Trigger Warning: I’m gonna talk about cancer, and moving on to the “after cancer” phase in this post.
I have been on a journey over the last few weeks to really connect with myself and honor the healing process. What an absolute trip it is to watch your body change so much. In the last year, but especially the last nine months, I have seen my body accomplish and go through so many transformations.
It’s awkward and weird for me to talk about having had a “boob job” done. It just feels weird. I cast NO SHADE AT ALL for anyone that does this as an elective surgery. More power to you! No one but YOU gets to decide what you do with your body. Do what feels right for YOU. For most of my life I thought I would potentially do this surgery because of my natural un-even lopsidedness. (Oh honey, I was barely lopsided considering what I just experienced through cancer.) It was just a thought, I never took the time to save money for it or research. Until I had to.
When it is necessary to tell others about the surgery, why I have body restrictions right now, I’m quick to say “I’m fine. But I went through breast cancer and I did reconstruction surgery.”
Many things become clear about what people understand and misunderstand about breast cancer, breast surgery, mastectomies, lumpectomies, radiation, etc. People think you get a breast enhancement, or a saline implant and you get “new” breasts out of the whole situation.
No. Women that have had breast surgery due to cancer do not really get new breasts. Their breast(s) pre-cancer have left the building. Women that have had a single or double mastectomy and get another breast (or two), don’t really get breasts. They have to wait months and months to heal after surgery. In the meantime they may or may not have skin expanders put under the skin to stretch it, and the surgeon puts in more saline every few weeks to stretch the skin. IT.HURTS.A.LOT. They may or may not also need to do skin grafting from their back or other areas of the body, depending on what the surgeon feels works best to create an actual breast mound on the body. This is because they had ALL of their breast tissue removed. They do not get nipples. No, a tattooed nipple is not the same. They will be covered in scars forever, even if the scars are tucked under the breast…mostly. They may have lymph node removal scars. This is literally a massive misunderstanding in the breast cancer space. I know because people have asked a lot of and said a lot to me. Please: be thoughtful about the words you say to women (and men) that have experienced this. Please do not assume, and please follow their lead.
(No, I’m not upset at all, just educating.)
For me, I chose to do two lumpectomies. Sometimes women do a mastectomy after a lumpectomy comes back without clear margins, but that was not what I chose. I chose 2 lumpectomies, the second of which left a huge dent in my breast, a dent seen through my shirt. (I started wearing baggier shirts.) I went through 5 weeks of radiation. My entire right chest, from breast to armpit to collarbone to ribs have permanent skin changes, not to mention the internal changes (for good and bad). I have a diagonal line across my chest that is a deep tan line from radiation that will always be visible. My cancer breast is perma-tan. (hahaha) The radiation shrunk my cancer breast. It became tight and much higher on my body.
After radiation my body looked like a train wreck. So I chose to get reconstruction after a lot of debate and staring at my naked body and looking at photos I have taken of my breasts along the way. I knew it would always bother me, the major unevenness and the dent in my breast. Having one very taut and high breast and one lower and looser…I tried not to feel this way, but it made me mad. The cancer anger came out when I looked at my body, and I didn’t want to be mad at my body.
Now I’m really honestly covered.in.scars. I had what is called an “anchor surgery.” My surgeon cut around the nipple, leaving it attached with vessels but moving it up. He cut down under the nipple, and then a curve all the way under the breasts. He had to do work on both sides to even me up. My radiated/cancer breast is healing differently than the other side, as the skin is forever changed on that side. It is a huge trip, this experience.
So yeah. I’m glad it’s done. And one of the only things I can really do to get over the whole thing is to find some joy in the new “higher up” and slightly smaller breasts. I don’t regret doing it, but yeah, I wish I never had to. I enjoyed what my body was like before, and it is now permanently altered. I’ve been taking a lot of breast cleavage exposed selfies. The part you see looks ravishingly beautiful, if I do say so myself. I’m proud of it. But trust me…the rest of my breasts are covered in thick, raised, some parts painful, discolored, scars. It’s hard to touch them myself, and imagining sharing them with someone else…scary. And not happening for a looong time.
I’m not grumpy. I’m not angry. But I feel I have a responsibility to explain a little about what happens to the body when breast cancer is happening. My story is all I know, I don’t know much about what other women have experienced. But I know many women that have had lumpectomies (often called a partial mastectomy in the research) and double or single mastectomies. Some have had reconstruction, some have not.
Just please be careful what you say when someone has had to undergo surgery after surgery for breast cancer. There’s enough body dysmorphia going on for the person to manage already.
I promise you it has been a long story, and they are flat exhausted.
Namaste and love, my friend.