Thanks for the mammaries
Take them both off” were the first words out of my mouth when I was diagnosed and it became my mantra at every single appointment, scan, chemo – if a medical person was in earshot, it was out my mouth before I knew it. In fact, a porter and a housekeeper ears were assaulted by this phrase too on separate occasions, such was my determination that everyone who mattered and even those who didn’t were aware of my decision from the outset.
Don’t get me wrong I LOVED my boobs. They were small and not so perfectly formed but they were mine and looked good in a push up bra. They had fed my four hungry boys well past a year each and I was in fact feeding my youngest when I was diagnosed. I also donated my milk twice to the human milk bank, which was given to numerous premature babies. I took my love of boobs and breastfeeding a step further when I became a qualified NHS breastfeeding peer supporter to help new mums with the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding in those tricky first days and weeks. All in all, you could say that my boobs played a HUGE role in my life and worked harder than most people’s boobs over a lifetime. BUT they NEVER defined me.
The decision to have both my boobs removed was a no brainer for me. I know that a bilateral mastectomy does not reduce the risk of reoccurrence for me as my cancer is TNBC and not genetic, but I didn’t find a lump on my breast, it was a swollen lymph node and puling pain in my armpit which alerted me to my cancer. Neither the GP nor the Breast Care Nurse could feel a lump, but when I had an ultrasound the radiographer said the ominous words “I can see something suspicious” and it was in fact a rather large Triple Negative breast cancer tumour residing in my rather small left boob. The idea that cancer could creep up on me silently again despite my monthly self-examinations and yearly mammogram was too much to cope with. When I do something, I give it my all – always 100% – and my journey with breast cancer was no different.
Having to stop breastfeeding my baby was the most traumatic and heart wrenching experience of my entire cancer story. I was advised to gradually give up and not stop on day of my first chemo as I would always associate it with cancer. DOH – for me it made no difference when I stopped as I would ALWAYS associate the abrupt end of my breastfeeding journey with cancer. So, I cherished, photographed, cried, screamed and boobed my way through the two weeks between diagnosis and chemo starting. Our last feed was on my first day of chemo. It was emotional, traumatic and poignant yet weirdly calming that I knew that this was the end of an era and I was able to document it with lots of photos and cuddles. This was by far the hardest thing I had to do during the 9 months of cancer.
For me personally, I believe my boobs were sending me a message to stop, re-evaluate my priorities, enjoy my life and appreciate everyone and everything more. Cancer is a life changing diagnosis, but I feel it has changed my life for the better and I am a calmer, live for the moment, happier, don’t sweat the small stuff person now. For this reason I wanted to show my boobs the respect they deserved and so I threw them an awesome “Thank you for the Mammaries” party complete with boob cake, which actually had a bigger cup size than my boobs! All my closest friends and family gathered to celebrate with me to give my boobs the send-off they deserved. This party was a catalyst for a series of surreal events. I made it on to the front page of the Daily Record, I was interviewed by Kaye Adams on BBC Scotland and I even appeared on BBC Breakfast.
On the morning of my op I pulled on my epic bad taste “Christmas Boob bauble” jumper which I wore right up until I walked to theatre. I thanked and said goodbye to my girls – tata titties – and fell into a lovely sleep, waking up flat and relieved.
My scars are absolutely beautiful and I am proud to show them off at any opportunity. For me living life completely flat is no different to living with small boobs pre-cancer. After a very unfortunate experience with chicken fillets on my wedding day, I knew I couldn’t be bothered with the hassle, so I refused my prothesis appointment and have never worn my knitted knockers. Embracing and rocking the flat look like a boss. I find the more confident you are, the less likely anyone is to notice.
Neither my boobs nor my scars define me, they tell part of my story and are testament to the strong, independent woman I am and will continue to be. I am me, I am beautiful and I am enough with or without boobs!.