By Lisa Fisher
I’m not sure why talking about reconstruction feels so personal and private to me, but it does. I should be used to it since I’ve been talking about my breasts for two years now. Truthfully, I’ve always felt a little more awkward talking about reconstruction. But being private about it doesn’t allow anyone else to understand what we have to go through and that understanding can make all the difference.
Pre-diagnosis, if asked about breast reconstruction, I probably would have said I wouldn’t bother with such a big surgery just to have boobs. Having seen reconstruction surgeries first-hand in my nursing career, they can be quite big, especially if radiation is involved because of the damage it causes to the radiated muscles and skin.
Once I was actually in this situation my thinking was completely different. From the moment I heard the words that I had breast cancer and that I needed to have a mastectomy, I knew immediately that I wanted reconstruction and that it mattered to me. I no longer cared that it required big or multiple surgeries. I wanted it done as soon as possible.
You never really know what you will do in any situation until you are actually in it. What I didn’t realize before being faced with this decision myself is that reconstruction isn’t really about the breasts – it’s about your mind and how you feel about yourself. Some people need this to feel “better” and some don’t. I also don’t think that age has as much influence on this decision as I once thought. It’s how you feel inside. Having your breasts removed at any age impacts the way you view yourself. The person you’ve always looked at in the mirror has changed dramatically.
I honestly wish I had the confidence and fearlessness to go flat. To me, it’s the ultimate middle finger to cancer and societal norms but I just don’t have it in me. I wouldn’t be happy with myself and that’s what it’s all about – being happy in your own skin with or without breasts. I have to make this individual decision based on what is best for me.
I decided to share my thoughts on breast reconstruction because there are a lot of misconceptions out there. I want people to understand it’s not about “getting Double D’s” or “a free boob job”. It’s about finding peace with the new you. While these jokes don’t offend me (humour is my go-to in uncomfortable situations as well), it does downplay the process. Breast reconstruction is no joke, mentally or physically. It can include multiple surgeries, muscle and skin transfers, flaps, expanders that have to be filled slowly by injection over a period of time to stretch the transplanted skin and muscles before another surgery to exchange the expanders for implants. It can be a very long and painful process. Let’s not even get started on all the new scars or the psychological aspect of it all! So trust me that it’s not quite “just getting implants” but kind of a big deal.
I never wanted a free boob job, and this is true for most, if not all, the women I’ve met who have chosen breast reconstruction after being diagnosed with breast cancer. I was happy with what I had. I just want the old me back. But since cancer took that version, I’m hoping for something that resembles her, inside and out.
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