Not The Only One – Michele: What is flat?
What is flat?

Flat as a pancake? Flat as a board? That is not the reality of living flat. We have lumps and bumps, scars and seromas. Some have less and some have more. Some surgeons understand and endeavour to give us neat scars and others think we don’t know our own minds and leave extra skin in case we want reconstruction at a later date. It can be shocking and upsetting the first time the dressings are removed as “flat” after surgery is not the “flat” of our expectations. I was too scared to look initially as the district nurse removed the dressings but the reflection in the mirror was far better than the image I had conjured up in my mind. Choosing flat is simply living without breasts. The outcome is as individual as our cancer journey.

Before diagnosis I did not realise there were so many different types of breast cancers and treatments. I thought cancer was cancer and chemo was a universal drug. I am still learning all the time and the ladies of Flat Friends educate me every day.

I am very proud to be a moderator for Flat Friends. I am sad that so many ladies need our help but I am also so appreciative of our beautiful, supportive community that never judges, always helps members in distress, and celebrates life.
What shocks me most is the daily fight that women have to go through to have a mastectomy with no reconstruction. It is even harder to get a “healthy” breast removed for symmetry. We have to jump through hoops and it is a real postcode lottery. We are treated as strange that we don’t want reconstruction. That we don’t appreciate the feminine form or want to look good for our partners. We are refused surgery even though that surgery is far simpler, quicker and cheaper than reconstruction.

We are not strange. We know our own minds and bodies. We know how we want to live.

It is a very personal choice and I decided on no reconstruction for many reasons. Firstly, I wanted the shortest operation and recovery time so that I could move on to treatment without complications. I did not want a foreign body in my chest which could cause me problems in the future. I did not want future surgeries when the implant needs changing. I know that my skin does not heal well. I did not want any sneaky cancer cells lurking behind an implant causing major anxiety. It took a few days to come to this decision after talking to my family, breast care nurse and surgeon. Luckily I had the full support of my husband, family and surgeon. Not all women are that fortunate.

I lived with one breast for a year until I had a second mastectomy for symmetry last October. Often I forget they have gone. I love not having to wear or buy a bra ever again. I have never worn a prosthesis and never will. They are just not for me. Too hot and uncomfortable. I sometimes catch people looking at my chest area and wondering but that is their issue not mine. I did what I had to do to survive and live how I want to live.

I just hope that in the future more women are listened to and given the surgery they want
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