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Get Over It, They're Just Breasts

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Jackie: More and more women are choosing preventive mastectomies, sparking huge debate. But what is society's fascination with boobs?

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New research has reported a dramatic increase in the number of women who choose to have both breasts removed, even when diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer in only one.

Why is everyone so damn shocked by this? Losing your breasts is not the end of the world here, people.

Women give birth, often via cesarean, have surgery (cosmetic and otherwise), and suffer sudden injuries -- all of which can leave lifelong scars or effects on the body -- and nobody bats an eye. But remove her breasts? The HORROR!

I can relate to their decision. These women, many of them moms, were told they have cancer. CANCER. It's something that makes a girl take stock of her life -- is she strong enough ... what would her kids do ... how will she get through it? When facing a disease that kills tens of thousands in this country every year, many find the best course of action for them is to have the cancerous breast removed. But what's causing such a commotion is the decision that while they're at it, they have the other removed -- a choice made certainly for peace of mind and possibly for aesthetic reasons. Would you buy one bookend without the other?

For those who can't understand why a woman would do it to protect herself and her family, you at least have to get why she'd want them to match, right? Because isn't that what breasts are for ... to look good?

Reconstruction has come a long way. And depending on the type of reconstruction a woman decides on, no one even has to know that a woman's breasts aren't original. While some opt for implants, others may choose a procedure called DIEP, where a surgeon removes fat from a woman's stomach, using it to fill out her new breasts. As an added bonus, those women actually get a tummy tuck out of the deal. Who couldn't go for that?

It's been three years since my own breasts were removed, and it's not in me to look back with regret. Soon after having my second baby, it was discovered that I have a genetic mutation that gave me an 87% chance of getting breast cancer in my lifetime -- a gene I share with my mother (who was 39 when she died), my deceased aunts, a sister, and several cousins. When doctors found a lump weeks later, I scheduled surgery immediately. I was looking to kick cancer's ass, not swat it aside for the time being.

Don't get me wrong, I had to work through it. No one goes through life wishing to have major surgery and body parts removed. I had to mourn the loss of what was. But there came a time when I had to move on. Having a mastectomy is something I went through, not something that defines me.

And while I may not be posing for Playboy anytime soon, let's be honest ... they weren't banging down my door presurgery, either. After carrying two kids -- one born at eleven pounds -- and breastfeeding both of them, my breasts looked like someone filled tube socks with sand, threw flapjacks on them, and slapped 'em on my chest. (Some of you know exactly what I'm talking about.) So let's not kid ourselves -- our breasts change whether we agree to it or not. It's just the way it is.

There is an upside to having my girls gone ... I haven't worn a bra in three years, have the perkiest hooters in the crowd, and wake up every morning not consumed by thoughts of cancer. So before you wonder who these women are that "mutilate" their bodies by choice (yes, someone said that to me), know that we're proud of our decision.

And in case you were wondering, let me tell you, they're fake and they're spectacular.


next: Nixing Nanny Resentment
13 comments so far | Post a comment now
Angela April 27, 2009, 4:45 PM

THANK YOU for posting this story! I also had a prophylactic mastectomy at the young age of 33 due to being positive for BRCA1. Sure, I miss my breasts, but I’d miss my kids more. I even wrote a poem about my breasts a month after the surgery. I haven’t yet had the reconstruction and have not decided either way if I will.

Beth in SF April 27, 2009, 5:10 PM

The only reason I wonder why they do it is there’s a significant chance that if you have a family history of breast cancer, you’re likely to still get cancer in other parts of your body, and you’re putting yourself through a really rough surgery for something that may not make a difference. I don’t care if women do it, I sometimes just wonder if it’s necessary.

Michelle April 27, 2009, 7:00 PM

As a young woman who is scheduled to see a genetic counselor next week due to her own family’s history with breast cancer…thank you, Jackie!

As with any decision about the body, opting to remove your breasts is a deeply personal decision and I truly feel that every woman knows what is right for her. Who am I to judge? All I can do is stand beside her and offer her the same unwaivering support I would like to have if I were in the same situation.

I honestly don’t feel that breasts make you a woman…and losing one or both doesn’t make you any LESS of a woman. I mean, when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and decided to have a single mastectomy, I cheered along beside her and rooted her on as she fought breast cancer and won.

Like you said, Jackie, “get over it…they’re just breasts.”

Chrissy April 27, 2009, 11:08 PM

Here’s a fact evryone should be aware - no doctor, let me repeat that, no doctor can remove ALL breast tissue. Which means you can still get breast cancer. Any anount of breast issue can can get cancer which is why men get breast cancer.
Second, why aren’t doctors promoting the removal of testes or the prostrate for men? Those cancers are believe to be genetically inheirted as well. Aren’t testes just testes? It just seems loopsided. Maybe because the medical industry (yes industry)is run by men?

Christine Bartsch April 28, 2009, 1:08 AM

“…my breasts looked like someone filled tube socks with sand, threw flapjacks on them, and slapped ‘em on my chest…”

You are simply fantastic, Jackie - in all respects.

Michelle April 28, 2009, 8:31 AM

Thank you for writing this article. I am one year post mastectomy. I had my left breast removed after I had a breast reduciton (yes, I see the irony)and they found cancer in the tissue they removed. My actions may seem drastic to some but until you look into the eyes of your 11 year-old-daughter and tell her you have cancer, don’t judge me. As mother’s we all do whatever we can to nurture and protect our children and it’s my job to do whatever I can to make sure I never have to say those words again. I’m still dealing with the emotional side of the surgery but I don’t regret it for a single moment.

tj clarke April 28, 2009, 2:09 PM

im glad u put this my cousin has cancer(breast canser)

Darren April 30, 2009, 11:30 AM

chrissy, good pt about being aware of the ability to get breast cancer without breasts (although the risk is much, much lower), but ‘testes just testes’? clearly, that’s a women talking :-).

testicles have a much bigger impact on a man’s sexual and hormonal well-being than breasts do for women. they produce semen and testosterone, while the breasts primary biological function is to create milk for offspring, which is frankly no longer necessary even for women still of childrearing age. for a man, the idea of losing his testicles is a frightening prospect indeed.

Darren April 30, 2009, 11:31 AM

chrissy, good pt about being aware of the ability to get breast cancer without breasts (although the risk is much, much lower), but ‘testes just testes’? clearly, that’s a women talking :-).

testicles have a much bigger impact on a man’s sexual and hormonal well-being than breasts do for women. they produce semen and testosterone, while the breasts primary biological function is to create milk for offspring, which is frankly no longer necessary even for women still of child-rearing age. for a man, the idea of losing his testicles is a frightening prospect indeed.

aerialla May 2, 2009, 9:03 AM

Thank you for this. I am a woman who has had many women in my family who have had one form of cancer or another. My husband and I have already made the decision that at the first sign of breast cancer I will have them both removed,and will have a hysterectomy at the first stages of either cervical or uterine cancer, both of which my 2 aunts died from. Just because the genetic parts of a female are taken away doesn’t make her any less a woman.

Toni May 3, 2009, 9:01 AM

Check out (www.ThePatientsAdvantage.com). I ran into them looking for breast reconstruction surgeons. They have a great way to find the best surgeons and it is completely free.

maria May 15, 2009, 4:17 PM

YOU GO GIRL!!! Good for you! I would do the exact same thing!!!

Wdzfbqak July 1, 2009, 3:46 AM

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