Horror vs Happiness

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.

7 thoughts on “Horror vs Happiness

  1. Hi thanks for writing this it is helpful. I’ve been diagnosed with DCIS and will either need a mastectomy of the left breast or a lumpectomy plus “remodelling” of the right breast and radiotherapy, difficult decision, but one thing I have decided is that I won’t have reconstruction. I am a DD cup size so it is going to be a pain if I go for mastectomy and just have one breast remaining. My problem is that I’m terrified about the operation, I feel a right wimp because so many women go through it and I’m lucky I don’t need chemo, but the actual operation itself and not knowing how going to feel afterwards is terrifying me! Grateful for any reassurance on this aspect.

    Like

    1. Hi Wendy, I’m glad that my lost has helped you – that’s the main reason I share my story.
      I too am very scared of operations but once I was asleep I knew nothing about it until I got to recovery. I’d had a lumpectomy before my first mastectomy and both operations were much easier to recover from than I had expected. Of course we’re all different but I think that most women feel the same.

      I do t think that you can ever be prepared for what you’ll feel like after the operation. It took me a while before I looked at my chest. I’d say take your time and try to look in the mirror for a bit longer each day. Physically I didn’t feel too
      I hope pain but made sure that I kelp topped up with pain killers. I did have some nerve pain for a few weeks. Also make sure you do the arm exercises that you’re given so you regain your full movement. Good luck!

      Like

Leave a Reply to Jane DuBose Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s