Body, Journalling, Medical Humanities, News, Self-portrait without Breasts


I’m lucky, my scars are quite neat and flat, and the incision lines themselves now silvery. The scars are not quite symmetrical – the surgeon said that’s because my breasts weren’t quite symmetrical.

28 June 2006

This morning I woke thinking about breasts and femininity – how empowering to have breasts, but how potentially empowering to remove them before they threaten me. My cousin says she would have the surgery for sure, but maybe she’d want a plastic surgeon to work alongside the breast surgeon so the result could be as neat as possible, even without reconstruction. Neat scars would surely help with body image and self comfort afterwards, wouldn’t they?

Little by little. This will take a while. I need to inform myself and meet my own and others’ fears and anxieties head-on. When I mention possible elective surgery people’s reactions are so strong, often full of horror and fear. It is understandable. This whole subject is taboo, still, though the taboos seem to have morphed and become more sophisticated.

I talked to my father yesterday about the decisions I’m trying to make. It’s not an easy topic to address with my 82 year old dad who went through the horror and secret of Cancer – the big ‘C’ – with my mother back in the 1970s. Her two mastectomies were 5 years apart, when she was 48 and then 53 years old. Two primary tumours, aggressive ductal cancers. Each time she had a radical mastectomy. After the first op my father gave her a Le Creuset frying pan as a get-well gift. She couldn’t lift it.

My father is very shocked by the possibility of my having preventative surgery, to him it seems extreme and almost unutterably painful. He called me back this morning to say how concerned he is about it.

In all my years of adult friendship with my mother, and even when I was nursing her, she only let me see her bare chest two or three times. Even years after surgery, the scars looked brutal, they were purple and puckered in terrible ridges under the arms. She was ashamed to let me see. She wore falsies and a bra, always.

One thing: I’ve begun to notice other women’s breasts a lot more. I look at the shape and size, I even find myself assessing their bras and underpinnings, or the lack of them. Want to wear a T shirt without a bra this morning, but am not sure mine are ‘pert’ enough (my surgeon’s word) to merit this. Yet all of a sudden I feel I want to give my boobs a really good innings through these warm months, maybe my last summer with breasts. I want to celebrate them.

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