Please tell me one more time about how my breast reconstruction after mastectomy was cosmetic surgery?
©Garrincha / Adobe Stock
I had big breasts. The kind that drew attention and required serious bras to contain. I used to make light of my cleavage and would frequently remind my friends that my breasts were “just blobs of fat” and that they were on a continuous downward path. When someone complimented me on them, I would say, “Thank you! I grew them myself.” I thought they were an amusing and somewhat helpful asset to have.
Let’s talk about my breast reconstruction after mastectomy
Of course, when I heard the dreaded words, “tissue changes,” “breast cancer,” “mastectomy,” and “mastectomy reconstruction,” nothing about my breasts seemed funny anymore. My breast humor began to wane as I went through the biopsy, the lumpectomy and the double mastectomy, although I would still crack a reconstruction joke or two about “growing new boobs” and dropping into the doctor’s office for a fill-up. I even asked my women friends to help me decide on a size. Should I go back to the DDs or go with a more modest dimension?
I got through the surgical experience, finished the reconstruction, and even had nipples created and tattooed. My new breasts looked okay in clothes, but I knew that they had “seams” that made me look like a cheaply molded Barbie doll. The hair that used to grow around my nipples was now located in a southern clime, and I had minimal feeling in my solid bumps. Still, I was alive and well and didn’t need a bra anymore. My breasts just did not move. To this day, I will demonstrate this fact by jumping up and down for my companions.
I had breast reconstruction after a mastectomy – not a boob job
One particular male friend had always been fascinated by my breasts and felt free to comment on them. One day as we were eating lunch, he decided to make me feel better about my post-cancer situation by saying, “Your new boobs look better than your old ones. You have such perky breasts now.”
I looked at him stunned and angry – in actual shock. I could not fathom why he thought his remark was comforting. My breasts were gone. Something that was a part of my sexuality had been lopped off. And he thought that somehow having perky breasts made everything okay.
“My breasts were gone. Something that was a part of my sexuality had been lopped off. And he thought that somehow having perky breasts made everything okay. ”
I wanted to slap him or, at the very least, pour a cup of cheese soup on his head.
Instead, I stayed calm. I realized he genuinely thought I’d had a simple boob job. After all, he knew I’d had implants, so how was that different than some woman who wanted to take her Bs to Ds? I decided to educate him and anyone else who was listening. Thus began the awkward conversation.
My breast reconstruction after mastectomy was about me – not you
I explained to him that my breast reconstruction after mastectomy was nothing at all like a breast enhancement. First, all my breast tissue had been removed, which definitely doesn’t happen in an enhancement. Nothing was cushioning my implants. They did not feel normal to me or to anyone who touched them.
Since my cancer had been too close to my nipples, I couldn’t safely keep them. Sure, I had nipples created so they’d mimic the look of a natural breast through clothing, but when they were naked? Obviously fake. The tattooed areolas were a nice touch, but they were a little like using wood-patterned wallpaper in your study: no one was going to mistake them for the real thing.
Read more: What to say to a coworker who has cancer?
Worse than that, my breasts were totally numb at that point, although I regained some feeling as the years went by. While some women who get “boob jobs” do lose some feeling, they aren’t having their nerve endings severed. If a sexual partner wanted to “go there,” fine, but it didn’t do anything for me at all. I did admire my boyfriend’s persistence in the matter, however. He would give it the old college try to prove to me my breasts weren’t an issue for him.
Nothing about my breast reconstruction after mastectomy was sexy
Finally, I told my friend that breast reconstruction was not sexy. Nothing about the process was meant to be a turn-on for a guy. I think some men get confused at this point because they believe women get breast plastic surgery to please them – which is another subject that needs exploring. My decision to have reconstruction was about how I would live in my new body. I thought my “fake boobs” would help me adjust to my loss. I never, ever thought they were a trade-in for “perky breasts.”
And even if these gravity-defying models looked great in a tight sweater, they were certainly not an upgrade. Believe me, I would take my sagging, too-large breasts back in a minute if I could. They were my flesh, my buddies, my annoyances. Mine.
Unfortunately, I don’t think he ever got it. If my breasts looked good to the casual observer, he figured I’d come out all right. I was healthy and had a decent rack and was clearly over-reacting to a compliment. But to be fair, he didn’t know what losing a body part was like.
His praising my new improved models made me feel misunderstood entirely. He would have made me feel better by complimenting my spirit, my attitude or my humor. Admiring my perky silicone? Not the way to go.
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