Most weekday mornings at my house start with a boob search party.

“Boys,” I say. “Help me find my boobs.”

“Mama, boob. Mama boob,” says Ryder as he squats down to look under my bed.

“Hmmmm,” says Loren, following his mother’s verbal thought cues.

My two year olds are well-versed in what a woman’s boobs can look like, not what they should look like. When it’s just me and the boys, I often walk around in my underwear without my prosthetics. I let the boys push on the bare left boob, which is an A-cup due to the expander that’s been lying dormant there for more than a year. Expanders, which go under the skin and the chest muscle, expand skin to nearly any boob size via daily infusions of CO2 that’s administered by a boob pumping remote control. The plan was that my right boob would be inflated before radiation. When radiation finished, I was supposed to start pumping my left boob so both sides would be ready for implants. However, an emergency surgery in October 2018 resulted in the removal of my right expander so we had to rethink that plan. The pit on the right side of my chest, is due to the scraping of the right expander. It sort of looks like a cupcake that sank in the oven. Under the pit is an extremely uncomfortable plate that extends into my rib cage to keep the muscle from attaching to the skin. Thus, my one tit and one pit. The boys push on the tit, watch is slowly rise like the bugs or plants they mangle and then slam their heads against the pit when they want to snuggle or wrestle.

Following the October 2018 surgery, I was on home administered IVs for two weeks and not at all ready to face the pit on the right side of my chest. I feel like there were medical scares during this time—sepsis and what not—but I can’t remember fully. I do remember my parents coming over to help watch the boys when suddenly my IV line unclasped and blood soaked my chest like I had been shot. Anyway, everything was supposed to go up from radiation because it signaled the end of my “hard” cancer treatments. Mind you, this was an expectation I created, not one the doctors handed to me.

I was supposed to start the road to reconstruction in late January 2019. The plan was for my surgeon to remove the plate in the pit, add an expander and pump both expanders to a size B so implants could then be added. If the skin wasn’t healthy enough for an expander because of radiation, the surgeon was going to remove the plate and start filling it with body fat to flatten it. From there, we would either add an expander later on or take the left expander out and fat graft both sides of my chest. The day before the surgery, I canceled. As much as I wanted the foreign objects out of my body, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after their removal. Now I know: No reconstruction.

One of the reasons I was SO excited to forgo reconstruction is that it would signify the end of roughly two years of surgeries. The decision not to reconstruct meant saying no to five more surgeries for fat grafted boobs or saying no to two-to-three more surgeries for expander/implant boobs. It meant not going to a surgeon every ten years to replace expired implants. It meant not getting an infection when one of the bastard implants punctured. It meant not going through even more chemo when one of them ended up cancerous. Both of these scenarios happen more frequently than anyone who has had breast cancer would like to think. Most of all, it meant no to sacrificing my own health to better mold myself to society’s definition of femininity. I am a woman. The closest thing I will ever have to tits are two prosthetics with perpetually hard nipples. But what about fat grafting and implants would make me more of a woman? As a three time lapsed eating disorder person, I’m putting my foot down. The outward expression of my beauty or anyone else’s is a farce made billions by media. It can eat my nipples for dinner. I’m drawing a line.

I was going to write this post right after I returned from Kenya. I thought I had left my boobs in the Kenyan countryside alongside a hard shelled, six inch centipede that I trapped under a water glass. I planned to name the post, “I left my boobs in Kenya.” If country music ever becomes more worldly and less sexist, I want a song title. But it’s a good thing I waited because today I got some news that, while not exactly a back step in the never ending yellow brook road of cancer treatment, fucking pisses me off.

My final Herceptin/Perjeta infusion is July 23. Theoretically, that’s the date that my port should be removed. The removal of the port and the pit and tit led to grand visions of no longer being bionic by the end of August but alas, that’s not meant to be. While the tit and pit will be gone, my port will not. It stays for another year. This is frustrating because I will be done with all IV treatments and drugs that toast the veins, yet the recurrence rate of my cancer is too high to risk removing the port. This doesn’t mean I’ll get cancer, but you can see how the mind works especially when my oncologist was very clear that recurrence means additional organs and matter.

Today I saw my oncologist before receiving my Herceptin/Perjeta infusions, which I’ve been doing every three weeks since July 2018. These infusions mean returning to the infusion room and watching a self from a year ago that I still can’t face get wrapped in a cloying atmosphere of uncertainty. Whenever chemo or Herceptin/Perjeta is given, the nurses always ask the patient to verify their last name and birthday. Therefore, these infusions also mean listening to Huisman, ’34 or Gesanto, ’38. This really sucks for obvious reasons, but I didn’t realize how much until this morning when I woke up in a bad mood despite the fact that my kids slept in their own beds for the first time in three nights. “Ah, I get an infusion today,” I thought and then left it alone until I met with my oncologist and asked about the port removal. It was then that I ricocheted to a dark place. For the first time since my diagnosis, I walked to my own graveside and then my own final hours. With each one, I would be with my children and family passing time in the backyard, on the front porch, or in the mountains. I might write, do a little yoga, or read. As weird as it feels to think this way, it was reassuring for two reasons. One, I know that my life will be buried in love. Two, I live every day exactly how I want to.

As far as recovery seems sometimes, I’m noticing that the further I travel from recovery, the closer I get to life.