‘I’m flat and proud’
After her first mastectomy in 2016, JULIET FITZPATRICK took the decision to have an elective second mastectomy. Now, she’s living flat – and feels empowered and beautiful.
Iwas diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2016, after a routine mammogram and biopsies revealed a tumour. My active treatment consisted of a mastectomy, chemotherapy and targeted drug therapy. At 5ft 2in with large G-cup breasts, the mastectomy left me feeling lopsided and uncomfortable. For 18 months, I wore a prosthesis, but it was heavy and sweaty, so big that it didn’t fit into a bra properly. I knew it couldn’t be a long-term solution.
When my surgeons and nurses first spoke about reconstruction, I went along with their advice, not knowing I had any other options. The only reconstruction option open to me was the DIEP flap procedure, sometimes referred to as the tummy tuck. The eight-hour operation would leave me with a hip-to-hip scar and a ‘breast’ fashioned out of fat from my stomach. As my remaining breast was so large, there was also the possibility that I would have had to have a reduction on my right side, yet another operation.
Often, medical professionals make the assumption that all women want to look exactly like they did before their surgery. While this may be true for many, I soon realised it was not what I wanted. What I wanted was symmetry. One day, I googled, ‘Are there women who don’t have breast reconstruction?’ and I came across a Facebook group called Flat Friends, full of women living either as ‘uniboobers’ or completely flat. There, I found a community of inspiring, supportive women. It gave me the confidence to speak up and be assertive with my surgeons. I wanted a second mastectomy.
In November 2017, a year after my first mastectomy, I had my second one. The procedure took around an hour, and was much less complex than reconstructive surgery. I still remember the relief I felt when I woke up from the operation. Immediately, I felt lighter.
Now, I never wear a bra. I own some C-cup prostheses – a size I chose myself – but I’ve hardly worn them at all. In the summer, I felt a bit more vulnerable in close-fitting tops, but no-one gave me a second glance. They simply didn’t notice.
I’m so happy with my new shape – I feel as though I have the body that I always should have had. That’s not to say that there aren’t downsides – I’m numb under both my arms and over most of my chest, I have excess folds of skin and I sometimes get strange aches and pains. But these things are minor, and nothing compared to the positives. I feel confident, brave and strong, and I no longer carry around the weight and burden of two huge breasts.
As someone who is terrified of operations, my decision to have an elective operation is one of the bravest things I’ve ever done. It’s also had a lasting effect on my self-confidence, because I’ve taken control of how I want to live. When I look in the mirror, I feel empowered and beautiful. I’ve even had some topless photos taken which I display proudly on my recovery blog, keen to promote the visibility of women who choose to live flat.
Of course, an elective mastectomy is not for everyone, but I want to advocate for the rights of women to be given all the options after a mastectomy. After all, choice is power. I’ve discovered that I don’t need breasts to feel like a woman. In fact, I think I look pretty darned great topless – a little different to the norm, but there’s nothing wrong with that!
To find out more about Juliet’s journey, visit her blog at bloomingcancer.co.uk
‘THAT DECISION WAS ONE OF THE BRAVEST THINGS I’VE EVER DONE’ ‘There are over 20 different types of breast cancer’
Juliet Fitzpatrick runs a blog about her recovery