Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Reconstructed Breasts: Natural and Fake?

Since I'm about to get a (fingers-crossed) cancer-free left breast, I have been debating how "real" a reconstructed breast is in comparision to the breast that booby-fairy gifted me.

What follows is my very non-politically correct self discourse; if you would like to avoid reading something that might hurt many breast cancer patients' sensitivities on this subject, you need to stop reading now. Oh, and clearly you are on the wrong blog. (You can come back when I morph into Pollyanna. Don't hold your breath.)

First, let me say that I do not know if most other breast cancer patients debate these types of questions to themselves. I do know that the smaller-breasted women I've met with breast cancer do not seem to be as concerned about their breast's post-surgical attractiveness factor, something that I obsess over.

Second, yes, I am very aware how vain I am when it comes to my chestal region. Just check out my shirts. Not many high-necked tops in my closet.

Everyone has their own opinion of what is attractive. My mom is small-breasted. She used to point out movie stars like Audrey Hepburn-it was her version of attractive. I looked at Audrey in My Fair Lady and thought she would have looked a whole lot better if she had eaten a burger occasionally and could fill out the tops of those gorgeous dresses.

With the date of my masectomy approaching, I'm thinking about how afterwards I will have one real breast and one hybrid. (I can't think of a good term for it other than "reconstructed.")

Here is what I'm debating:

1. The DEIP flap I'm getting is all me, as opposed to an implant or skin expanders. So, it's still "real"-or at least, that's what I'm going to answer anyone who asks if they are real. (Yes, these type of people exist. Especially at bars, after a few drinks in the Ladies' Restroom.)

But, I'm also proud of them in a non-body image way. They successfully nursed Elizabeth. I really enjoyed it. (Once I got past the first weeks of no sleep and misery. Oh, and nipple shields.) The "girls" aren't perfect but they did the job. I'm saddened that the next kid I churn out won't have the same opportunity. (You bet I thank the Goddess that I live in a country with clean water and good formula. And I will bitch-slap anyone who questions my feeding choice with a glass bottle.)

2. It's not a real breast. It's purpose is totally gone. I will have no lobules (where milk is made), ducts, or even a nipple. (I keep thinking about the old Wallflower's song, "One Headlight.") The original skin will still be there, but it will be like the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz; every human part of him was replaced. Emptied out, replaced, and soldered shut.

Bring on the pity party. I made my choice-the "not dying from this" choice. Still, I hate hearing people sugar-coat it.


  1. Yes. But I will have to supplement with formula. What I'm hoping is that I'll be able to night-nurse exclusively with one breast-because I (like all parents) get exhausted and it's just easier to stay in bed, pull up my shirt, and feed.

  2. Polly, I'm a friend of your Mom (FOPP). I have implants that are evidently antiques (20+ years) and have to sign a paper before every mammogram that I won't sue if my boobs pop. Since I simply replaced what went bye-bye after nursing, I do not have anything resembling tassel twirlers so I rarely get the "are they yours" question. That usually comes from a family member who heard through the grapevine that in the long ago distant past I did this thing that only strippers do. I always answer that they are mine. After all I paid good money for them. Same goes for the are they real questions. 100% natural petroleum product as near as I can tell. Peggy tells me that you will now miss Halloween. So sorry to hear that. Happly Autumnal Equinox. -- Arlene

  3. Too many thoughts I need to coalesce to properly respond to this. It probably deserves its own response post - but I can't do that here at work.

    Let me say this, however. Breasts clearly have BOTH aesthetic function as well as practical function.

    Yes, you're going to lose the practical side, and that sucks, plain and simple. But you will retain the aesthetic, even if it looks different than it used to. I'm not going to haul out the asinine "count your blessings" point. But keeping the aesthetic is SOMETHING. Something good in all of this nonsense.

    In my opinion - it's a real breast, be it 100% original, DEIP flap, or implant.

  4. Polly, I thought that was a really honest and moving account of your thoughts! Thanks for writing it.