Tuesday, May 25, 2010

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I've been thinking about breasts and reconstruction a lot lately, and I kind of felt like I owed it to anyone who was facing cancer and stumbled on this blog to document those feelings.

As I think I've made pretty clear, for the most part, I LOVE not having breasts. I love the way I look in clothes. I love not having to put on a bra. I love wearing tank tops and summer dresses and bathing suits and not worrying about if I'm showing too much cleavage or if my bra strap is hanging out. I love that my chest doesn't feel heavy and unwieldy anymore.

Given my love of boobless me, you'd think I'd be all "fuck reconstruction." And for about 90% of me, you'd be right. But there is this 10% that won't let me embrace my flatchested self.

So, when does this 10% rear it's ugly head? When I'm flipping through Details in the check out aisle (Don't judge me! RPattz was on the cover!) and see the girls flaunting their cleavage and I think, "I don't have that any more." Or when I flirt (harmlessly, of course) with the bartender, I think, "If I picked him up, he'd be so disappointed when he saw scars instead of breasts." I feel, in some ways, like I'm damaged goods. Like people wouldn't be happy with me in my current package. And that second of self-doubt tends to slice me to the core.

It's usually at that point that I consider getting reconstruction. And while I think reconstruction would abate the distress caused by thought #1, it doesn't really address thought #2. I'd still have breasts that I'd feel self conscious about when I was naked. So, why bother getting surgery and going back to the world of bra straps and inadvertently slutty cleavage if those feelings would be unresolved? I'd still feel damaged, and fake breasts can't fix that. Those feelings just need to be dealt with.

There is one other element that comes into play: After I have that moment of self-doubt, I tend to immediately have a second thought. That thought generally starts by reassuring me that I'm awesome (I'm a big fan of positive self talk). Then I remind myself that I have fought a war. I have ridden into battle and I have come out victorious. I have beaten and killed my enemy. My foe lays vanquished. And that war was hard and it left scars. It robbed me of things that I will never get back. And the scars that mark my chest should remind me every day, not only that things were taken from me in that war. But they should also serve as celebrations of my domination over cancer. They are proof that I should wear as a badge of valor. Evidence that I went into battle and came out the victor. I shouldn't be ashamed of them. I should be proud. And when a cute bartender sees them, he should be amazed by my courage and strength and fall to his feet, trembling, and worship me like the hero I am.

And I don't want to cover up these scars with fake breasts. I don't want to pretend like things are back to normal now. They aren't and they never will be. I don't want to act like cancer hasn't been hard or that it hasn't stolen things from me. Instead, I want to be reminded of what I've been through and celebrate it for the triumph that it is! I want to remember the sacrifices that I've made for it, but in remembering them, rejoice in my perseverance.

Maybe this will change with time, but for right now, I'm fighting down those bits of insecurity by reminding myself that I am a badass motherfshutyourmouth.


  1. Hhhhhhhhhh! You are a badass. Sorry if this overstepping on my part, but this seems like any other big decision. If you are the least bit uncertain, don't do it. It seems like a thing that you don't want to regret later.

    Do you think it's something that will change when you get further away from the battle? When your hair grows out and you stop having to go to the doctor so much?

  2. Everyday I love you just s little bit more, a little not more, a little bit more...

  3. You are so good at making me feel less alone. I admire the fuck out of you and I'm interested in being naked with you. A lot.

  4. Lisa - I'm not sure. I can get reconstruction at any point, so if I change my mind it's not a big deal. I'm thinking about getting a tattoo over my chest to connect the radiation tattoos, though, and I wouldn't want to do that if I'm going to get reconstruction. But, waiting on a tattoo seems like a minor inconvenience.

  5. A chest tattoo would be a great idea! Those hurt like a mofo, but like you haven't dealt with way more pain from the surgery.

    I totally could follow what you were saying about the back and forth wanting boobs, then not wanting them.

    You are right in the fact that anyone that would be lucky enough to see you naked would have to be worthy of accepting you as you are. I somehow don't think this will be a problem for you, because you ROCK and any guy would be lucky to have you!!

  6. Great post!
    Just a few days ago, I finished reading Alison Bechdel's "Invasion of the Dykes to Watch Out For" compilation, wherein one of the characters is coping with breast cancer, and also the resultant scars. It was very touching...sometimes in more ways than one.

    Anyways, NOT doing something is always a safe way to play. Like my committing to not getting a tattoo until I find the ultra-perfect design is almost certainly assuring that I never get a tattoo....but the option's always open, just in case I happen to be swayed the other way.

  7. I opted for 2 sizes smaller on my reconstruction. My (male) plastic surgeon could not understand: "You WANT to be a B cup? What about a C?" But I have been happy with that for the most part. I look semi-normal in clothes - but still have the scars and unevenness underneath if you look closely. I didn't do nipples - just "tit-toos" in their place - and have been fairly pleased overall. They'll never be perfect - but I guess they weren't perfect before either. Le sigh, etc.

  8. @Suzannah - Loling at your male surgeon. What a typical response!

  9. Helen Marie! I so love you right now!! I read this. I've always complained about my own weighty boobs--remember high school, I think we were the two biggest chicks there? I always thought that I would LOVE not having them. I read this and think I would feel EXACTLY the same as you. Unfortunately, our culture puts a lot of weight on our breasts (while our breasts put a lot of weight on us). They are supposed to be our signals of ultimate female sexuality. But I've seen many small chested women who are beautiful and sexy--no need for porno culture with them! Sex is so much more than breasts. Sexuality is so much more. Revel in this moment. Those scars were earned! I have faith that when you're ready for reconstruction, you'll know it.