You’re probably wondering what a flathlete is. Considering I just came up with the word and couldn’t find so much as a hint of it on Google, I’m going to claim it as a Tammy original. I am a flathlete. I am defining flathlete as someone who became an athlete after mastectomy and “going flat”. You either suffered through the torture of trying to conform to societal norms with breast implants before learning to love your flat chest like I did. Or you made the wise decision to skip that painful nonsense.
Like most kids, I dabbled in a variety of sports. But, only until I started playing the saxophone in 5th grade. That quickly became a passion. It not only took up most of my time outside of school. But, I also found myself protecting my hands from injury. So, no sports. Ironically, in the process of becoming successful as a performance major in college, I was forced to quit due to medical issues. I suffered from severe TMJ trauma and have struggled with jaw pain and limitations my whole life. I did play ultimate frisbee for a few years in my mid-20s, but mommyhood happened.
When I was only 23, I found out that I carried the BRCA1 mutation 1999. I was encouraged to live my best life. Doctors said to have my children, but to stay vigilant and prepare to have a full hysterectomy once my family was complete. When my third baby was 6 months old, I had a preventative bilateral salpingo oophorectomy and hysterectomy. I was literally gutted and immediately put on hormone replacement therapy, which I still maintain just over 11 years later.
Just a year and a half later, I’d have my prophylactic mastectomy. You can read more about my mastectomy and journey becoming flat and fab here. Basically, I lived a total nightmare. I had 7 surgeries between January 2014 and July 2020. That included three sets of implants (two of which were eventually recalled) and never-ending complications. I went through divorce and I was forced to down-size my living space.
After the third set of implants was installed in late 2016, the chest discomfort was finally minimized enough that I could run. I had already been laying down quite a few miles daily walking my stress away. But, the running brought a new level of healing (and pain lol). I also got a lot stronger through the process of fixing a never-ending list of unexpected home repairs on my own. More complications including a life-threatening infection forced me to have my implants removed yet again. I finally realized that I no longer needed to conform to the expectations of our booblicious society. Honestly, I’m kind of embarrassed that it took me that long. I had very few “womanly parts” left, but I was a strong and independent woman ready to take on even more.
I can’t put into words how amazing it felt to exercise without the tightness and weight of the implants. Right away (and still today), I realized the limitations that the implants created. Heck, it became obvious how many ways my natural breasts had gotten in the way, too.
I believe it was late Summer 2018 when I drove past the old football stadium in Manhattan, KS, where I live. There was a group of people playing a pick-up game of ultimate frisbee. This was about a year after I went flat. Yes, I’d already trained for and received first place in my age group at the local triathlon. But, for some reason, seeing that ultimate game was a big turning point for me. I was alone in my car at the time, but I remember saying out loud, ”I can play ultimate again!” I patted my chest with the palm of my hand and realized I could probably even lay out for the disc. Yes!
I love that my kids joined me for ultimate fun, too!
And now in my late 40’s, I love that I am healthy enough to jump up and go anytime one of my kids needs a running partner.
In 2021, I decided to participate in the Rugged Maniac in Kansas City. The friends who had planned to go with me, were unable to make it. But, I made some new friends in the parking lot when I arrived! When we got to the end of the race to enjoy the free beer, one of my new friends complained a bit.
“Enh, it wasn’t so bad,” teased.
“No? YOU go do it, again.”
“Hold my beer.”
I did the Rugged Maniac again in September 2023 with my 15 year old daughter, Annika. We had a blast!
This year, I’ve fallen in love with Eat the Frog Fitness. It’s perfect for me because it has a wonderful and diverse community, awesome instructors to help me figure out how to get the most out of this aging body, and a class structure that holds me accountable and keeps me from getting bored. Super cool gym! And Little Leapling Photography has recently been added as a Frog Perk, so members can earn discounts off their photo shoot with me using their hard earned frog points!
I’m 47 years old now and not getting any younger. But, I’m much healthier and more athletic in my mid-40s than ever before. I feel like I am constantly discovering new aches and pains, and have plenty of aging woes to begrudge. I’ve struggled with a lifetime of chronic pain, and I’ve learned when it’s okay to push through it and when to listen to my body. I can more easily shift from the self-care of exercising to taking it easy. I’m constantly figuring out alternative workout plans to avoid injury. But, I have every intention of enjoying this very active, boobless body for many years to come.
If you are someone facing the prospect of losing your breasts, I hope you will consider saying “no thank you” to breast implants. I participate in several flattie support groups that I wish I had come across before my mastectomy. It had never even occurred to me to go flat from the start. That is my biggest regret through this journey. If I can spare other woman the pain and misery I suffered by helping to normalize becoming a flattie, it was all worth it.
October 7, 2023