I did it.
I finally made a decision.
Truthfully, making the decision to not pursue breast reconstruction after my upcoming mastectomy has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I’ve barely had time to digest the idea that there’s something in my tits trying to kill me, much less have I had the time to think about parting ways with a giant chunk of my body. That must be the beauty of treatment teams- they act so quickly that you barely have time to wrap your brain around such shitty news and then you’re on the operating table.
I guess that’s why I didn’t think twice when I was scheduled to meet with a plastic surgeon to discuss my options for reconstruction. I’ve just been going to all of my appointments like a little feeling-less robot, nodding, and asking all the questions I copied from the internet (Okay Google, what’s a DIEP Flap???). I think part of me had entertained the idea that I would have reconstruction- I’m only 29, after all. But another part of me, small at the time, wondered what would happen if I didn’t? What would I look like if I didn’t have breasts? Would I be okay with having implants? Would I ever feel like me again if I went through with the reconstruction? I couldn’t pin down how I felt, other than incredibly overwhelmed. It’s not easy to grasp the concept of losing a body part that you’ve kind of grown attached to. Literally.
Before I start shitting all over everything, let me just say that the surgeon and nurse that we met with were both professional and kind, and I know they were only doing their jobs. I am sure that many women have benefited from having them on their surgical teams. But both Justin (loving and supportive partner extraordinaire) and I were unsettled by the way that reconstruction was discussed, and how it was made to sound like my only logical next step. It’s an incredibly personal decision for any woman, and they should receive support and acceptance for whatever option they choose to pursue, but should also be given proper information about ALL of those options- not just the plastic ones.
Because I was still debating on what I wanted to do with my body, I asked the surgeon to give me his ‘sales pitch’, if you will, about my options, the pros and cons of each, the surgical methods, recovery time, etc. The surgeon broke out some tester implants and told me about how I would be able to “resume my normal daily activities” more easily if I had implants as opposed to prostheses. About how Justin’s daughter would feel more comfortable hugging me if I felt like the pre-surgery me. About how I would be able to wear swimsuits and low cut tops. About how it would beg less questions from people.
This isn’t what I meant. This isn’t what I want.
Oh, but good news! My nipples could be spared! Joy! I can have Barbie breasts with my own nipples- breasts that have no feeling, that serve no purpose other than to give me (read: everyone but me) the peace of mind that
nothing ever happened I look like a normal woman. I can go bigger, I can go smaller, I can do whatever I want! Yet, there’s the possibility that my nipples might NOT be able to be saved and then I’d just have round orbs stuffed under my skin. But, hey, no needs for bras, right?! Hah! Knee-slapper. Giggles all around.
When pressed about the option of not reconstructing, I was given a lot of flustered bullshit about why I wouldn’t want that and how it would look if I was *gasp* flat. The surgeon actually said that I “would be one of the only women under 30 that’s made that choice”. WRONG. I asked to see photos and this poor nurse, bless her heart, could not understand why I would want to see that. Instead, she showed me photos of nipple-sparing reconstruction. When I stated that they “looked like chewed up dog toys”, she got all huffy and said “Well, that’s a very blunt assessment.”
Oh, I’m sorry I made you uncomfortable. Let me just un-develop this cancer real quick and then neither of us will have to have this disgusting interaction.
Guess what? Having breasts does not make me any more or any less of a woman. My confidence and self-worth is not defined by what lives underneath my shirt. My gender identity is not at all affected by this surgery. When I get ripped out of that deep anesthesia sleep next Monday, I will still be me- smart, snarky, and sexy.
Over the weekend, I did a lot of research and reading about what life is like for women who choose to go breast-free. Forums were joined, questions were asked, testimonials were read. And I found that most of the women who were brave and open enough to be public about their decision were incredibly happy with it and have adapted back to their regular lives with ease. My brain and my heart finally came together and figured out that I wouldn’t be staying true to myself if I had reconstruction done. I think it was around 11:30 pm on Saturday night when I finally said ‘fuck it- time to embrace that boob-free life.’
Is it going to be hard? Yes. Am I going to have days where I regret everything? Probably, but not forever. Am I going to experience grief and loss associated with the surgery? Absolutely, and it’s totally normal. But this means that I no longer have to go through the stress of staying on top of my terrible, fiberadenoma-growing, lumpy, painful, cancer boobs.
I’m #blessed to have Justin, who has done nothing but love me and support me through this decision-making process, and who legitimately already loves my post-surgery body. No idea how that works, but it’s amazing and I am eternally grateful. I feel like he’s known the entire time that this is what I would eventually decide to do… So I might be losing my tits to cancer, but I’m not losing my life, and that’s really something.
Also, wtf surgeon. I’m the lady whose ex-husband called her a “lesbian” when she cut off her hair. So what did she do? She cut it shorter. Breast-free? Challenge fucking accepted.