Going Flat After Mastectomy- Guest blog by Tracy13 August 21
Body confidence, activism & inspiration
I was diagnosed with breast cancer 2007, at the age of 36.
When I went to my family doctor, concerned about the lump I’d found in my right breast, she dismissed my concerns, instead telling me that I had fibrocystic breasts. She refused to send me for a mammogram. She told me “you’re too young to have breast cancer”.
I didn’t take my doctor’s dismissals as “word” and marched myself off to the Women’s Health Centre – a walk-in women’s clinic in the city where I lived. The doctor there found a 5-centimetre lump and found 3 large nodes in my right armpit. A biopsy a few days later confirmed it was cancer. I was sent to an oncologist and scheduled for surgery within 2 weeks. My right breast was removed, along with 22 nodes under my right arm. Then, chemotherapy for 4 months, and 30 days of radiation.
It didn’t end there. The reconstruction saga was just beginning. Because I am quite slim, I had no fat for DIEP, and so the option was presented to me of implants. Flat closure was discussed in passing, but discouraged…I wouldn’t be happy without breasts, they said. I would regret it, they said. I wouldn’t feel “whole”. I was young…I had my whole life ahead of me, they said.
I decided to go forward with the implants and was scheduled for 2 more surgeries in the spring of 2009 -- a prophylactic mastectomy of my left breast and then expanders. In the summer of 2009, I got my implants. By 2014 I was sick to death of them -- literally and figuratively. I asked my plastic surgeon to remove them. He asked me many times if I was “sure”. YES. I. WAS. SURE. I told my surgeon the implants made me feel like I had a piece of GLASS in my eye ALL THE TIME. The look on his face meant he wasn’t going to argue with me.
All in all, I underwent 5 surgeries related to my breast cancer diagnosis (over and above the other facets of treatment). It’s been almost 14 years I’ve been cancer free, and 7 years implant free.
Two years ago, I decided I needed to start speaking up about my experience, and also start advocating and educating about flat closure. In 2019, I started my business, Going Flat Fashions (www.goingflat.com), created to serve post-mastectomy women through fashion; to help empower women to feel beautiful after mastectomy; and to help educate and advocate around the issue of flat closure as a valid choice for reconstruction. Going Flat offers second-hand clothing, thrifty wardrobe styling, personal shopping services and fun made-by-me art & accessories to women who have undergone mastectomy surgery and have chosen to remain flat (either fully or unilaterally).
Becoming an activist through second-hand fashion & art seemed to be the logical progression of my life experience to-date. I was an avid thrifter before my diagnosis. As a teenage punk rocker, second-hand clothes were my uniform. As an art school student, and subsequent “poor starving artist”, I could only afford clothes on a thrifty budget. And as a creative soul with a job in the arts, I felt that the unique finds of the thrift store gave me credibility and stepped up my wardrobe to just the right level of quirky.
So, as I faced this next phase of my life — my post-cancer life — I embraced thrifting even more. I was able to experiment with my wardrobe and really find things that worked for my new body. Sometimes I only wore things a few times before I took them back to be recycled and loved again by someone new. And, most importantly, the thrift store was comfortable — it was a place I knew well. A place I could return to again and again and know that I wouldn’t be judged or stared at (even if the perception of people staring at my new body was only in my mind).
My mission with Going Flat Fashions is to help guide women on their post-mastectomy journey to finding body confidence and inspiration through fashion and art, as I did.
I am happy the conversation around flat closure is becoming much more present and loud in the cancer community, and that more women are speaking out and speaking up. You can opt out of “traditional” reconstruction. You CAN be FLAT & BEAUTIFUL & HAPPY.
Find me on Instagram and Facebook @goingflat
Online at goingflat.com
I look forward to meeting you there and hearing your stories!