Underneath my new breasts I still have the same old heart chakra.
I really don’t have a problem with breast augmentation. That said, it isn’t something that I ever planned on doing. I had my moments of insecurity but I expected to go to my grave with the same set I’d had since puberty. As it turns out, long after the rest of me is dust, my non-biodegradable implants will live on. Not the legacy I’d planned. But I am getting used to the new breasts; what’s challenging me is what’s missing.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer I chose to have only the malignant area removed, leaving my breasts mostly intact. My doctors fully supported this decision—until it was discovered that my cancer most likely had a genetic cause. This meant there was a high probability that the cancer would recur. A bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction was recommended. It was a radical decision, one that didn’t fit well with my belief in homeopathy and natural medicine, but a decision I eventually made peace with.
I prepared myself to feel different.
But different implies something. After my surgery, when the pain had receded, I was reminded of that horrible image of environmental destruction; the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. In this case though the dead zone was on my chest.
There was no energy of any kind. All that complicated psychological and energetic weight we carry in our breasts—sexuality, creativity, nurturing—it seemed to have just disappeared. I couldn’t find even the faintest spark to get it flowing again.
The mastectomy was preceded by six months of chemotherapy. I was used to feeling awful. Bald and pale, I was barely recognizable as I struggled to hold a down dog for more than a few breaths.
My practice was limited but I still made it to my mat.
And every time I felt that little catch of opening as I moved into a deep backbend I was reminded that there was still a “me” underneath that weakened exterior. I was still whole.
I couldn’t say that after the surgery. A big chunk of my heart center had been removed and replaced with silicone. The deadness, the absence was more disturbing than any pain. There was a huge temptation to develop a protective hunch, to build a shell around my scars. My heart center was too raw and exposed. I didn’t want to work on opening or expanding into my breath. My body had betrayed me too deeply.
Except there was no betrayal; there was just life.
What seemed so huge came down to one simple question, the same question every single yogi faces every day: whether or not to show up on my mat. However dramatic, even catastrophic it all felt, there was nothing unusual about my challenge of finding new ways of being in my body, of incorporating changes into my practice.
A few months after surgery, my breasts look pretty much how they used to—although I’m a little un-nerved by their perkiness. But I am still left with that question of where all that amazing life force went. I have no idea, maybe nowhere. As the weeks pass, there’s more and more energy flowing—even in that terrifying dead zone. And when I move into a deep back bend I can feel that little catch, reminding me that my heart center is still there behind the silicone.
Editor: Kelly Brichta
Joanna Francis is a mum, a yogi and a writer in Vancouver, BC and San Miguel de Allende.
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