Apr 16, 2017

Why I have decided against breast reconstruction - and why that's ok




Photography by HELGA DALLA PHOTOJOURNALIST


*Just a quick disclaimer that this post is NOT criticising reconstruction or anyone who chooses that path, my decision reflects solely on my own personal experiences, views and quite frankly, fears*

A lot of peoples reactions when you tell them that you have/had breast cancer, is to try and find the positive in it for you, which I really appreciate, but so many peoples reaction is 'well at least you'll get a free boob job!' expecting me to be really happy about this and almost ungrateful for deciding not to get it done.

The thing is, while I have for many years, longed for my perky E cup boobs that my children stole from me, I had made peace with my little B's and accepted it's just life. I ummed and ahhed over the possibility a few times a few years ago. It would have been nice, I would have loved new boobs but it just never sit quite right with me. As you know I suffered anxiety for a while and the main drawbacks for me were that I was too scared to go under general anasthaetic and I would have been terrified the whole time that one of the implants had burst or the silicone had ruptured and was in my blood or something. I have severe health paranoia and because there was a chance that it could be bad for my health, that it was a risky operation, it just didn't seem worth it to me.

Also, because for a while, I was a single mum, I didn't want to spend money I didn't really have on something like that and I didn't want to risk the future with my kids. So like I said, I made peace with post pregnancy boobs and went on with my life.

Then of course, I had to have one removed and I was instantly faced with the question.
Do you want a mastectomy with immediate reconstruction? Reconstruction after radiation or no reconstruction?

Bearing in mind I was told I was having a lumpectomy right up until the night before my surgery, until they got my mammogram back and told me there was evidence of more cancer and I needed a mastectomy. 

I didn't have much time to think about this and in the few hours I did have to think about it, in one way having an immediate reconstruction would have meant I wouldn't have had to have a separate operation in the future if it was something I really wanted. 

In the end I decided that because having radiation was a certainty, and that having reconstruction could damage the implant etc. I would have no reconstruction. I could not handle the thought of spending longer in the hospital than I needed to or being in more/prolonged pain. I had only just started to comprehend the fact I had cancer a few days beforehand and I couldn't get my head around this too.

As far as I was concerned I just wanted the cancer out and to get on with my life.

I do still get asked a lot 'When am I getting reconstruction?' as if the possibility of me not getting it is not even an option.

People sometimes respond with 'oh really...Well I'm sure you'll change your mind in a year or so' and I guess turning down the possibility of a 'free' boob job, especially when you've got only got one boob, does seem strange to most people. Even now I've had a long time to consider it, I have still decided against reconstruction. 

And these are my honest reasons why...I am comfortable with who I am, the way I am. I'm scared of the risk of infection, I'm scared that something bad will happen, I'm scared of general anasthaetic. I still can't move my arm properly from my last surgery. I still get a huge amount of nerve/skin pain in the area and something in my gut just tells me not to do it. 

I've learnt over the last year just how important it is to listen to your gut.

While I may still sometimes think about it... God it would be nice to have a pair of beautiful boobies, and trust me, I think that quite a bit, I catch myself looking at pictures of my younger self and gazing longingly at them. But I also think how great it would be to have liposuction on my stomach or a smaller nose...

But I wish those things could magically happen, with no nasty operation, with no risk and I just don't want to go and have surgery to change all those things about myself. I guess it comes down to breaking the norm, breaking the mould of what society tells us we need to be in order to be pretty, in order to be normal, in order to feel accepted.

I've had no choice but to accept my scar and at the end of the day, I'm honestly just so happy to be cancer free and healthy. When you've caught a glimpse of how very different things could have been, how much worse they could have been, living with one boob is not really a big deal to me.

Sidenote - to any breast cancer survivors/patients that may be reading. If you have had the reconstruction, I'm probably over here super jealous of your great boobs and the fact you were brave enough to do it. If you've got to make this decision and you're confused about what to do, my only advice would be, listen to your gut. The thought of living with a giant scar and only one boob may be terrifying for some, where as the fear of the surgery and complications overtook that fear for me. I am by no means an expert or qualified to give advice in any way but if you follow your heart and make the decision based solely on what YOU want, not what society says, not what your partner thinks, not what any other person thinks you should do, then you'll be making the right decision.

Love, Hayley xo


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