Sunday, March 8, 2009

Body Image

One overriding concern, before and after breast surgery, is "What will I look like afterwards?"  I had already had surgery on the same breast with the cancer, in almost exactly the same area, almost 14 years before. The earlier surgery was an excisional biopsy to rule out cancer on a palpable mass, which turned out to be a cyst. I was left with a semi-circular scar about an inch long, which was barely noticeable.

Because breasts are such an important part of our feminine image, it's traumatic to think that in order to remain alive, we might have to relinquish a part of our body, or be left with a body that has been disfigured by surgery. Although, given the choice, naturally you would choose life. Reconstructive surgery post-mastectomy has been a mandated benefit for more than a decade, so at least women now don't have to experience what women of previous generations did. 

With my cancer treatment, I had two separate lumpectomy surgeries, so this was something I had to get myself through twice. My cosmetic result, 17 months post-surgeries, is wonderful, and I am very fortunate and grateful. My husband was, as always, incredibly supportive, and repeatedly told me that nothing could ever change his love for me.

One resource available on the Intranet which might dispel any patient's fears about being left "abnormal" post-surgery is called "The Normal Breasts Gallery" (the site is not suitable for the workplace or for children, of course). Personally, I haven't seen a lot of other women's breasts; and the breasts which are displayed via our print and electronic media are Photoshopped into our "ideal" images. This website serves to show women what "normal" women's breasts look like, and it has helped me immensely. I want to mention this resource for women who are wondering about their own body image, because I didn't find out about it until very recently (thanks, Jezebel!).

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