In the US, healthcare law requires insurers to cover reconstructive surgery after breast cancer, basically to make things look like they did before. There are a variety of options, including using fat and muscle and skin from other parts of your body, fillers, and implants. They are usually topped off with an artificially constructed nipple that consists of the creation of a puckered area and a tattoo, unless you have been able to arrange nipple-sparing surgery during the initial surgery.
I’ve seen a lot of differing feelings on the subject. For some women, it is an absolute necessity, even amongst those who have encountered difficulties with the process. My friend Dorothy decided to have an implant 3 years after her mastectomy, saying that “it put me back the way I was and allowed me to leave cancer behind me.” Others don’t give a damn and just go with the simple solution – being lopsided or having one or both sides of their chest completely flat. Or, as we’ve been known to joke about in my house, the man-boob side.
Because I have pretty much come to the realization that it absolutely doesn’t matter to me. I don’t feel less of a woman and I don’t care how I look, nor do those around me. And I would say screw that to anyone who thinks that I should feel differently.
Then there’s the whole issue of prostheses. I do have one, along with several mastectomy bras with built in pockets that keep things nicely in place. It looks a lot like this one. It is surprisingly heavy and under clothes, you would never know the difference. But as with the wigs and scarves during my bald chemo period, I don’t much care. There are a few places that I deem boob-worthy – a nice evening out or a business meeting – but most days when life consists of going to the gym or the library or the grocery store, I just can’t be bothered. It’s not as comfortable as going au naturel, I’ve gotten used to having nothing there, and quite frankly, who am I doing this for? Yes, there are times where I want the anonymity, where I don’t care to share with strangers the fact that I had breast cancer, but for the most part it’s simply not important to me.
Women have to make their own decisions about this and it’s an intensely personal choice. I seem to have made mine, and that’s to forego reconstruction and just take the easy route, which means that most days I’m going around with one woman boob and one man boob. If you see me and notice that I didn’t find our encounter to be boob-worthy, don’t feel like I didn’t care enough to put my foob on for you, it means that I know that you care enough for it not to matter.