Suicide Prevention Advocacy ~ Why? (Part 2)

Seattle

We didn’t know, not really, why our son had died and, despite being consumed by guilt,  I generally dismissed the idea that it night have been preventable.   I had begun to learn not to discuss either his life or death outside of our home and my blog.  It was clear that the good memories made others uncomfortable, and that the bad ones reminded them that we were living their worst nightmare.

Three years after our son’s death, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  It took about five seconds for me to discover that, whereas with a mention of suicide I could clear a room, my admission that I was being treated for breast cancer would be followed by offers of support, advice, and resources.  Women I barely knew would pull me into their offices to pull up their shirts and show me the results of their surgeries.

Huh.

I began to remember my childhood and teen years, forty years earlier.  Breast cancer was discussed only in hushed tones behind closed doors.  Women died because they were too embarrassed and frightened to share their discoveries, even with their partners and doctors.  And I realized that in the decades since that time, strong and determined advocates had unlocked the doors to legislation and money, and had destroyed the stigma of a disease which attacks intimate parts of our anatomy and affects the most personal parts of our lives.  Today, breast cancer treatment has been revolutionized, people speak freely about breast cancer, and football players wear pink jerseys to raise awareness and assist in the efforts to further research, prevention, and treatment!

Could the same things be accomplished where suicide was concerned?  Might it indeed be possible to prevent suicide?

(To be continued)

Image: Post-cancer in Seattle.

 

Breast Surgery: The End!

I never anticipated becoming a woman with a plastic surgeon in her life, but I have now been treated by two of them.

Five and one-half years ago, I had a mastectomy followed by the insertion of an implant.  One of the things the surgeon and I discussed this morning was that most people don’t know what that means.  Let me clarify: it meant a number of minor procedures, three surgeries under general anesthesia, and a painful breast expansion process that lasted for three months until I abandoned it.  The results: two dramatically mismatched breasts, one looking something like a misshapen lump, and daily dealing with a “foob” — a fake breast insert to even out my appearance, which meant much adjusting of clothing and care not to wear V-neck blouses that might dip too low and reveal too much if I bent over.  Once I forgot all about it as I rushed through my morning and, walking about that summer day, looked down to see that one side of my t-shirt was flat!

I had reached my limit where physical pain and mental hassle were concerned, so I left matters as they were ~ until last summer.  Engaged in a wonderful ministry as an interim pastor to a healthy and loving church, I had begun to feel so positive about myself that I decided to address the one thing with which I was completely dissatisfied.  In October, after a consultation with a new plastic surgeon repeatedly recommended by my nurse practitioner for the past several years (“I know you’re really pissed; would you please go and see this guy?”), I had a surgical revision of the lumpy breast mess to round it out and remove a particularly irritating scar, and a reduction in size of the other breast so that they would match.  More or less. Way more than they did, anyway.  After a couple of weeks of healing, I was able to get dressed in boringly ordinary bras and shirts and go back to work.

This morning I had the tattooing needed to complete the project. (Use your imagination.  No images today!)  It will take a couple of weeks to heal, and at the moment it stings, so I am babying myself and relaxing at home ~  but I’m finished!

It’s a small thing, actually.  I have friends whose breast cancers have involved far more, and I myself have certainly endured life catastrophes that make of this experience . . .  well, a very small thing indeed.  But it’s awfully nice to think that, when I dress or undress next month, my clothes will fit and, other than the scars, I will look pretty ordinary.  I’m all in favor of ordinary.

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