Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Argument For Remaining Flat

A couple of months ago, I joined the Facebook group of the organization Flat & Fabulous. The members of this group have been diagnosed with breast cancer, had mastectomies (single and double), and elected to forgo reconstruction. Another fun fact about having breast cancer is that it isn't always easy to put your breasts back if that is what you want. Many women aren't aware of this, and it makes for some interesting debates in the breast cancer community. 

Not every woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer has to have chemotherapy and radiation. These women, along with women who elect to undergo preventative mastectomies, can usually have successful reconstruction soon after the initial surgery. Women like myself, who had to have chemo and get roasted, are the ones who have the toughest time with reconstruction. Chemo isn't really a factor, but once you've been roasted, your skin becomes compromised, which makes inserting things like tissue expanders and breast implants very difficult. Reconstruction for women like me involves fat transfer from other areas of the body, and skin grafting to make up for the damage we're left with. These procedures, according to the plastic surgeon I met with last year after my mastectomy, are possible, but can be complicated. 

Since joining the F&F Facebook group, I've interacted with many brave and strong women who are committed to not undergoing reconstruction; some for the reasons I've mentioned, and others because they are perfectly content to not have breasts. Still more have been through reconstruction that has gone awry. There are stories of infections and other medical mishaps, asymmetry, and overall dissatisfaction with the end result that lead many to have their implants removed. Others will occasionally wear prostheses, affectionately known as "foobs" (fake boobs), because they cannot, or will not, go through the additional hell reconstruction can turn into. 

The other day, I was finally able to order a compression sleeve to treat my lymphedema. The store I went to also had a full line of mastectomy products, including bras and prostheses. I decided to try on a bra with a pair of "foobs" to get an idea of how they looked and felt. I have to say, I had more fun playing with the squishy silicone foobs than I did wearing them. It felt weird to have on a bra with protrusions in the pockets, rather than ones attached to my own body. It felt odd to be wearing a bra again (I didn't miss it). The foobs looked okay, but I wasn't ready to order a pair. I have plans for my body that might include foobs at some point in the future, but for now, I choose to remain boob-less, and foob-less. 

My choices vis-a-vis breasts might not be what another woman would choose, but that doesn't bother me. I'm glad to know there are other women out there who, for many reasons, choose to remain flat. These women are inspiring, because many of them can ignore society's obsession with the female form, and do what is best for them. I count myself among their ranks because I don't need to have breasts to feel like a woman. I don't catch glimpses of my flat chest in the mirror and wish they were still there. I'd rather be healthy and live another 50 years than worry about everyone else thinks of my flatness. It's a waste of time. 

Maybe one day I'll change my mind and go for a pair of D-cup prostheses, or maybe some new surgical technique will be invented to make reconstruction easier for women like me. Until then, I am content to remain flat, fabulous, and healthy. 


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