Tag Archives: clothing

“Sexy Mastectomy”

If I know you, I don’t really care if you read my blog. I mean, please do feel free, but you’re not the reason I write it.

I write for other women with cancer.

And they’re all strangers, because I realized — I don’t know anyone else with cancer.

So I’m always interested to see what search terms lead people here. That’s how I realized a network of breast cancer bloggers existed, and I wasn’t as alone as I felt–by googling things like “latissimus dorsi reconstruction” or “mastectomy and feminism.”

Recently, I noticed somebody found me by searching for “sexy mastectomy.” I still wonder what, exactly, they were hoping to find.

Every breast cancer support book and site I’ve seen offers some half-assed Sex and Intimacy section, and all of it is absurd. One of the very first pamphlets I was handed–on “Young Women and Breast Cancer,” which enraged me because all of the photos were of 40-year-olds, no one who still gets ID’ed buying beer–offered lukewarm suggestions to spice up your chemo-fied sex life, like stripteasing with your headscarf: “Think of it as the dance of the seven veils.”

Or they give up on it altogether, and offer juicy alternatives, such as “join a book club.”  

Now, the Booker shortlist is thrilling, but I’d take getting laid any day of the week.

 People love to ask how you found your lump. And here it is: Continue reading


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Help, I Think I’m an ‘A’ Cup

When I once googled “mastectomy support” in search of women who were also trying to deal with the psychological implications of their cancer diagnoses and surgeries, most of the results it returned involved places to buy bras and prostheses.

Mastectomy “support” is not for your brain apparently, but just for your boobs.

Cuz it’s how you look, not how you feel, that matters.

Like I used to get comments on my “healthy glow” during chemo. The skin flush was a side effect of the Taxotere. But whatever. If you think I’m lookin’ rosy, I guess it doesn’t matter that I feel like death.

And if “no one will know” that you’ve had cancer because you’re sporting a reconstruction or prosthesis, I guess that means you can go ahead and get over it. Because in everybody else’s eyes it’s over, or never happened.

Part of the difficulty surrounding my surgeon’s decision was trying to determine how to treat cancer in a woman with, as she said, “such small breasts.” It wouldn’t be possible, she decided, to remove a 2.5 cm lump and leave a “cosmetically acceptable breast.”

Acceptable to whom? I wondered. She’d decided what was “acceptable” without ever asking me.

This was the same woman who, minutes after first telling me I had cancer, had felt one of the most important issues to bring up was “you will lose your hair.”

I’m not trying to chastise her for raising the issue, because it seems to be (though startlingly, I still think) a huge, even the biggest, concern for many women.

But I thought: I have a disease I could die from, and you’re talking about my hair?

The other day I finally went underwear shopping. An older lady was asking for the saleswoman’s help. “I’ve had breast surgery, and now I’m not sure what size I am,” she said.

Me too! I wanted to scream. Despite what you may think, despite how I may look, I’m not some 25-year-old choosing underwear to look sexy for her boyfriend; I’m trying to find something to put over my stitched-up, ex-cancerous un-boob.

I’ve had breast surgery, and I don’t know what size I am. The cancer occurred in my bigger breast, and for the sake of symmetry the reconstruction was meant to match the smaller left, meaning I’ve dropped down from a B to an A cup I guess. But that’s not really the problem here. I’ve had breast surgery, and I don’t know how I am.

The other night I dreamt of being in a bathtub with someone and wondering what to say, how to explain my body. Those dreams in which you find yourself suddenly, inexplicably naked are the worst. Even worse when you’re naked, and missing a breast.

But least I found something to replace the layers of T-shirts I’ve been wearing in lieu of a bra—a sort of stretchy, comfy, thin-strapped sports bra with a little padding for $4.99.

And I can amuse myself by thinking of “AA XXX” by Peaches as my theme song.


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audre lorde, falsies & feminism

Controversial question of the day: is breast reconstruction after mastectomy an anti-feminist practice?


I find coming to any sensible conclusion on this issue particularly taxing. As with most issues of moral ambiguity, the answer always slides into the terrain of ‘situationally-dependent.’

Audre Lorde takes issue with reconstruction and prostheses post-mastectomy in her Cancer Journals, arguing that while prosthetic limbs serve a functional purpose, “false breasts are designed for appearance only, as if the only real function of women’s breasts were to appear in a certain shape and size and symmetry to onlookers, or to yield to external pressure.”

There’s no arguing that the purpose of breast reconstruction is appearance–and it is indeed worrying that appearance, rather than survival, may be a woman’s first concern. But the ‘external pressure’ of which Lorde speaks does not necessarily have to be about achieving a sexualized aesthetic. One doesn’t opt to undergo breast reconstruction, I hope, merely because one is influenced by a demand from society for ‘normalcy’–as if having two breasts were a socially constructed, arbitrary attribute of ‘femininity,’ like nylon stockings or nail polish–but because of a demand from one’s own body, for balance. To return to default.

I don’t feel my choice for an LD flap reconstruction was a yield to pressure of any sort, especially to the pressure of men. Here’s why: Continue reading


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