Getting breasts is one of the hallmarks of becoming a woman, but for most of our lives, they’re merely decorative. In the case of men, I believe their’s are God’s way of reminding them their embryos started out as female, to help connect them with the female experience, or maybe they’re just a Darwinian fluke. For whatever reason, everyone has them.
In the quarter of a century I had in bras, I only used my boobs for their biological purpose for four and a half months. Then a cancer cell found a nice home to reproduce in inside one of my stretched out milk ducts, and those biddies had to go.
Up until that point in my adult life, I had always had a great self-image. It took eighteen years to get comfortable with my body, but once I did, I was loving it. “Powers” by Blackalicious could best describe how I felt about my wonderful anatomy.
Becoming a mother was a bit of a hit to how I felt about my body. My daughter was a week late, and in that last week my abs gave out and all my stretchmarks came at once and my belly just sagged. But I started cycling to work, and getting back to feeling awesome, and then cancer came along and shattered my positive feelings about my physical appearance.
The first thing that happened was my long, lustrous hair started falling out in clumps, so I shaved my head. I looked at myself in the mirror and I couldn’t even see my own face, but I started to wear wig and I felt a bit better.
Next my eyebrows and eyelashes fell out. It is amazing how much this further changed the appearance of my face. Without this hair to define my eyes, I just looked sick.
Then, I gained a lot of weight. That’s right! I always thought people on chemo lost weight, but not me, I was on steroids, so for the first time in my life I felt a ravenous hunger, and because I was at home and feeling sorry for myself, I just went with it.
And to top it all off my chest went from shapely to concave. I told myself before I had the surgery, that I might actually look forward to being flat-chested; no bras to worry about, and I could exercise without the discomfort of jiggling. But when I went out in public with my new look, passersby could not hide their looks of revulsion.
A fat, disfigured, bald woman with no eyebrows or eyelashes was not pleasing to the eyes of the general public. I even had a couple of people mistake me for a woman who was trying to transition into a man.
So armored in my wig, make up, and knitted knockers, I found people were able to look at me and smile again.
But bras don’t work properly without real breasts. They will ride all the way up to your armpits if you don’t work on keeping them in place. Also, you can’t exercise in knitted prosthetics, and even after I joined a women-only gym, I still got stares. I felt like I needed to wear a shirt that said, “I had breast cancer”, so people wouldn’t have to look and stare at me in wonder.
I’d like to be able to tell my daughter that appearances don’t matter, but judging people by their appearance is an evolutionary instinct. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s how all of the people you encounter on a daily-basis who don’t know you personally, will experience you. It’s why fashion and cosmetics are industries.
Of course, there is always the option of not caring what other people think, but I tried it, and it doesn’t work for me. I’m an extrovert.
So I’ve decided to have incredibly invasive plastic surgery, where they will cut new breasts out of my belly fat and sew them onto my chest. I don’t know if I will ever feel like I have my powers back, but I hope my noobs will give me the power to be able to feel comfortable wearing a swimsuit in public this summer.
Have you had a similar experience following your mastectomy? Did you decide on reconstruction?