Looking for a ‘shortcut’ to bigger better boobs? Breast cancer ain’t it

9 Jul

Elisabeth Dale of TheBreastLife.com asked me to do a guest post on her blog the other day, which worked out quite well because I was in the middle of a hissy fit about something I find particularly irksome: people who think breast cancer is some kind of golden opportunity to get “bigger, better boobs.”

Here’s the start to my post and a link to the website where you can read the whole shebang:

I was talking to a breast cancer buddy the other day — one of the lucky ones who found her cancer at Stage 0 and got away with a minor lumpectomy — and was amazed and horrified at something she told me.

Apparently, while she was still learning about the staging of her disease, a handful of her friends told her they thought breast cancer was a great opportunity to improve her boobs (my friend’s always been small-breasted). As in, “You should totally do a double mastectomy and then get the boobs of your dreams.”

As someone who’s not only had a double mastectomy but is also currently researching reconstruction, I’d like to offer a little insight into this idea that breast cancer is a convenient way to “upgrade” your girls.

To read more, click here.

I got the “Now you can get bigger, better boobs!” chestnut from a few people after I was diagnosed. And have heard other BC survivors talking about people who’ve thrown that at them, as well. What about you? Have people told you how “lucky” you are to be losing your old/small/droopy breasts to cancer because now you can get bright, shiny new ones? Let me know. Maybe we can start a mob. ; )

14 Responses to “Looking for a ‘shortcut’ to bigger better boobs? Breast cancer ain’t it”

  1. chemobrainfog July 9, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    I’m in the mob. You missed a great twitter chat tonight about this very topic. Yes… definitely worthy of a mob… I’m thinking Flash Mob. Should shut some people up quick and in a hurry….

    • singleshot1 July 10, 2012 at 9:25 am #

      Sorry I missed the Twitter chat on this, AnneMarie! I’m continually amazed at the stupid things people say to women with breast cancer. I guess the silver lining is that I’m not one of those women saying stupid things any more. Nothing like a double mastectomy, chemo and radiation for raising your “awareness.” ; )

  2. Mod_Librarian July 10, 2012 at 10:54 am #

    The complications list for double mastectomy with implant reconstruction included such terrors as infection, skin necrosis, fat necrosis (because I had simultaneous and painful fat grafting). Add to that the fact that capsular contracture can occur at any point with implants which are an item needing to be changed in a surgical manner at various points. And, if you were not left with your own nipples, the myriad ways to rebuild fake ones bereft of sensation features interesting disclaimers like “nipple failure” or death if the blood flow is compromised. Argh!

    • singleshot1 July 10, 2012 at 11:24 am #

      Argh, indeed, Mod_Librarian. Someone who commented on my piece over on http://www.thebreastlife.com even developed gangrene during her reconstruction. It’s incredible what women are expected to put up with. Insult to injury – the idiots who tell us it’s all worth it because we’ll come out of it with wonderful new big boobs. [Facepalm]

  3. Mandi July 12, 2012 at 9:08 pm #


  4. The Accidental Amazon July 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm #

    This might end up being a duplicate comment, but just acknowledging this with an enormous, weary sigh. We humans. What a species. So many neurons, so much stupidity.

    The best breast improvement would have been not being diagnosed with cancer in the first place.

  5. Pink Kitchen July 30, 2012 at 9:39 am #

    I couldn’t agree more. Bigger? Possibly. But better? In what universe???

  6. Beth L. Gainer July 31, 2012 at 5:14 am #

    Oh, I hear you loud and clear. I’ve received that comment, as well as “and you get a tummy tuck as well”! Reconstruction is no walk in the park, but too many people have thought I was so lucky to get “cosmetic surgery.” As someone who’s had a double mastectomy with reconstruction, “upgrading” was not exactly first and foremost on my mind.

  7. Melly Testa August 21, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    I thought maybe you would like to read an article I just wrote on going flat, gender and breast cancer: http://www.rolereboot.org/life/details/2012-08-i-chose-to-live-as-a-flat-chested-woman-after-breast

    There is no ‘upgrading’ here, my body is good enough for me.

    • singleshot1 August 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

      Thanks for sending, Melanie. I knew I wanted new breasts the minute my surgeon told me I would be losing my girls, but I don’t have them yet. At first, the delay in reconstruction had to do with the recommended six months wait post radiation. But three other months have gone by since then, months that I’ve spent agonizing over what type of reconstruction I’ll get and how the heck I’ll pay for it (the doc who performs the type of recon I want doesn’t take my insurance). Like you, I’m overwhelmed — and horrified — by the idea of multiple surgeries (not to mention future surgeries down the line when my implants need to be swapped out like tires). So, I go through life wearing my sandbags or “gummi boobs” as I call them, which can be a total pain in the ass since they rub and chafe and occasionally migrate from one side to the other (this mainly happens in my boxing class).

