Three years ago, I became flat and fabulous! Seriously! Flat and fabulous is a group of people who’ve had a unilateral or bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. That’s me! I had a bilateral mastectomy three years ago today.
Three and a half years ago, I received the news that I had breast cancer. Over the next few weeks, I went through terror – terror that I would not see my child make it to middle school, among other things. Right now – as I type this – my child is having his annual birthday sleep over – celebrating his thirteenth birthday on Friday the thirteenth!
So – here I am!
My breast cancer was triple negative, which meant that it was not estrogen receptor positive, progesterone receptor positive, nor HER2 positive. This also meant it was an aggressive form of breast cancer with a high risk of recurrence. I had 16 rounds of chemotherapy, which included an experimental drug that has now been demonstrated to show effectiveness against triple negative breast cancer. I then had the bilateral mastectomy, and the pathology report concluded that I had a complete pathological response. That result meant that my risk of recurrence had dropped DRASTICALLY – to somewhere in the neighborhood of 5%. With triple negative breast cancer, most recurrences occur within the first three years after diagnosis. So, I feel I’ve hit a bit of a milestone (knock on wood!).
On reconstruction – the choice to opt for a mastectomy versus lumpectomy with radiation was an easy one for me. I did not want radiation if I could avoid it. I wanted to preserve my lung and heart function and did not want to deal with skin problems… I have very sensitive skin, as it turns out. Since I had clean margins after the bilateral mastectomy, radiation was not called for.
The choice to opt for a bilateral mastectomy versus a unilateral mastectomy was similarly easy for me. This was mainly because I did not want reconstruction. I did not like the idea of multiple surgeries nor the idea of needing “repairs” or “replacements” every decade or so. I also did not like the idea of foreign objects under the muscles in my chest. The whole thing seemed so very invasive! I also could not tolerate the idea of having one boob. I wanted symmetry and simplicity.
Being flat is definitely simple. I never wear bras – ever. I definitely have symmetry. It turns out, there are many things that are easier boob-free. I was fairly “well endowed” as they say…. and it’s easier to roll over in bed, jump up and down, run across campus, roll over potholes, jump over obstacles (whether on the bike or not), reach across a table for something, squeeze through small spaces, pick up large heavy objects, sleep on my stomach…. and I have the flexibility of opting for foobs (prosthetic boobs) if I want to. Turns out – I don’t want to.
As for clothes? Maybe no one really notices, maybe people are simply over it, or maybe people around me are way too polite to say anything… Whatever… I’m darn comfortable in my skin – more comfortable than I was with bras and boobs. I just wear what I wear… and that’s that. A few items no longer “fit” – and that’s fine with me. There are other things that actually seem to fit better. If I need a professional look – no problem. If I want a casual look – no problem…