When starting this blog I had initially intended to write about what life is like living without breasts. The physical implications, the restrictions, reactions from others, finding clothes, prosthesis and all the other stuff that comes with this life choice. However, as is usual for me, I became distracted and wandered off on another tangent. Hopefully though, those meanderings have given you an insight to me, my life and where my thoughts are coming from which, may help you understand my perspective and the life choices that I have made.
You may have read on my earlier posts that I had fully intended to have a mastectomy and breast reconstruction and that nothing and nobody was going to get in my way. I never for one moment imagined that the person who would put a stop to my perky new boobies would of all people, be me! I was desperate to rid my body of the breasts that, despite my life long love and care of them, had become my enemy, intent on seeing me off. I wanted to rid myself of the risk and the worry and replace them with a pair of pert, perfectly formed and most importantly, benign boobies.
Prior to having breast cancer I would have never, in a million years, imagined myself living without breasts. Obviously, it’s not something any of us consider for ourselves and though I was aware that there were women out there happily living their lives with prosthesis, I hadn’t really processed that in my mind or given it any real thought. It wasn’t until I looked inside my hospital gown at my freshly modified body that I suddenly realised that maybe I didn’t need breasts after all. During that first, scary peep I had expected to see a bad butchery job, like when you see a side of pork all sewn up with big string stitches, I thought that was going to be what my body looked like. I fully expected my stomach to churn and my heart to break. Yet through the scars and the drains that were taking the blood and fluids from my wounds, I could see a nice, smooth, well-proportioned chest. In a strange way, it looked youthful and cute, not at all grotesque and definitely not in need of cosmetic surgery. I didn’t look a freak and in comparison to what I was expecting, I looked and felt, positively lovely!!
My choice to refuse the option of breast reconstruction must be difficult for many to imagine or understand. I got quite a few shocked reactions from some of the ladies I told of my decision and I’m sure that I would have been equally shocked had somebody told me that they were happy to live with a breast-less, nipple-less, chest. I can imagine the thoughts that would have gone through my own mind, ‘She’s obviously putting on a brave face. She can’t really be happy like that. She must feel weird, a freak. She’s so brave putting up such a show.’ Ironically, you could say it was all a front!
Had anyone suggested to me that I needn’t bother with re-construction, that I could be perfectly happy without any breasts, I would have smiled kindly at them and said “I don’t think so, no way, no thanks, nada!” It quite simply was not an option. But now? Well now I feel like I have a special secret that I want to share, to spread the word, breast free is problem free. You may think me ridiculous and you may be right. On the other hand, it could be that these feelings of elation are actually those of relief. Relief that I don’t have to go through yet more surgery, relief that I have found myself to be happy with my body just the way it is, relief that my husband loves me with or without a pair of boobs, relief that I don’t wake up every morning worrying that the cancer is still lurking.
Having reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy is nothing like a regular cosmetic boob job. It involves cutting and repositioning muscles from your back, taking fat from your belly or your bum to form the new boobs. There are uncomfortable expanders that you would have to contend with for months, numerous hospital visits over a long¸ long period of time while your skin stretches enough to allow room for your implants (be they your own fat or a silicone implant) Whatever option you chose, it’s no walk in the park. If it had been a quick snip, shove a chicken fillet in there, job done, have a nice day, I may have given it some consideration. Or if, when I had peeped inside my gown, I had been repulsed by what I saw, then I would have probably gone ahead with whatever surgery I needed, regardless of the enormity of it all but a breast-less body is not weird or repulsive. My breasts do not define who I am, they won’t add any extra points to my IQ score and they certainly couldn’t contribute anything else of note to my life so the decision was a quick and easy one for me.
I should also mention that, after the chemotherapy the tumour in my right breast had shrunk from 3.2 cms to virtually nothing. This resulted in the doctors suggesting a less invasive lumpectomy but being the proactive kind of person that I am, I had already made the decision to have my offending right breast removed and also requested the removal of my more innocent left breast. For anybody going through breast cancer and thinking about lumpectomies, mastectomies and reconstruction, there is a lot to think about, for themselves, their family and their relationships. Thankfully, the NHS allow you lots of time and options, giving every person the information they need to decide what’s best for them and their future. As a Breast cancer patient, you don’t have to make a decision there and then nor do you have to stick by that first decision. You can refuse reconstruction and then in 5, 10, 20 or however many years, change your mind and the NHS will give you the reconstruction or surgery that you feel you want or need so there is no need to worry that this is the only chance to make what is a huge decision in your life.
So what are the pros and cons? Well for me the pros have been many and the cons very few but here goes.
- Due to the standard tailoring of ladies clothing, there are occasions when I have to wear my prosthesis when I would have preferred not to.
- I have to choose well-constructed styles of clothes to avoid flashing my scars/prosthesis.
- Bikini’s that will fit and flatter a totally flat chest are not that easy to find though not impossible, when I find one I buy several and hang on to them!.
- Er, I’ll come back to this as I can’t think of another at the moment….
- A feeling of freedom and easier arm movement across the chest, which is especially useful when taking part in any form of sport.
- No jiggling boob pain (or embarrassment) when running.
- I can squeeze through much smaller spaces, which has on occasion, come in very handy.
- I can choose my boob size for the outfit and/ or occasion.
- I can achieve various looks from willowy and interesting (flat chest, no prosthesis) to curvaceous siren (my large prosthesis also known as The Big Guns)
- The star pro for me though is that I have (fingers crossed) reduced my chances of a recurrence of breast cancer by a whopping 90%.
With Christmas approaching I have quite a few parties to attend and each of my styles will be getting a festive outing at some point or other. Being an outdoor, horsey type, I never used to care much for fashion but my newly modelled body has given me a fresh interest in all things fashion and when the New Year sales start, I will be at the front of the queue, elbows sharpened, vying for the best of the bargains from a 32A to 36DD.