What did you find most surprising about your experience of moving through the process of diagnosis, treatment, and recovery?
At first I didn’t miss my breasts at all. I had very large breasts that left divots in my shoulders from my bra straps. It was nice to be flat for a while! I tweeted that I missed Harry’s Law more, which was true at the time. But now I’m working in New Orleans on “American Horror Story,” and I’m beginning to feel differently. One of the little souvenirs I have from my double mastectomy is lymphedema in my left arm. The surgeons are so focused on saving your life; lymphedema is the least of their concerns. Thank goodness mine is mild, but I still have to go for therapy and wear a compression sleeve to keep the swelling from getting out of hand—“no pun intended.” But through finding a physical therapist here in New Orleans I found the Center for Breast Reconstruction. It is a beautiful complex with a 17-bed hospital. I learned 60% of their patients come from all around the country. Now I’m seriously considering having reconstruction.
Have you found that surviving such an experience has an impact on your craft in any way?
Costume fittings were difficult at first. I didn’t want to wear my prosthetic breasts, which can be heavy and hot. Also my lymphedema doctor prefers me to go without a bra when I can so I don’t restrict the flow of lymph under my arm. So that was a challenge for the designer. Luckily she is a breast cancer survivor as well so she was very sensitive to my needs.
Emotionally I don’t think I’ve really come to grips with the grief involved in losing my breasts. The timing could not have been worse. When you have a network canceling your show because your viewers are too old, there’s nothing like a double mastectomy to slam the door on your sexual attractiveness. It was a double whammy. I’m presently going through some counseling to help me sort all of that out. I’ve found some pretty great people here in New Orleans to help me with that.Whizzco