As I’ve said before (see Why I Did Not Do Reconstruction), for a number of reasons, I opted to not go with reconstruction. Things like lack of money and fear of surgery factor heavily, as does an overwhelming sense of “it just does not seem right for me”. It’s not like reconstruction would erase all that has happened to me and my body, the scar would still be there, and the created nipple would be there only to make me appear normal to others (men). It will never again be a source of stimulation that women unharmed by breast cancer still have. Why should I try to make it look like it did before? It isn’t, and no amount of cosmetic surgery will make it so.
In some ways, I think I just rebelled against all those save the ta-tas ads, which I believe to be misleading. I hate the boobies/ta-tas culture associated with breast cancer, because ultimately it cheapens and makes light of breast cancer. Judging by some of the reactions to objections about the campaigns—“but breasts are beautiful and they sell/bring awareness”—it almost seems as if people don’t get it: if one gets breast cancer, detected by the ad-recommend mammogram, there is a strong possibility that the afflicted breasts will wind up wrecked. For all the talk of awareness, I think most people who have not actually had breast cancer just don’t understand this—they are UNaware.
Reconstruction, to my punk rock/grunge girl-from-the-90s sensibilities, just seems fake. The culture of the punk/alternative (they aren’t the same but I can be both) rebels against all that fakeness. As a huge fan of this music I embraced this rebellion against all things fake. In addition, being a strong woman back then did not mean dressing like Beyonce; jeans and flannel were OK (dressing like Beyonce and proclaiming female strength is a whole other post, ugh). Sometimes I miss a few aspects of the political correctness and Riot Grrls that were a part of the early 90s. Just sayin’.
I still have these sensibilities, and they probably inform my current opinions about breast cancer culture and my own experience more than I even know. I recognize it enough, however, to know that it is why I reject the reconstruction notion. All this rambling here really boils down to: it just isn’t right for me.
I wanted to do what a few women are now opting to do, to be real and/or express themselves artfully after surgery. By now everyone interested in breast cancer issues has no doubt seen the video or photos of Jill Brzezinski-Conley, and know of the recent fuss on Facebook involving the photo of Inga Duncan Thornell, who tattooed over her mastectomy scars, photos of which are in the book Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. I did not find much of this stuff while I was in active treatment (despite Bodies of Subversion apparently being written in 2001 or so), and considering reconstruction. In fact it was really difficult to find pictures of women with lumpectomies or mastectomies that mirrored what my body looked like. Everything only showed nearly finished or finished reconstruction. I did not like what I saw. It was not until late in the game I found the SCAR Project and blogging. I found a few bloggers posted pictures of their breast(s) saying they too found it difficult to find pictures. But even with the discoveries of these blogs, there are still NOT lots of pics of what I look like. And still, most pictures I find are women going through the reconstruction process, trying to return to “normal”.
I am still debating, as I write this, whether I will join the ranks of those who post their pictures. Probably will. But I will explain what I’ve done and why, in future posts.