Nearly three years ago I had my first mastectomy. My left breast was removed because a seven centimetre tumour had taken up residence in my GG cup. Despite having had a lumpectomy three weeks previously, the tumour was too large and too dispersed and so the whole breast had to go.
Being told that I would lose my breast was one of the most shocking moments of my life. How strange then, that I would go on to request the removal of my right breast, advocate for women’s’ rights to be able to do this and live happily and well as a flat woman.
I started thinking about this dichotomy a couple of days ago. I’ve been telling my breast cancer story a lot over the last couple of weeks. I’ve recorded a podcast and done two big interviews.
What struck me as I walked my dogs was how far my feelings about my breasts and the surgeries have moved from the moment my surgeon told me I’d need a mastectomy to today… when I sit here writing about how positive I am living without breasts.
It’s weird – I always thought that I loathed my breasts.
- They were huge and I’m little.
- They drew unwanted attention to me.
- They made it really difficult to do the sports that I loved.
- I wore such constricting sports bras that breathing, let alone running, was a challenge.
- The alternative was black eyes – use your imagination!
- When I was 16 & 17, they earned me the nickname “Jugs” from my adult mixed hockey team.
- I laughed it off, but that epithet really hurt me.
But faced with the loss of lefty, it turns out that I was really rather attached to them…and not just physically.
- They’d fed both of my babies for 12 months – I’d loved that part of being a mother
- I’d always had massive sexual stimulation from my nipples.
- Despite their size, they were a big part of who I was and my self image.
- They represented my femininity…or so I thought.
- I did not want to have one of my body parts amputated.
So, I was horrified and in despair and after the words, ‘you need a mastectomy’ I didn’t hear and don’t remember anything else for the duration of my consultation. Not even the fact that my surgeon took photos of my GG beauties to help with reconstruction planning – Liam reminded me of this yesterday.
The mastectomy happened and the cancer was gone. This was clearly great news. The problem was that I was now left with ONE HUGE GG CUP breast. And as I’d decided against reconstruction I felt and looked awful. I came to detest my right breast. In my mind it had no function at all except to get in the way and force me to wear a bra and a massive prosthesis. So… it had to go too.
What I’m building up to write is what you know already if you’ve been reading my blog. After eighteen months as a uniboober I had a contralateral prophylactic right mastectomy for symmetry. And I woke up happy and flat. And flat is how I will remain for the rest of my life. I’m sure that I won’t always be happy but that’s a different blog!
Here’s how I think about then and now:
Horror vs Happiness
Despair vs Self Love
I know now that my breasts didn’t define me as a woman, and that I don’t need them to feel feminine. At this precise moment, I feel more confident and positive than I have done for many years. I’m sure that this is bound up with being empowered by choosing to have my second mastectomy – if I could bottle this feeling, I would.