Tuesday, 4 June 2013


Before I had my right breast removed, I couldn't imagine my body without it. The days leading up to the operation were difficult. I tried hard to prepare for it's absence, but it was impossible, inconceivable.

I never wanted a reconstruction, hating the idea of unnecessary further surgery. Besides, anaesthetic suppresses the immune system (as do the inevitable subsequent anti-biotics and pain-killers), and I was trying to boost my immune system to deal with any residual cancer. I was working hard to detoxify, so the idea of loading my liver with toxins was counter-intuitive. I disliked the idea of silicon in my body, a foreign object that would permanently remind me of what I had lost. I didn't even consider the more complicated surgeries which would involve taking fat and skin from my belly and back. I imagined a body-map of scars and a possible franken-boob. My final, absolute no-no was allowing a surgeon to 'match' my remaining, (and let's face it, after 28 months of breast-feeding, well worn) breast, to it's new perky, plastic counterpart. Cutting into my healthy breast, and leaving it potentially lacking sensitivity seemed a little crazy.

The worst part of the operation was the tubes which were sewn into the surgery site to drain off lymph fluid, and their removal a few days later. I can't honestly say that I remember pain, more bruising and tightness, which continued for some months.

Mastectomy and Lymphadenectomy scars

Naturally, it took time to get used to my new body. It was uncomfortable, and I got a shock every time I saw myself in the mirror. I guarded my surgery site with my arm, scared that my children would hurt me as they came in to land for cuddles. Looking back, I resembled a bird with a broken wing. It took a while to get full mobility back in my arm, and the area under my armpit is still a little numb. That first summer I hated my prosthesis; a hot, sweaty burden, heavy and unnatural. But I'm a sucker for symmetrical, so I persevered.

Now I wear my scars with pride, they're thin and the wounds are well healed. And what are scars if not a visual reminder of survival?

My husband, amazingly supportive throughout, has no issues with his one-breasted wife, and I still walk around naked in front of my sons. They're all totally un-phased by my missing body part, if a little unimpressed by my immodesty!!!

These are intensely personal decisions, and I make no judgement of what others choose. I understand the weight of attachment to a breast and the potential loss of identity post-mastectomy. For me, I simply accept my new body, and that makes me happy.

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