‘I’m flat and proud’

Good Housekeeping (UK) - - Good -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.