I've done several posts on reconstruction and body image, and this is one of my favorites because it touches on almost all of the variables that I have thought about at some point. I still have no desire whatsoever to reconstruct my missing breast. My scar still changes, but like my emotional recovery from cancer it is no longer acute.
I've been doing some reading lately about breast reconstruction. Not about the gross science-y stuff about reconstruction, but the social and psychological stuff. I'm not at all considering reconstruction, but now that I'm not in the thick of cancer treatment I've found myself curious about why women get reconstruction. Yea yea, isn't it obvious that the appearance of two breasts is better than one or no breasts? This is probably what I would have thought, if I had thought about it Before. But now that I've journeyed through the cancer treatment gauntlet, I'm not so sure.
First of all, surgeries are both painful and a pain in the a$$. Everything hurts, and continues to hurt long after the hurt is supposed to be gone. Electing for surgeries that are not a necessary part of cancer treatment is currently beyond my capacity.
Secondly, if I was uncomfortable with artificial body parts before, why should I suddenly be more comfortable now? Especially with a relatively expendable body part?
We all know, or at least have learned by now, that I am a practical person. The above viewpoints should therefore come as no surprise. However, I am in full support of other women choosing reconstruction. I am therefore trying to learn why they make this choice. My purpose is not to see if I'm right or wrong, but to learn about these other viewpoints.
In my small, non-scientific survey, I have found that the perception of others is the primary reason that women choose to reconstruct. I have determined this by reading dozens of anecdotes in numerous books. Most women want to look good (normal?) in clothes, and they want to be sexually attractive. What I find interesting about this is that it seems to me that retaining attractiveness is at their own expense, both in terms of potential medical problems with the reconstruction and the fact that the reconstructed breast often has no feeling. Did you know that latter fact, about the loss of feeling? It seems obvious, but I never thought about it before and I didn't know that. It seems to me that if I had no feeling in my reconstructed breast that that would be a constant reminder that it was for someone else and not me. Call me selfish, but I would hate that.
The other way of thinking about "wanting to look good in clothes" is a positive self-image. Many women state that they just don't feel like women without the appearance of two breasts. This underscores the importance of continued improvements in reconstruction technology and healthcare support. Also, mastectomy is not the only condition that might lead someone to opt for breast work. Reconstruction is a good choice for women who may psychologically struggle otherwise.
I'm sure there are others, but I've only read about one woman thus far with an attitude similar to mine. She thinks of herself as an Amazon, a strong and active woman who can now execute her life with improved physical prowess in the absence of a breast. I don't yet see myself as an Amazon, but I can relate to the improved functionality of my new physique.
Also, I'm learning to see the beauty in my asymmetry. I hold my head high and walk around with confidence. My spouse constantly affirms my beauty. I have bought a few new shirts that are asymmetric and complimentary. I can now see asymmetry everywhere in the world, and it has unusual beauty. I truly do not feel that I need a reconstructed breast.
My scar itself is also remarkable. It keeps changing. Will it ever stop? It started pink, then turned to white (perhaps because of radiation?), then pink with white in the middle, then red with white in the middle, and now a deep red. It's slightly raised in some places, yet exceedingly smooth in others. It itches sometimes. The evolution of my scar is symbolic of the psychological journey about breasts, sexuality, and beauty that I am on. Always interesting and never done changing.