I was diagnosed in 2018 at the age of 41 with a 2.5cm IDC in my left breast beginning with a trip to the doctors with pain in my breast and what I thought might be a lump. I had three different types of chemo plus the trial drug Olaparib through the Addenbrookes Partner Trial.
Part of the Partner Trial included genetic testing and it was during my testing that they found I carried the faulty Brca1 gene. I remember looking up the statistics for Brca1 and being horrified at the risks. It was then that I started to consider a double mastectomy. Initially they were only going to remove my cancer breast but due to my Brca1 agreed immediately to a double mastectomy. I had to see a psychiatrist to ensure that I understood what I was asking (can you ever fully understand the impact of a double mastectomy) and off we went.
My surgeon couldn’t quite get his head around the fact that I did not want reconstruction. After so long in hospital the prospect of more operations was something I just couldn’t bear. Plus, I knew that I would be constantly obsessed that under my new breasts something might grow and I would miss it. I thought that perhaps if I made it to the magic “five years” I would reward myself with new breasts!
When they removed my breasts they weighed nine pounds. I was a FF/G cup on a curvy body and for me those breasts had always been my pride, my femininity and sexiness lay in them, they dictated what I wore, people spoke to them, my daughter fed from them, and my husband loved them.
Living without my breasts has been a journey. Imagining your breasts not being there is not the same as looking down and them being gone. I remember once the swelling went down being happy with how straight my scars were. But some of my squishy bits were still there. I have the famed “dog ears”, although I hate that description, mine aren’t flat and don’t hang down like ears, they’re just lumps of fat either side of my chest, I’ve gotten used to them now. I also have a patch of fat that spans the middle of my chest, in my house it’s lovingly called
Initially I realised that my clothes didn’t look quite right now I had no boobs. Deep V-necks with no cleavage looked odd, dresses with material cut for breasts, it felt like everything was made for people with breasts. Things that made me feel feminine and sexy no longer looked right. I tried using knitted knockers initially, then the pillow breasts they send you home from the hospital with, and then the heavier gel boobs from the NHS. None looked right. I couldn’t get them to sit right because of my monoboob, they weren’t the same size as my real breasts, or the same shape, so I went flat. I became worried that people would mistake me for a man because I had no breasts, so tied to femininity in my mind were these now missing lumps of flesh. I felt unattractive, manly, I felt that people stared, I threw out most of my wardrobe with clothes cut for breasts. I felt fat and ungainly. Where previously my beasts had taken away the attention from the rest of my curvy body, I felt that now there was nothing to draw the eye. My belly stuck out and there was nothing up top to balance it out. It
I am now the magic five years clear and recently my surgeon called me and asked me if I’d like reconstruction. It absolutely blind sided me. Did I want reconstruction? After all, that was my initial idea wasn’t it, that I go without for five years then put them back on? After some thought my answer is still no.
I have grieved the loss of my breasts. Through that grieving process I realised that it wasn’t breasts that I missed, the physical material, it was MY breasts. It was the memories of feeding my daughter, the intimacy, the feeling of them, the memories. I can never get that back with breast implants.
And so, I dress my curvy self differently nowadays. I wear bright colours and fun jewellery, I wear crocs and weird socks. I put slides in my hair and wear t-shirts with dinosaurs on them. I wear patterns that don’t go together. I am me so fully, so unashamedly, I am bright, weird, curvy me.
Do I still have moments where I am not confident, yes. Is it linked to my lack of breasts, maybe, maybe not. I still miss the part they played in intimacy and my confidence is still low in that aspect of my life but that’s OK. Do I feel sexy, as I felt with breasts? No I don’t think so, but am I happy? Yes!! It’s a different life, I’m here, I’m grateful, I am blessed and I am me, just without breasts. I realise now that my breasts weren’t who I am, they were just a small part, and maybe, just maybe, losing them has made space for the light to shine from me a little brighter.