When I booked in for a mastectomy, I assumed our sex life was over. Even though the surgeon promised his reconstruction job would have me looking better than new, my reservations were almost overwhelming.
Transferring fat from my belly to create a new right breast would leave me with a permanent scar the shape of a gruesome smile, from one hip to the other.
Assuming the cancer was successfully removed, my new breast would be created in two stages. If the seven-hour fat graft operation went well, I’d go back a couple of months later to acquire a nipple. Meantime, I’d have a patch the size of a small helicopter pad where my new nipple would eventually be.
On top of which, I’d never have sensation in my right breast again. I was frightened; not just of the pain and uncertainty, but of how Philip was going to react to my surgical patchwork body.
He’d already been daft enough to marry a woman eight years older with two kids in tow. In a world that worships gym-honed perfection, he’d soon have every reason to turn away.
One of the consolations of being a novelist is you can let your characters live out your fears. The protagonist of my new book TUMBLEDOWN MANOR (Kensington) is in a similar situation, except she decides not to go with reconstruction. Soon after her surgery, Lisa’s husband runs off with a younger woman. She’s convinced no man will want to touch her again — until she find the courage to expose her scars to a kind-hearted stranger.
The most interesting side effects of cancer surgery didn’t happen to my body, but inside my head. Confronting the possibility of death made me seize the life force. Flowers smell stronger, the breeze is fresher — and the curves of a human body seem more vulnerable and precious than before.
Once my stitches and bandages were removed, a new tenderness flourished between us. Our bedroom walls resonate not with “harder, faster, deeper” but with gentle smiles, mutual forgiveness, and heartfelt gratitude.