It’s hard to believe this self-portrait is two years old. I took it a month after my 7th and final surgery on my chest 3 years after going flat in 2017. Today is International Flat Day and time for me to make some noise.
I love the way it feels, the physical and mental freedom it gives me, and the strength and resilience it stands for. Please never be afraid to ask me questions about my journey to get here. I want to help as many other women as possible avoid the nightmare I went through and learn to love their bodies the way they are meant to be.
I carry the BRCA1 genetic mutation; however, I’ve never had cancer. I had very dense breast tissue and the routine mammograms and MRIs I underwent starting in my mid-20s were awful. Consequently, after I stopped nursing my youngest child in 2013, I had to wait 6 months to finally get the breast MRI that pregnancy and nursing forced me to kick down the road. Unfortunately, the doctors found a 9mm lump and a corresponding angry lymph node that had me terrified.
And with my genetic mutation, I was at high risk for Triple Negative Breast Cancer, which is extremely aggressive.
A biopsy is ordered when you get a positive MRI. Even if negative for cancer like mine ended up being, a follow-up MRI is recommended for 6 months later. The biopsy was a nightmare of its own, the idea of this routine continuing overwhelmed me, and I knew it was time to remove the ticking time bombs that had brought so much fear into my life since receiving my BRCA1+ diagnosis in 1999. I didn’t want to live that way any longer.
On January 7, 2014, I had a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy and became a breast cancer previvor. My recovery was long and agonizing. Despite already being on hormone replacement therapy for my 2012 hysterectomy, I was thrust into a new level of surgical menopause, and I didn’t have the support I needed as a mom to three young children. I was living in hell. I went through 3 sets of implants and nonstop complications.
As far as I am concerned, the 7th surgery that I had in 2020 was the only cosmetic surgery I had. I had my nipples and lots of extra skin removed to finally get an aesthetic flat closure.
While post mastectomy breast reconstruction is considered medically necessary by insurance companies, I’m here to tell you that it is not necessary. You don’t need boobs. Your health and comfort are far more important than satisfying societal norms or hanging onto what once was. Trust me, I understand the loss, but your breasts are gone.
Appearing to have breasts is not worth butchering other parts of your body to recreate fleshy mounds on your chest. Nor is having toxic implants that your body will fight for the rest of your life. My breast implants permanently deformed my rib cage and created long-term autoimmune issues for me. That’s not to mention the trauma of putting my body through intense and unnecessary pain.
Here is a list of some of things being flat has improved in my life:
1. HUGS. This is the absolute best part of having a flat chest. Wonderful, tight, pain-free HUGS! Even my real breasts never would have allowed this level of comfort and closeness.
2. No bras. Right? Never again. I put on a sports bra last year to act as a swimsuit top and felt like I was suffocating. Nope! Nuh uh. I am so happy to never have to wear a bra again! When I decided on the mastectomy, I was told I wouldn’t need a bra for my implants, but they were so wrong. I needed a bra just to sleep with those awful things embedded in my chest. The weight of the implants alone was painful and I needed constant support and tight binding to minimize the pain.
3. Exercise. I’m more athletic now than I’ve ever been. I can run, jump, swim, swing an axe, lay out on the Ultimate frisbee field, you name it! No pain from bouncing boobs or foobs (that would be fake boobs).
4. Minimal Monitoring. Even if I still had breast implants, there really isn’t anything the doctors can do to monitor my chest. My breast cancer risks dropped from near 90% to single digits, but there is still a risk there. Being flat allows me to feel every inch of my chest and know with confidence that I’m free and clear.
5. Sensation. With implants, there were a few spots on my chest where I was hypersensitive, but most everywhere was completely numb. The implants were so cold in the winter, too! Brrr. Being flat, I still lack some surface sensitivity, but I can feel so much more now.
6. My children. I can’t get them tested for the BRCA1 mutation until they are 18, but I’m raising them to take care of their physical and mental health as if they are at increased risk. I hate the message I was sending my babies by putting my body through so much pain to meet our society’s boobilicious expectations. Now they see a strong and healthy mother who doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks about her body. I love my body and that’s all that matters. I’m determined to gift them the same self-love and strength.
Thanks for taking the time to read this far and please share with anyone you know facing the seemingly impossible mountain of decisions that comes with needing a mastectomy.