This is a phantom post because I posted it in the past to appear in the future while I'm on vacation. It is also a worthy title because I am going to talk about a phantom phenomenon related to some mastectomies.
I recently read the book No Less a Woman by Deborah Hobler Kahane. She is a breast cancer survivor, and her book contains several essays by other survivors. I read these essays with great interest, mostly with an eye to why (or why not) women choose to reconstruct after mastectomy. I found numerous wonderful nuggets of information and perspective, including the discovery that some women regain feeling in and around their scar. One woman cited discovering a phantom nipple. She found a place on her skin that when touched just so, felt like her old nipple.
Can you believe it? She must have found the severed nipple nerves. I did not know that this was possible.
I myself have not regained feeling in the left chest wall, armpit, or underarm. In fact, if I apply body spray to the region, I cannot feel either the coolness or impact of the spray. I can feel the pressure of a touch, and my bones still ache when pressed anything but gently, but the skin is not sensitive at all.
Well, you can imagine that this woman's account got me thinking about my severed nipple nerves, where they might be, and how I might find them. Considering my gross lack of feeling in a large area, it was not surprising that my initial attempts at nipple nerve discovery were unsuccessful. Until I got the rash.
In January I had a mega rash in the shape of New Hampshire on my damaged chest wall. It itched something fierce, which was entirely unfair for someone who thought she had no feeling in the area. But one day, I swear the itch was on my phantom left nipple. My brain thought that the left nipple was itching, but I don't have that nipple anymore. The cruelty of cruelties was that I COULD NOT PHYSICALLY LOCATE the source of the itch, and therefore could not scratch it appropriately! I halfway satiated the itch by rubbing somewhere near my 4th rib, but it wasn't as satisfying as itching the real thing would have been. Regardless of this annoyance, I was excited (titillated?) to have discovered my long lost nipple nerves.
Sadly, I lost my phantom nipple after the rash subsided. I have not been able to find any place on my body that registers as "left nipple" in my brain. Perhaps as the healing continues, my severed nipple nerves will re-awaken and find themselves near my clavicle, sternum, or armpit. I will never give up the search.
Sorry for a nipple post, dad.