Does size matter?

This post is all about boobs.

 

(I’m trying to attract more male readers).

 

Go out to a public place with a lot of traffic, and take a look around.  You will find women of all shapes and sizes.

 

(Be cool about this, I don’t need any of you going to jail for lewd behavior).

 

The size of a woman’s breasts is something very personal to her.  They may be too big or too small, but they are hers.   One of the great insults of breast cancer is suddenly having them altered whether you want it or not.  Woman endure single or double mastectomies.  They decide to remain flat, or undergo reconstruction to attempt to regain the look that makes them comfortable.   Even women who have a lumpectomy, like me, end up with breasts that are different sizes and shapes due the amount of tissue removed and the effects of radiation.

 

Which is why I underwent a bilateral reduction a few months ago to even out the size and thin out the scar tissue from radiation.  Despite on-going complications and the need for a skin graft, I am thrilled with my results.  I feel like me again.   I don’t see a reminder of my cancer journey every time I look down.  Cancer may come back, but that will be a new chapter.   This chapter is done.

 

During my time making these decisions,  I have talked with countless women to hear their stories and get other opinions.  Not just cancer survivors, but also women undergoing voluntary breast reductions or prophylactic mastectomies (what my surgeon referred to as the “full Angelina Jolie”).  And it has raised some interesting conclusions about size.  It’s heartening to see the options that women have, not just to counteract cancer,  but to take charge over other body issues.  Breast size can cause back problems, headaches, and increased cancer risk.  It is not just about body image.  In many cases, women liked their old breasts, but felt they needed the surgery to solve physical problems.

 

What I find troubling is the amount of obsession so many woman have over the “number”.  I see many ladies unhappy with their surgery results because they went to be measured, and their new bra size is too big or too small.  Or they were measured in several stores, and got a variety of sizes, none of which they wanted.  The issue is that they had no complaints until they were measured.  So is the actual size that important to our psyche?

 

The problem is how fickle size is.  Clothing manufacturers are notoriously bad about consistently sizing their clothes.  This is why we try things on before buying them.  It is not a personal failing, or a result of a poor surgeon, if we have to buy a bra that is a size bigger or smaller than our vision.  We, as women, need to look in the mirror and ask if we like what we see.  Certainly, if the answer is “no”, we should pursue revisions or other options.  But let’s make that about reality, not an arbitrary size.

 

In actuality, size does matter.  What does not matter is the little white label in your bra.  It’s time to cut it out and be free.

 

For more information on navigating your breast cancer journey, visit our website,  www.driventosurvive.org.

 

 

 

 

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Healthy choice

Life is about choices.  We face them everyday.  Some of my hardest choices have been about cancer treatment.  Is it aggressive enough?  Is it worth the side effects?

 

When I was faced with my surgery options, I was frozen.  I was numb.  I was terrified.  You name it.  I had never imagined what I would think when faced with the prospect of a mastectomy,  but I didn’t expect that.  I had some first-hand observations.  My mom had a mastectomy back when I was 4 or 5.  I used to play with her prosthesis,  and the need for it was not a mystery to me, even at that age.  And that’s perhaps why the idea so petrified me at the last minute.

 

I followed my doctors’ advice.  In the end, they told me I was a candidate for a lumpectomy,  and left the decision up to me.  I went with the lumpectomy.  It made sense, or so I told myself.  After all, it was an easier surgery with less recovery time.  I likely wouldn’t need additional surgery.  And most importantly – I didn’t have to make the hardest decision of my life.

 

Was it the best decision?  I don’t know, although I try not to second guess myself.   It still was a legitimate decision based upon the information at the time.  What I couldn’t have guessed at was the reality.  I couldn’t have foretold that I would have to undergo a second surgery a week later to remove more lymph nodes.   I would not have predicted that I would end up with an incision that would split open, and not close up for nine months.  It never would have occurred to me that I would end up with a fist-sized lump of scar tissue underneath a 2″ X 4″ scar that hurts constantly and is a great predictor of rain.  Or a breast that shrank a size smaller than the healthy side after radiation.

 

I won’t say it’s bad, but my radiation oncologist refers to me as “the scar”.  My plastic surgeon put it even more baldly, “What the hell did they do to you?”  I’m really not concerned about the appearance, but I’m tired of it aching and hurting.  And the nerve pain that it causes periodically in my arm.  And the fact that it feels like one big lump, such that all my doctors tell me that they can’t feel if anything else is there.   When I first went for a consult with the plastic surgeon,  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, if anything.   As I have followed up with him, my reaction has surprised me.  I told him to reduce the mangled side as much as he can, as well as evening out the good side.  I told him that even a mastectomy was on the table, if that was what it took.

 

The ease of that last statement shocked me.  I’ve changed so much in the last two years.  Losing my breasts is not the worst thing that can happen to me.  I’ve met so many women who have faced this decision so much more bravely than me, and I realize now it’s not the end of the world.   I understand how important the rest of me is.  And I know what a warrior my mom was, and I want to think I have a bit of that badassery in me.

 

So tomorrow is my surgery.  Currently, it is a bilateral breast reduction that will hopefully make me more comfortable and pain free, as well as giving me peace of mind by removing some extra tissue.  But I’m prepared for any outcome now or in the future.

 

My choice.  Because I’m not ruled by fear.