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  1. #1

    Question After a Mastectomy: To Reconstruct or Not

    After ruminating over some of the recent threads involving female sexuality, it got me thinking about the significance of breasts to the female identity.

    More than once over the years I've heard/read stories about women who chose not to reconstruct their breasts after losing them to breast cancer or freak accidents. Some of these women have cited costs, some cited age and complications, and some simply chose not to have the procedure done. (My cousin-in-law's mother opted out due to cost, recovery time, potential complications, and a "lack of necessity" --her words, not mine-- after her double mastectomy over ten years ago. She is almost 70 now.)

    The cancer survivor in this blog is a lesbian, and goes on to explain her annoyance with the medical profession for assuming all women want to endure lumpectomies after having mastectomies, and for simply not considering life without breasts as a healthy, viable option.

    I don't know if any of the women here have experienced this sort of physical trauma, or if anyone is close to someone who has been faced with this decision, but I am very interested in knowing the reasons for choosing not to have breasts. (I suspect this option is entertained by a minority of mastectomy patients, but it seems to be more common than is openly discussed.)

    I also wonder how significant others may feel about their partner's new, unnatural physical landscape. Would this diminish your sexual desire for them? How would you (or do you) feel about this decision? Should your opinion be considered by your partner?

    Thoughtful perspectives are welcome here.
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  2. #2
    Emerging Tallulah's Avatar
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    My mom lost one breast to cancer, and didn't have it reconstructed. I think if she had been younger, she might have considered it, but in her 60s, she's just happy to be a survivor, and doesn't worry too much about the other stuff.

    I think I'd probably have the reconstruction done, but I can't say what I'd do 25-30 years from now if I were making the same decision.
    Something Witty

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tallulah View Post
    My mom lost one breast to cancer, and didn't have it reconstructed. I think if she had been younger, she might have considered it, but in her 60s, she's just happy to be a survivor, and doesn't worry too much about the other stuff.

    I think I'd probably have the reconstruction done, but I can't say what I'd do 25-30 years from now if I were making the same decision.
    I should've added that my cousin-in-law's mother did decide to wear one of those fake, weighted bras to give the appearance of breasts. The stares in public were unsettling even if she was okay with her body.
    "The purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." - Rainer Maria Rilke

  4. #4
    Senior Member chachamaru's Avatar
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    Isn't it supposed to be like.... really painful?
    a cat is fine too

  5. #5
    Senior Member Tabula's Avatar
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    My mother's best friend had a double mastectomy in '06.

    "I had my babies. I'm happily married. What do I care?" Her words.

    She is quite thin, and had very small breasts to begin with. It's barely noticable wearing the clothes that she does (and always has.) She does have silicon inserts that she uses when she wears dresses and tighter blouses, though, "to fill in the space."

    I wonder what would've happened had she had very large breasts to begin with, or if that would've made any difference at all? She is comfortable with herself and her life, so it doesn't seem that way. But then, as I said, it's not even really noticable. If it were, I wonder if that would've been a consideration or not. That's not to say that losing large breasts is any more traumatic than losing small breasts [!], just if the great and sudden size difference would've added another element of discomfort to be considered in the decision to reconstruct or not.

    To echo Tallulah - at this stage in my life, I think I'd have reconstruction. 30 years from now, I don't know. Probably not.

  6. #6
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    If a woman determines her self worth and female identity simply by having breasts or a certain physical form, or she feels that having breasts is the main source of femininity and thus, attractiveness in her, then I'd imagine it would be difficult for them to choose not to have breasts. If by some reason they wouldn't be able to have the reconstruction I'd imagine that they would have a harder time to come to terms with the loss. If, however, those kinds of factors are less important to them, they would probably be more open to not having the reconstruction.

    Maybe some are fatalists, so they see no other option than to accept their fate and maybe even refuse to do anything about on principle. Maybe low self-esteem pushes some to pursue the reconstruction but for others it's what holds them down.

    Maybe the other spectrum is women who can take it as a liberation of some sort, an act of defiance perhaps. Maybe some use it as a reminder of being a survivor. A shift of perspective from idolizing the body to something else, after going through something that shows their powerlessness.

    It's been interesting reading the replies here. It seems that younger women would be more willing to reconstruct while older women might choose not to. Cultural influence? The young being more valuable and "worthy" of hope for the future, while the old feel themselves less worthy. Maybe they just feel more free from the restrictions and the competition.

    This is all pure speculation, for I have no direct contact with such a thing.

  7. #7
    Strongly Ambivalent Ivy's Avatar
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    My mom had a mastectomy and opted not to have reconstruction. She nursed all five of us for a few years each and we're all grown so I think she was pretty utilitarian about it. She didn't want to endure more surgery and didn't consider it important since they had already done what they needed to do. She wears a prosthetic, and even that she resisted for awhile until she started having backaches from being uniboobed.

    I honestly don't know what I would do. I don't like the idea of a second surgery- though I know sometimes they can do the reconstruction at the same time as the mastectomy. But I really don't know.
    The one who buggers a fire burns his penis
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  8. #8
    nee andante bechimo's Avatar
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    If it ever happened where a masectomy was required, I'd have them lop off both and not worry about it. I'm not someone who views breasts as part of my female identity and if a potential partner were to consider this unattractive, then we'd be incompatible in values and that's okay too.

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