to show the world that beauty and scars can go together!