NOTICE: This blog was written by Aimee Eddy Gross from Erie, PA. This is an unedited version of the blog and has not been professionally edited. To comment on a blog or if you experience any issues, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Thank you and enjoy the blog!
I have seen people missing fingers, a leg or arm. I’ve always wondered what happened to the person for him or her to lose a body part. I am a curious person and maybe it’s that writer in me. I wonder what story lies behind how the person lost a part of him or her. Was it an accident or was it an illness? Was the person hit by a drunk driver, or did they save a child from harm? Did he or she battle an awful illness? I also wondered how a person would be able to cope and go on with a part of him or her missing. How did that person get back to a normal life?
I never thought I would be one of those people I was curious about. May 30, 2018 I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and shortly after they found I have the BRCA gene. The gene is something everyone carries, but when it becomes mutated it can cause breast, ovarian, skin and prostate cancer. I was given choices. I could have a lumpectomy and be watched on a regular basis for another cancer to appear, or have a mastectomy and eliminate my chance to ever get cancer again.
How can a person make such a choice? How could I choose whether or not to keep my breasts? They have been a part of my body since they started developing at the age of twelve. They were part of what defined me as a woman. What would I look like without breasts? Would I be ugly? Would people notice? How would I cope? Would my husband still think I was beautiful?
Then the doctor told me I could get reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy. They would be fake but at least I would wake up with something. I wouldn’t have to look at a flat, scarred chest. I would still have to get use to them, but at least I’d have breasts. I was excited about reconstruction. I thought that it would be the only way I could deal with losing my breasts. I thought I wouldn’t be a woman without something.
Before my surgery I waited on a woman at the grocery store where I work who had a mastectomy and didn’t have reconstruction. She looked different, flat chested. I started picturing myself that way. I kept telling my husband I’d have to have breasts or I’d look ugly.
My world was crushed when I met with a plastic surgeon and he told me I would have to wait 3 to 4 months for reconstruction because of the size of my breasts. When we left the office I cried. I felt like my world was just mashed into pieces. How could I go that long with nothing? How could I wake up in the hospital flat chested? First I got the news I had cancer, then I was told I had the BRCA gene, and then I was slapped in the face with the news I could not have reconstruction right away. It seemed like the end of my world.
After the mastectomy it took me a while to even look at my chest. When I finally did I cried. I joined a support group and heard stories of people going through reconstruction several times because of infections. I started to question whether or not I wanted to have it done. The more I healed from my surgery the more comfortable I became with being flat chested.
I started listing the positives and negatives of having reconstruction and not having it.
Positives of not having it outweighed the positives of having it. No more surgeries, no bras, no breasts getting in the way, no more mammograms, no more having them bounce when I run out the door to catch the bus and so on.
I decided I could live without breasts. Slowly I began to become more comfortable with not having them. My husband told me each day that I was still beautiful. When I returned to work no one even noticed, and if they did they didn’t say anything. I became comfortable with a new me, a new normal.
I’m not just a woman without breasts, I’m a woman who fought cancer. My scars are proof of the battle I have won. They define me as a determined woman who won’t let cancer or the BRCA gene get me down. Losing a part of my body didn’t end my life. It only enriched it.
My new normal is a thriving woman who is proud to tell the story of my loss and the battle I won. I gained a new view of myself and a new beginning. I’m happy with my new normal. I’m happy with the new me. I tease my friends that I can go braless and they can’t.