Two Breasts, One Breast, No Breasts ……

If the word ‘Breasts’ offends you, read no further!
If the word ‘Breasts’ makes you feel uncomfortable, read no further!
I thought hard about whether I should write about ‘Breasts’ on this blog. Its a ‘Single Parent Adventure’ blog! A future resource for my little boy. Why on earth would I be writing about breasts?!
I remember during the early days of my breast cancer diagnosis, almost whispering the word breasts when telling people. Having that awkwardness, like it was something to be ashamed of. But never have I been ashamed of having breast cancer, the effect it has had on my body or the appearance of my body.
My initial diagnosis of Ductal Carcinoma in Situ, meant that following a single mastectomy, no further treatment would be needed. I would have breast reconstruction at a later date, and a reduction in size of the remaining breast. I did think that by the time I turned 40, I would have a lovely pair of pert boobs and I’d be the envy of all my friends! That was until devastation struck. My cancer invaded my lymph nodes and a gruelling regime of Chemotherapy, Radiotherapy and numerous other medical interventions were scheduled for the following 18 months.
Precious time was taken away from my son. I needed our lives to get back to some kind of normality as soon as possible. That is when I knew breast reconstruction was not for me. In comparison to a mastectomy which is a relatively uncomplicated surgery, breast reconstruction is a very lengthy surgery with a much longer recovery and many additional post-operative procedures.
My mind was made. No reconstruction. But I struggled enormously with having one breast. It was a constant reminder of what had happened. I just wanted it gone.
I was fortunate to have a very understanding surgeon who agreed to remove my remaining healthy breast. But so many women have had to fight for this choice. A very personal choice, one that is as equally important as having reconstruction, but denied to so many.
My surgery couldn’t come soon enough and the relief I felt afterwards was immense. I had no breasts and I was so very happy about it. That sounds like an incredibly strange thing to say to most people, but it is true. I didn’t look down at my very flat chest and wish I had two breasts. For me, it was the start, the start of healing, the start of the recovery, the start of repairing and the start of moving forward.
Breasts do not define a person. They certainly didn’t define me. One of my biggest accomplishments in life is that I breast fed my son, but I don’t feel upset in the slightest that my breasts are gone. My breast was cancerous. Toxic even. Disease grew so rapidly.
Any memories of a sexual context related to my breasts have been quickly erased. If I had been in a loving relationship at the time of my diagnosis and treatment, my decision for an elective mastectomy might have been different. But fortunately, I didn’t need to think about how anyone else would feel about me not having breasts. I did what was best for me, and me alone. My body. My decision.
During the early days of becoming flat, when my chest was still sensitive, I would find myself apologising to any house visitors for not having my ‘boobs’ in. I would wear scarves to hide my flatness. I would apologise for being me. I don’t really know why I did that!
Over the years, I have tried various bras and breast prosthetics. Bras irritate my very sensitive chest. I hate them. But my son Rory has a whale of a time sorting through them, pretending to be me! I don’t hide the fact I don’t have breasts from him. He knows! I try to show a very positive body image, showcasing that people come in all different shapes and sizes. He just knows me as Mum!
I am a woman. Not having breasts doesn’t make me any less of a woman. As for future relationships, if my lack of breasts is an issue, I will have an issue with brainless idiots!
There are so many women like me who live a confident and happy life without breasts. During cancer, many decisions are made for you but every person has the right to make their own choices. Elective mastectomy surgery is not a routine choice, reconstruction is. This needs to change. Hopefully, I can address this during my next Patient Leadership workshop which will be focusing on the Breast Care Pathway!
Cancer does not discriminate. I was certainly not too young to have breast cancer at 38 years old. Check your breasts regularly. And get shouting out the word ‘BREASTS’!