I don’t know why I was surprised to find that there is a BRA group that educates, informs and supports patients that undergo Breast Reconstruction after cancer. There is a day for it and the website address is http://www.bra-day.com.
I suppose I have been overly influenced by the past generations’ attitude of frivolity/tragedy surrounding issues of women’s health. If a woman was ill, and not dying from it, she would not presume to make her ailment publicly known. If mortally ill, it was a woman’s lot to bear her suffering silently and pass martyr-like away, without a word of remorse.
It reminds me of a famous headstone of a woman who finally had her say: ‘I Told You I Was Sick.’
I have seen much of courage in women who are undergoing radical treatment for serious and life-threatening illnesses. Their calm before families, when minutes before they were fretfully in pain and begging for help from their nurse. I have heard them calming and reassuring their families after a night of gasping in pain.
Breast reconstruction following mastectomy can and is considered Ontario Health as the last stage of recovery from breast cancer. Unfortunately, modern culture tends to portray the ‘boob job’ as a vanity indulged in by privileged ‘trophy wives’ of the North American aristocracies. Imagine a man, after having surgery to remove cancers was left horribly scarred…like medieval sword wounds, on his body. Would not every step possible be taken to amend those scars and the horrible memories attending them?
Cancer in my body was fought and, to the best of medical knowledge, eliminated. My pre-cancer body did not sport two 8 inch scars on my chest.
If this procedure has meant so much to me, I can only imagine what it must mean to a woman in the prime of here womanhood who must constantly be aware of camouflaging her scars and ameliorate her silhouette with prostheses and strategic dressing and looking forward to having a life-time reminder of her wounds.
The last I read, only 10% of women who lose a breast/breasts to cancer opt for breast reconstruction citing the issue of ‘vanity’ as their reason. They do not believe that their self-image as a woman is important enough to undergo this major surgery. Perhaps if it was a magic wand type of treatment…? Although the reconstruction surgery can be long and painful, the statistics show that the chance of complications following the surgery are in the lowest percentiles of any surgery. It is also my opinion that surgery a longer-established and statistically more effective treatment for the conditions it is used to treat than is drug treatment. Yet most of us have no problem ‘swallowing a few pills’ or accepting an intervenous.
Here in Canada, we have some of the best trained, innovative and forward-thinking surgeons in the world. It is a shame if we allow fear and shame from keeping us from attending to our own best self-care.
I had the most intrusive type of surgery for reconstruction, opting for micro-surgery that used extra body tissue from my abdomen to be used to fill the scars and hollows of my mastectomies. Younger women must settle for implants, for unlike my 64-year-old self after bearing 4 children in my 30’s, they have no extra flesh to contribute. It is a shorter and easier surgery with even better statistics than the microsurgery.
What I would like women to know from my experience is the real effects of reconstruction on one’s psyche and in turn the effects on one’s experience of their life. Perception is everything in the human experience, they say. This being so, how one sees oneself, both physically and mentally, changes the experience.