Gabbie: An unusual choice?
An unusual choice?
When I first considered going flat, I didn’t even know that ‘flat’ was the term for it. What I did know was this: I didn’t like the idea of implants, and I didn’t like the idea of messing with another area of my body to harvest tissue. I also knew that with young children – at the time of my BRCA2 diagnosis, a two-year-old and an about-to-be-born baby – I didn’t want a long recovery after surgery. ‘It’s not the usual choice,’ my genetic consultant said, when I first raised the idea of not reconstructing my breasts. Not usual. Unusual. Abnormal. Odd. It’s amazingly off-putting, isn’t it, to be told that you are deviating from the norm? Luckily, I’ve never been fussed about conforming to the mainstream – as a teenager, I sported multi-coloured dreadlocks! I wasn’t deterred by the idea of not doing what ‘everyone else’ does. What I did want was to see a photograph of someone without a reconstruction who looked a bit like me, to help me visualise the scars on my own body. Try them on in my mind. See if I was okay with them. Golly though, it was tough to find pictures of other young women who had gone down this route! After a lot of fruitless googling, I hit gold when I stumbled across Flat Friends UK, Sarah Coombes at Flatter Fashion, Samantha Vale at and the #mastectomy hashtag on Instagram. Here was what I needed: beautiful, proud women, who had embraced their new bodies and could empower me to do the same. As I looked at the images they had so generously shared, I vowed that when my surgery was over, I would put pictures of myself online to help other women following along this path. Some of my friends were concerned when I told them I wasn’t going to reconstruct. ‘You know,’ one friend said on the phone, ‘I think there’s a thing in our social circles that you shouldn’t care about the way you look. But… It’s okay to care about aesthetics. Nobody’s going to judge you for having a reconstruction.’

he thing was though, I did care about the way I looked! But seeing other flat women online had made me realise that I could still look good with no breasts. I could look feminine with no breasts. I could wear cool clothes with no breasts! Going flat didn’t have to consign me to a life of sweatshirts and jogging bottoms and feeling deformed. I could own this new body. I was confident that I could.

In the months before the surgery, I spent plenty of time looking in the mirror. Flattening down my breasts with my hands, imagining what my new silhouette would look like. If I’d had the skills to Photoshop pictures of myself flat, I would have done! For me, this was crucial mental preparation. I didn’t want to be shocked when I was confronted with my new self in the mirror.

My prophylactic double mastectomy took place towards the end of the first wave of the pandemic. By this time, I’d been so scared by the prospect of not having the surgery – and potentially developing breast cancer in the meantime – that the surgery itself had become less daunting to me. I had to go alone to the hospital, but my heart was full of gratitude that I was able to go at all.

I remember taking off my bra before the surgery, and folding it up to put away in my bag. It seemed so surreal that I would not be putting it on again to go home. Then I sat in my hospital gown, all marked up with the surgeon’s Sharpie, and I quietly said goodbye to my breasts.

Waking up after surgery, the thing that most struck me was that I still felt like myself. I didn’t miss my boobs at all. As the days wore on and I began to brave clothes other than pyjamas, I realised I still looked like myself, too. A bit like going from wearing glasses to contact lenses, or vice versa, it was just a question of getting my brain adjusted to my slightly altered appearance. And once I was used to it, I didn’t really notice it any more.

In a way, going flat has been the most positive thing ever I’ve done for my body confidence. It has forced me to look at my physical self – really look – and interrogate what I don’t like about my appearance, and ask myself why. Is my stomach wider than my chest now? Yes, it probably is! Does that matter? No, not really! I am trying to see my body for what it is: a body that has created and sustained my two beautiful children, a body that houses my ideas and my feelings and my memories, a body that lets me run and jump and breathe.

In trying out clothes to suit my new shape, I’ve also reconnected with my sense of personal style. I genuinely feel better about the way I look than I have done in years. Maybe ever. And honestly? I’m not even sure that strangers usually notice my flat chest.

So yes, going flat after a mastectomy is not the usual choice. But it’s a choice, and a valid one. And for some of us, it’s the perfect fit. I listened to my heart on this one, and I am glad that I did.

You can follow Gabbie on Instagram @booblesswonder
Scroll to Top