      At this point, I’ve lived nearly a year and a half without boobs and have never stepped out of the house without something stuffed into my bra. I want to maintain the illusion of the “hourglass figure” I used to have, especially since it will be coming back at some point in time. It might be different if I had a different kind of body; I don’t have a lithe dancer’s body like so many survivors I know who’ve decided to stay flat-chested. And I also don’t have a loving, supportive partner. I’m single and trying to date and don’t necessarily feel like sharing the fact that I’m missing key body parts with just anybody. It’s not that I hate my body; you have to come to terms with who you are post-surgery and I am proud of my strong body for getting me through the hell of the double mastectomy, the chemo, the radiation and all the related recovery and side effects. I try to honor my flat chest and love it for what it is — and where it is — now. In fact, I may start boxing sans sandbags, just because it’s pretty distracting to look down and realize “Ricky” has decided to head over to “Lucy’s” pad yet again. ; )

      What to do with your chest after breast cancer surgery is such a personal decision. And it’s also a decision that’s fueled and informed by our culture, which as you mention is incredibly boob-centric, daunting even for women who don’t have to deal with breast cancer and BC surgery. My guess is there are many women out there who choose not to reconstruct, but don’t feel comfortable rocking a flat chest, either because of their personal aesthetic (like me) or because they don’t want to deal with buffoons (as you’ve had to). I’m very happy that you’re comfortable and at peace with your flat chest (although I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble finding clothes for your new body). I’m not quite at a place of peace yet — and may not be even after reconstruction, many women aren’t. But I’m healing. And learning how to get through this new life day by day – sometimes flat, sometimes not. And that’s something.

      • Melly Testa August 22, 2012 at 4:46 am #

        Singleshot1, I am glad that you have had the time to think through how you want to proceed in a thoughtful and informed manner. So many of us are forced to make snap decisions, and in the shock of the initial diagnosis. I am not against reconstruction but I do want women to be able to make informed, insightful, and empowered decisions about whether to reconstruct and why, especially in light of our societal obsessions
        Unfortunately, there will always be buffoons, it is my hope though that women like you and I speak up about our experience and inform the world that there is a personal and individual face to breast cancer and that these are the ideas and thoughts (multiple surgeries, wanting the hourglass shape, wanting clothing that fits well no matter our choices) that inform our lives as survivors of a horrible disease. I don’t think the uninitiated know that reconstructive surgery entails at least 3 surgeries, and as you are discussing here, many people view breast cancer as ‘your in to getting that boob job’, which we both know isn’t an easy proposition. Perhaps it is just as difficult for you to be un-reconstructed and to navigate the gym, a walk to the corner store on Saturday morning.
        I am still getting used to donning a swimsuit to partake in the pool program twice weekly. This weekend I was asked to ‘bring my suit, so we can swim in a local resevoir’. And, heck yeah, I want to. This will be another first for me. Where reconstructed or form wearing women are able to process privately, the flat woman is a bit more ‘exposed’.
        Thank you for allowing the link on your blog. Thanks for discussing this as well.

  8. galjody September 7, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Yep, my mother and I both heard that same old chestnut; 20 years apart. I chose to do reconstruction at roughly the same (small) size as before, mainly for two reasons: 1) so my clothes would fit, and 2) when I look into the mirror while fully clothed, I don’t look very different than I did before, which helps me feel “normal”.

  9. Mary Ann Weaver November 4, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    No stranger to cancer. I am now 70. My first bout 30 years ago was lung cancer. The dr. walked into my room at the hospital and said: “You have cancer, about 6 months to live. You need to get your affairs in order.” Of course I flipped out. I called my husband and he came and took me out of the hospital, but not before having to deck the doctor. We went somewhere else and I had surgery to take the top lobe of my left lung out. And I lived.
    In 2007 I learned I had breast cancer. A double mastectomy was in order. I thought I took it pretty well, been there before. The pathology report at the local hospital diagnosed it as Her2 and aggressive. Another death sentence. Left there and went to another hospital in another town. The oncologist asked for the path report and sent the samples to a place in California. It came back completely differently. I am 5 years out now. Went with the flat chest for 4 years and in 2011 decided I wanted to feel and look like a woman again since I wasn’t dead yet. It was a complicated surgery since I had lost 2 ribs during the lung surgery so a lot of building up etc on the inside before there was enough there to insert the new boobs.
    Will be going for my 1 year check up on that this month. Had pneumonia this past February and the doctor put me in a medically induced coma so they could put a breathing tube down. I was in the coma for 8 days. The doctor told my husband that I would probably die there. Guess what! I am here today and a better and stronger person. It takes a lot of fight but I won’t ever give up.
    I have been put here on earth and snatched from the jaws of death 3 times so I know there is something I am destined to do so I will keep going until I accomplish that. Doing the daring things, traveling and meeting people and told my husband that when the next doctor comes out and says I will probably die,just tell them to “wait and see”.

    • singleshot1 November 4, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

      What an incredible story, Mary Ann. Thanks so much for taking the time to share it here. I so applaud your strength and your spirit (cheers to that husband of yours, as well!). I also love that you went ahead and had reconstruction after your double mastectomy. I feel the same way. Yes, I’m over 40, but I’m not dead yet. I very much still want to look and feel like a woman. Take care, keep me posted on things and again, thanks so much for stopping by the blog.

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