Three years after a bilateral mastectomy I opted for reconstruction. And three weeks after surgery to insert the tissue expanders, I set off on a 4×4 rooftop tent camping adventure in the remote Namaqualand/Richtersveld, an area of stunning natural beauty, but very far from civilization.
It was flower season and Namaqualand was a breathtakingly lovely patchwork of colour. The Richtersveld too in its lonely desolation is a very special place. On the downside, there are dangers lurking in the form of snakes and scorpions. Camping sites are rustic in the extreme. No showers, so a bath means lathering up with biodegradable soap and wallowing in the Orange River. A visit to a bush loo entails shouldering a spade and heading off with one’s roll of biodegradable paper.
A city girl – or old bag of 60 to be accurate – and camping novice, I approached this safari experience with some trepidation, especially in view of my boobs in progress, of which I am inordinately proud. Pre-mastectomy I had what is euphemistically termed a boyish build. Post recon it took a while for me to become accustomised to my voluptuous new shape. Now I feel like a glamorous Fifties film star!
But, with lots of tissue oil, spare plasters, and a bottle of Pink Happiness perfume given to me by a dear friend after the op, I was good to go. I had the blessing of my lovely plastic surgeon. “Just don’t do any bungee jumping” warned the sister doing my “inflations”. I assured her nothing was further from my mind. I also packed a wide spectrum antibiotic and a satellite phone for emergencies. Luckily I didn’t need either of these.
I had the perfect excuse to take it easy, and apart from holding the odd tent peg and rooting about in boxes for provisions, I relaxed while my wonderful husband did all the hard work.
Before breast cancer I very much doubt if I would have been up for leaping out of my comfort zone and roughing it on a trip like this. But when confronted by your own mortality you truly realize the importance of living life to the full and grabbing every opportunity to see and do new things while you can. In two weeks time we are off to the Kgalagadi, and are planning a trip to Botswana for next year.
Thank you to my amazing Reach for Recovery friends who encouraged me to go for reconstruction. It definitely helped me heal, both physically and emotionally, and has given my confidence a huge boost.
Thanks to Avis Perks for this contribution.
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