Breastless: How I Live Without My Breast

My obstetrician was examining the scar on my chest. At age 38, I was eleven years out from my breast cancer diagnosis and pregnant with Emmy. I had never had my chest examined so thoroughly as when I was pregnant. My doctor was going to make sure to keep me healthy. During this examination, the doctor rubbed something off my scar. “What’s this? Some kind of gel?” I was just as puzzled as he was. What in the world could be smeared all over my chest without me knowing what it was? The doctor wiped it off and continued my exam as usual.

As I was getting dressed after the exam, I took a look at my breast prosthesis. The light bulb went on–my breast form had split and the silicon was leaking out. I was slightly embarrassed, but I had to laugh! When I got home, I temporarily fixed the split with a Band Aid until I could order a new breast. A leaking breast actually gave me an excuse to go buy a larger sized left breast, since my right breast was increasing in size due to my pregnancy.

When Emmy was weaned and I returned to my specialized boutique for a smaller breast form, my husband caught me looking in the car window to check out my improved silhouette. “Checking out your new boob?” he asked. It felt good to be “even” again.
Swimming with my daughter on a hot, summer’s day…in my special mastectomy suit.

Seventeen years after my mastectomy, my scar has lightened and so have my feelings about living with only one breast. Making the choice to have a mastectomy was not easy, and I write about why I made this huge decision here: Choosing a Mastectomy. Going back to read this post makes me laugh (and sometimes cry) because my mom had trouble leaving a comment! Oh, how I miss her. Mom is the one who taught me how to live after losing a breast.

This October, I have received five emails. Five emails deemed by Gmail as “important mainly because it was sent directly to you.” These emails were from Glamour Magazine, and two of them ask me this question: How would your life change without YOUR breasts?

Glamour is promoting its latest video series about Caitlin Brodnick, a young comedian who tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation and who decided to have a preventative double mastectomy. Her decision to have a mastectomy was surely difficult. I know. Coming home less than 24 hours after surgery with surgical drains is difficult. I know. Living life without your breasts is surely difficult.

I know.

My question to Glamour is this. Why did I get these emails? I don’t subscribe to Glamour Magazine and I don’t follow them on any social media. Why are they emailing me?

I’m sure the answer is publicity, but the question they pose strikes me as being sensationalist journalism. “How would your life change without YOUR breasts?”

Here is my answer, Glamour Magazine.

I live life fully. I live life with no regrets. I laugh a little, write a little, and love a whole lot. I don’t think about being breastless most days. Instead, I mother my little girls and teach my students. I love my husband. I plan family reunions, go to church, and love God. I cook. I sing. I dance.

Losing a breast does not define me. Breast cancer does not define me. My life has changed in countless ways since I lost my breast, and mostly for the better.