There comes a day when BRAVE takes on a whole new meaning. We were on vacation and I did something I hadn’t done in public up to that point. I had not gone out without my prosthesis.
I’ve never wanted attention drawn to me. I’m content to be behind the scenes and let someone else lead a project or be center stage. Yes, I speak to groups, but I want the message to be heard, not for the attention to be on me. Heck, I rarely even look in the mirror most days. The purpose of wearing the prosthesis after my explant surgery was a choice I was making for others. So others wouldn’t stare. So I would look “normal”. So I would blend in. I was losing me. Where was I in this choice?
Our society infiltrates our minds and those soft whispers take root. Somewhere deep down they slowly drip the idea in our heads that the way we look somehow holds our worth in the world. I knew the status quo, but I didn’t really know that. Not until I had breast cancer and the doctors and the literature and our sex-crazed world screamed at me, “You need to have breasts to have worth and be beautiful and be ‘normal’ and fit in. Oh, and if you only have one?! Well, that’s just odd. People will notice and they will stare and they will know you had cancer and know you had surgery and they will know you now only have one breast. Your clothes won’t fit right being lopsided and you won’t be able to find a swimsuit that fits right to save your soul (true story)*, so reconstruct something…anything so people don’t STARE.” So maybe those weren’t the exact words spoken to me, but they were all implied and reinforced around every corner. Make it look real, even if it’s not. When it came time for my implants to be explanted, the surgeon naturally asked what I was going to do about filling in that space – again. She discussed a fat transfer as an option or a prosthesis since I wouldn’t do any other type of implant.
“Do I have to have anything? I’m so tired of the surgeries and the complications.”
Blank stares. “Well… of course not, but wouldn’t you want something? The prosthesis will at least keep the weight evenly and prevent back problems.”
All I thought in my head was, that a couple ounces of a chick fillet was not enough to make a difference. She wrote me a script for one anyway. I did eventually get fitted for one and I do use it occasionally out in public, depending on my outfit.
Lately, I’ve been minimizing my wardrobe and getting rid of items in my closet that don’t work anymore. Wearing my chick fillet has had its own issues as well. Although, it really does make me look “normal” to the outside world. I wear it mostly so I don’t stand out and get the unwanted stares that make life uncomfortable. I’d like to live under the radar. By not wearing it, I feel like a billboard sign that says, “Look at me! What doesn’t look right here?” It’s the extra glance back or the double take as a person walks by or the look at my chest instead of my face when someone approaches.
I refuse to let that uncomfortableness rule me. I will step out and be brave. It was the first time I went out in public without chick fillet, as I affectionately call her. We were traveling and most of our day was to be spent in a car. I really did not expect to see many people at 6:30 a.m., but as I stepped into the hotel breakfast area, a lobby teeming full of middle-aged men were sipping their coffee and munching on bagels. I surmised they were there for a golf outing of some sort. I knew they stared, but I held my head high and you know what? I lived. Their stares didn’t melt me.
My worth is not in a body part. My worth is not in the approval or judgment from strangers.
So dear sisters who are facing breast cancer, you can do it. You can hold your head high too and not care what people think when they look at you, no matter your choice. It took me 12 years to walk out in public without chick fillet. Before that, I had implants and then they were explanted. I’ve been through all stages of surgeries, reconstruction, and deconstruction. Along the way, I was also breastfeeding and all different sizes on both sides. I spent years trying to look even and “normal” just so people wouldn’t look too long. I was self-conscious. I get it. I really do. Don’t let your parts or lack thereof, define you. Don’t let your scars hold you back from feeling completely and utterly adored by God. They are your battle wounds and you should be proud of them. It means you are here. You survived and you are strong.
You can be brave and you can be wholly you, with or without all your parts.
“Keep your face always toward the sunshine and the shadows will fall behind you.” ~ Walt Whitman
* I have since found a product line I love and is designed by a breast cancer survivor for us. I now have a fabulous bathing suit, from my AnaOno. Check out their bras, robes, tanks, and bathing suits. They are a lifesaver.