I hate my breasts.
There. I said it. My deep dark little secret that I have only ever drunkenly told my insignificant man-friends who have no idea that I lost my mother to Breast Cancer and will probably never care to know what the BRCA2 genetic mutation actually is.
Their responses have always been so sweet and said in the same sincere tone that every man uses when he thinks a girl is trying to be coy and play insecure about her body. “Babe, your boobs are beautiful! Your body is beautiful! You are beautiful!”
Despite what you may be thinking, my choice to chop off my small cancerous tits and get a “yuge” set of fake ones has absolutely nothing to do with how beautiful or aesthetically pleasing my boobs are to the opposite sex. Hell, I love telling the story about how I once had a man-friend tell me “Babe! Your boobs are so tiny that when you lie down, they actually disappear!”
Ironically enough, my life-changing decision to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy started long before I even actually had boobs or my crass sense of humor.
I was in Kindergarten when my mom was first diagnosed with Breast Cancer. Some of my first Mother/Daughter memories are of me and Momma Sue going to her chemotherapy appointments while my dad was at work and my big brother was “stuck in” school. When I think back on it now, I realize how totally not normal it was for a 4-year-old to go with her mother to all of her doctor’s appointments. When I think back on it now, I realize how absolutely insane it was to grow up thinking that the word Breast should be immediately followed by the word Cancer.
And then, after all of those chemo sessions and doctor’s appointments, my mom beat cancer. The first time she was diagnosed, Momma Sue kicked cancer’s ass and I got to tell everyone I knew that my mom could do anything because she beat Breast Cancer. And finally, while my mom was in remission, we started to create new Mother/Daughter memories that had absolutely nothing to do with chemotherapy or doctor’s appointments.
Then it was back. On March 9, 1999, my mother died of Breast Cancer. I was 9. My brother was 12.
And it was on that day I learned to hate the words Breast and Cancer.
I never met my grandmother because she also lost her fight with Breast Cancer long before I was born. Five years ago, a day before my 23rd birthday, I got a call saying that I tested positive for the BRCA2 genetic mutation. Given my family history, was this a surprise?- no. Did I still drink an unnecessary amount of tequila? – yes.
After my diagnosis, the plan of attack was simple; “Let’s just wait and see what happens.” After all, I was only 23. It was going to be at least 10 years before they found a tumor. Surely, in that time I could at least find the “man of my dreams,” get married, have kids, and then when I was done breastfeeding our 2.1 babies, and only then, should I start worrying about maybe considering getting this overly drastic surgery.
So why, after only five years into to this solid plan, have I now decided to “chop off my cancerous tits?”
Well, truth be told, I wish I could write a nice little short, concise answer to that question and present it to you right here, right now, wrapped in a giant freaking bow. But, as anyone who has faced this decision knows, there are actually a multitude of reasons why you should or should not have this surgery.
I can, however, tell you that on February 20th, I have made the decision to undergo the first of two surgeries that will decrease my risk of getting Breast Cancer. Since making this decision, many people have asked: “Oh my God, Rachael have you spoken to someone about this intense life-changing decision?!” And my answer, for now at least, is, “Thank you for your concern, but personally, I prefer to leave God out of any decision that involves my breasts. And, no, I am not currently seeing a therapist.”
Over the past 18 years, I have spoken to a number of different therapists/counselors/ministers, and for me, the honesty (and humor?) that comes from writing about what I am now facing, has been the most therapeutic. In fact, the most freeing part of this whole “feeling my feelings” about my breasts, has been writing this very post, posted up at my favorite bagel shop in Nashville, with tears streaming down my face, and not giving two shits about what anyone thinks about how absolutely insane I look.
So. I say all of that to say this: Over the next few weeks/months-ish,* not only will I to try to explain my reasoning for getting this surgery, but I will also discuss what exactly is entailed in this 6-month process. It is my hope that through sharing some of my thought process, it might actually be of some help to other women who are facing this decision. So, if you know someone who is facing this decision, or if you are someone facing this decision, please feel free to follow along with me as I embark on this somewhat weird and totally twisted journey.
And trust me when I say, they’re not actually going to be “yuge,” but at least to me, they will finally be beautiful.
*(no promises on the timeline, I work for a start-up, and I am moving, and did I mention I’m getting my boobs cut off in like two weeks?!)