Sarah Messali is a freelance writer and mother of two young children in San Diego, CA. She tested positive for the BRCA2 gene mutation at the age of 18 and underwent a double mastectomy at the age of 31. She has since had two reconstruction surgeries and enjoys sharing the journey by blogging about the experience as well as the single life post mastectomy, motherhood, anxiety, depression, fears, friendship and joy. She also moderates the “BRCA Fitness and Nutrition” Facebook Group.
The Journey of Motherhood through Mastectomy and Reconstruction by Sarah Messali Davis
Every morning, I creep into my daughter’s bedroom to wake her and get her ready for daycare. I tiptoe past the Barbies on the floor and over to her bed. I rub her back as I sing her a good morning song. She opens her eyes, reaches out her arms to be held and says, “Mama have boo boos?” This is our morning routine. She’s 2 ½. I’ve had three major surgeries this year (a double mastectomy followed by two reconstruction surgeries). Each time I’ve been unable to lift her up and hold her for a period of six to eight weeks. She can sit on my lap and cuddle, but she wants to be held in my arms and I want to be able to give her everything that she wants. She has to hold my hand and walk down the two floors of stairs at our apartment complex instead of being carried down them.
Abby doesn’t yet comprehend that I’ve made a decision to save my own life, or that I’ve done it for her and James. She doesn’t understand that this is going to give us more time together, but I wonder if she worries about my “boo boos” or if she thinks even for a single second that I don’t miss the holding, the cuddling, the throwing her in the air.
James is 6 ½. He knows there was something dangerous in me and that it’s gone now. He knows we have to play walking tag again instead of running. This routine feels old for me. I’ve been recovering from surgeries the entire year. It’s quite possible that they won’t even remember this phase when they’re older and I’m thankful for that. But then we’ll navigate a whole new challenge: talking to them about genetic testing, since there is a 50% chance that they also carry the BRCA gene mutation. I don’t know how to handle that yet, but I don’t have to. I also don’t know how to talk to them about sex but I don’t lose sleep over that. I handle each day as it comes right now. I take care of my healing. The kids eat enough food. They learn. They bathe. They sleep. I tell them I love them a thousand times a day. I hug and kiss them more than they care for.
The truth is, even If I can’t toss Abby into the air or take James swimming, I’m still the mom they want. I’m still the mom they need. Maybe I should be reflecting on what I can do and provide instead of what I can’t. I reflect on my own mother’s bravery and on how much I still need her and I’m thankful that I’ll be there to help my kids navigate through the ups and downs in their journey.