Thanks For the Mammaries

After breast cancer and undergoing a mastectomy and reconstruction, Melanie had to come to terms with her new breasts. As she finds herself staring at others', she finds the most beautiful breasts in the world are those that are healthy and cancer free. Read on to learn more about her journey.

I recently read that breast augmentation is the number one cosmetic procedure for women. It’s not covered by insurance and it’s pretty painful. But everywhere I go I see more “custom breasts.” Now that I have new ones myself, I find myself staring at others'.

I guess in a weird way, some people would say that I am lucky. Starlets, show girls, strippers and simply average women who want to feel enhanced have to pay handsomely out of pocket for new breasts. I had to pay for my new breasts by giving up my old ones. As nice as they were on the outside, they were a mess on the inside.

I call them my "Barbie Doll Breasts."

As my breast reconstruction was covered by my health insurance, the real cost was emotional. I was able to plan and select my new breasts, from the shape and material to the size of the “tattoo.” They look pretty good now, one year later, though the skin around them feels really tight, and they feel quite different. They have absolutely no feeling or sensation. It took a good deal of time to gain back the strength in my arms and my range of motion. And sometimes I have phantom pain where the largest tumor was, at “2 ‘oclock.” They will really never be the same. I will never go topless again at the beach. But they are healthier and cancer free...and they will never sag! My doctor says I have a lifetime warranty, and I can even choose to change them whenever I want to another type of material or size. Hey, I had breast cancer. I guess I earned that right!

When I have my checkups with all breast doctors – the surgeon who removed the first pair, the surgeon who rebuilt me with a new pair, and the oncologist in-between all those procedures who made sure I was infused with enough chemotherapy so that the cancer would never come back – they all love to admire their great handiwork. They look the new ones over, do a pat down to make sure everything is OK and then nod approvingly. “They look great!” they all tell me. It takes about 10 minutes each visit.

I cannot even comprehend that there was a time when women’s options for breast reconstruction did not exist or when health insurance did not cover breast reconstruction. Knowing that you can be reconstructed makes the ordeal of losing your breasts in the first place a little more bearable. It is an important part of the healing process. Realizing this makes me thankful for my new breasts.

You have options.

If you ever are diagnosed with breast cancer, just know that you have options. You can be reconstructed and you should talk to as many patients as possible to get their opinions on reconstruction. Even feel their breasts! The “touch test” is as important as the look. Trust me on that one! There are several good reconstruction choices. It takes time, and there will be pain. But do not panic and do not rush your decision.

And if you have perfectly healthy, natural breasts, be thankful for them. Do not let anyone pressure you into having them replaced. The only person’s opinion that matters about how your body looks is your own. To me now the most beautiful breasts in the world are those that are healthy and cancer free.

I had such a great team of doctors that helped reconstruct me and helped me rebuild my sense of being “whole” again. The next time I see my breast reconstruction surgeon, I am going to tell him, “Dr. Disa, Thanks for the Mammaries!”

Have you undergone breast reconstruction? Share your experiences in the comments below.



(Images courtesy of I Had Cancer)