People thank me for being so open and vulnerable – in my blog posts and especially on LinkedIn.
I live by “we’re only as sick as our secrets,” which I first heard in Al-Anon decades ago. I know (believe) that every time I share something that’s unguarded and personal – and usually at least a wee bit tough to share – someone will have needed to hear it. To know that they’re not alone. That there is hope. That #weareallinthistogether.
But this one is difficult for even me to share, because I’m about to write about something that we just don’t talk about in our society. Not in public and not in “mixed company” (whatever that actually means).
Breasts. I’m going to write about breasts. Or actually, no breasts.
I was nearly two months into my cancer journey and just starting out on my chemo journey, when the feeling everyone assured me that I would have finally hit me. I had been told multiple times that I would get through the surgery and the chemo and then it would all be behind me. That cancer would be “in my rearview mirror.”
I can tell you now that that’s not true. At all. It’s not in my rearview mirror. And probably won’t ever completely be. But that’s another blogpost.
It was a Tuesday afternoon. I was standing in the kitchen, relishing the fact that I somehow believed that there would be an end (a good end) to all of this. That I would actually be through it and over it.
Then I got the call from the genetics counselor. “You’ve tested positive for BRCA2,” she said, and everything came crashing back onto me.
BRCA2 meant that I was way more susceptible to breast cancer. Way more.
The decision to remove my breasts was an absolute no-brainer for me. They’d done their job and served me (and my breast-feeding children) well. There was no way they were worth any cancer risk. Even if we could monitor me carefully and “catch it early.”
The decision to “go flat” (to not have reconstruction) was also a no-brainer. The hardest part of that was probably finding the terminology “going flat” and then finding the right doctor for the surgery.
It was a no-brainer to me, but seemingly weird for other people. A lot of other people. It became clear that people assumed I’d have reconstruction or that, if I didn’t have reconstruction, I would certainly wear prosthetics that made it look like I had had reconstruction. That I would not proudly flaunt my new, no-breast body.
That was not my choice. My choice was to go flat and be flat. And to be proud of and comfortable with it and with my new body. My very scarred body.
I do absolutely love it. I’m absolutely comfortable with it. It absolutely feels right and wonderful and good to me. (Well, now that the scars are healing and healing well. My “no-breast surgery” was in January, and healing takes time.)
But it also feels weird in the world, because it feels like the world is weird with it.
No one seems to want to talk about it, other than on going flat and top surgery Facebook groups. I get that people are respecting my privacy, and I get that my breasts were quite small, so maybe there’s not that much of a difference. But there is a difference. As much as I don’t really care what other people think, it just feels weird to think that other people are possibly thinking about it or looking at me and wondering…and we don’t talk about it. Just like some people wouldn’t talk or ask about my cancer or my health. Perhaps if I’d had some other body part removed, we’d talk about it. Or perhaps we just don’t talk about these things at all. That feels weird to me. I know it’s just me, but it feels weird to me.
It feels weird that people ask me things like, “Will your bathing suit tops still fit?” Why would I wear a bathing suit top? What have I got to cover, especially in the heat?
So, I just had to come clean and write an ode to my flat chest.
I don’t need anyone else to talk to me about it, but if you want to ask me questions, and you want to ask me how I feel, I will absolutely answer. I will also absolutely wear tight shirts that flaunt my flatness and no shirt riding the waves at the beach.
My choice is to go flat and be flat. To be proud of and comfortable with it and with my new body. To absolutely love it and absolutely flaunt it and absolutely celebrate it.
It is proof that I am here. I am fully and wholly here.
If you have been in ANY high control group or religion, share your story with the hashtag #IGotOut. Share on your own platform OR if you need to be anonymous and/or would like support, there are resources at the @igotout_org website.
When you see a survivor share their story, let them know they have been heard. This is such a meaningful part of the movement. We all need to know we’re not alone.
If you know someone who has been harmed by a high demand group, share #igotout posts or stories you think would help them.
Together we can bring awareness to how many of us have been harmed by high control organizations and end the shame or stigma we might feel about our experiences.
Tell your story
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Find out more at igotout.org