Defining batshit crazy

Dr. B measured my breast, with what looked like carpentry rulers, and asked me if I imagined my breast without the nipple, was the expander still too small to the corresponding side?

“YES!” I said, while he wrote away in my file, “and it was always the larger breast of the two.” I emphasized. We were doing my last measurements and photos before my surgery which moved up a week earlier, depending if I could get all my necessary physical and appointments in order before the following week, on July 25th, 2012.

My week was filled with excitement and nerves when I met my appointments throughout the week. The nurse practitioner, Oksana, at my new GP’s office, gave me my physical. She seemed as excited, after seeing my naked chest, for my surgery, as I did. I also had to go back to the Pre-Surgical Admission at Women’s College Hospital where I got to see the nice Nurse Jean again. She remembered me from last year and she remembered, my friend Dawn, “and how great she was” comforting me at last year’s appointment.

I started by announcing I got my period the previous day, which was bittersweet. I enjoyed not having it for 10 months and had hoped to be one of the lucky ones to go for 5 years without having to menstruate but it was also a sign my body was getting back to normal. I had to clarify this info because a few days before I told Oksana my last period was in October 2011. Nurse Jean updated her records and asked me what I was allergic to. After a year of cancer, I had new allergies to add, Sulfa causes a full body rash, codeine gives me hives, and the contrast dye used for CAT-scans.

She asked which medications I was on, I told her Tamoxifen (20mg) and she seemed happy I remembered little details like, to stop taking multi-vitamins which contains vitamin e (as it thins blood) a couple of weeks before surgery or showering with special soap before getting to the hospital (which I didn’t have to do this time around). We discussed a little about my trepidation with the upcoming procedure. In the end, I remarked however nervous I was about the outcome I was pretty sure I trusted Dr. B’s expertise with boobs.

Nurse Jean took my blood from my wrist and with that I was ready for my boob job in the next 48 hours.

But let’s go back to Dr. B’s swanky  Bay St. office’s waiting room where I finally found out there is a proper psychological term, for what I usually labelled as “batshit crazy”  in a cosmetic surgery magazine I was flipping through. Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) defined on http://www.medicinenet.com, “A serious illness in which a person is preoccupied with minor or imaginary physical flaws, usually of the skin, hair, and nose. A person with BDD tends to have cosmetic surgery, and even if the surgery is successful, does not think it was and is unhappy with the outcome.”

I have known three women in my life who always knew the latest and greatest in cosmetic surgery.  Funnily enough, much drama also surrounded these individuals which I eventually figured out was the result of their distorted outlook and inordinate amount of time spent on their appearances. Quite frankly, I would get irritated knowing I was heading into a conversation about how beautiful or how ugly they perceived themselves to be, constantly having to reassure them that they looked beautiful, flawless with or without a weave, youthful pre-skin peel or post-skin peel. I know, I am probably the worst friend for a BDD victim because I cannot get past seeing the “batshit crazy” which comes with convincing themselves they need any these procedures. I still think it’s best for me to stay clear away from their downward spiral to “perfection” because nothing I or anyone could say or do would change their warped perceptions.

Pictures of actors ruined faces from too many procedures were shown as examples of possible BDD victims in the magazine. They couldn’t possibly think this looks good. I always wonder, why don’t they know when to stop?

Tina (not her real name) was an actress I met her while she stayed with Stacey (also not her real name). The two had just wrapped working her latest low-budget-straight-to-video film and the very next day she saw a renowned plastic surgeon in the city for nose job. I have only hung out with Tina twice in my life but both times she had bandages taped in an ‘X’ formation covering her nose in the middle of her face. It is safe to say, I would probably not recognize her today if I saw her on the street or if her mug flashed across an enormous IMAX movie screen.

The actress claimed she needed to fix her nose because it was never set properly after a car accident she had been in years before which I sympathized with until Stacey told me Tina actually had four nose jobs and two happened before her car accident. I would keep telling Tina she looked fine without all the enhancements but grew more curious about what else she had done in the past. She was open with her work and listed, breast augmentation, removal of breast implants, breast lift, liposuction on her tummy (a couple of times because it was easier to eat those Twinkies than to diet), a tummy tuck, lipo on her thighs and her nose jobs. Not sure, if Tina ever got into the Botox trend but it would not surprise me if she had.

This woman and the two others who I came to realize suffered the same disorder, have become a template for what I think is gross about plastic surgery. The constant want for perfection and the notion that the cosmetic surgery would fix whatever was falling short in their lives – recognition, a man, a role for the next film, youth.

Tina came back a couple of months after her nose job, unhappy with the surgeon’s work. She arranged with the same plastic surgeon to tweak her bridge which involved him filing the bone of her bridge. Anyhow, she had the procedure done, she stayed with Stacey for a couple of more weeks with bandages across her nose and I got acquainted with Tina even more. It didn’t take long to realize she was one of the most neurotic individuals I had ever come across which fascinated and worried me simultaneously. Her body issues were infinitely much more in-depth than mine, or anyone else I knew at this point, which only years of psychoanalysis could fix and probably not the monthly Cosmo/Vogue/ Elle issue she regularly sought advice from.

During her recovery, Tina came to realize Gor-tex was used to make the bridge for the nose she desired, even though she specifically told the surgeon she did not want Gor-tex. She went back to the surgeon twice. Once to complain, and the surgeon reasoned he had no choice but to use Gor-tex as her nose had been filed down too far from previous work. Stacey told me the surgeon showed Tina how her nose looked in profile and Tina seemed to warm up to her new look.

So, the second time Tina went to visit the plastic surgeon she was to drop off the last cheque to the doctor. There was no parking, close to the surgeon’s Yorkville office. Stacey asked me to sit in the car parked illegally in an alleyway near the surgeon’s office while she and Tina went in to make her doctor’s visit. I sat in the car for about 20 minutes before I glancing in the rearview mirror to see Stacey and Tina running frantically towards the car – not unlike how masked men do when they rob banks. They got in the car and yelled at me to, “Quick! Step on the gas!” I obeyed with confusion and drove towards Stacey’s place.

“What the fuck is going on?!” I asked. They told me how Tina had asked the receptionist for her file to claim back some photos she had submitted to the surgeon to show her previous nose. In doing so, she emptied the file including her contact info because, when we got back to Stacey’s place, she was calling her bank to cancel her cheque for the surgery fees because she was not satisfied with his work.

In the back of my mind, this is always who I’m afraid I will become if this breast reconstruction doesn’t work out how I’d like it to. Someone who can’t see anything but ugly in herself. Someone who thinks plastic surgery will fix all their problems all the time.  Someone who would never be satisfied with any plastic surgery procedures. Someone who will hate the look of my new breast.

Someone who is batshit crazy.

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navigating my way through cancer with laughter, fear, and madness.

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