My Diagnosis and Who I Am
Last updated: April 2023
There is nothing quite like a breast cancer diagnosis to rock your sense of self, and also your sense of womanhood. In 2015, I was first diagnosed, and my initial thoughts of a mastectomy were cloaked in sheer terror.
They’re gonna do WHAT to my WHAT?!
Preparing for the loss of my breast
I had a lot of moments with myself prepping for what was to come. The loss of a breast, the loss of what I thought was my womanly appearance. My shirts weren’t going to fit right, what would I look like in a swimsuit, I can’t leave the house without my prosthesis!
I was young. I was 25, trying to find bras to get pockets sewn in them. I wasn’t a candidate for a spacer, as I was going straight to radiation. My options were slim, and I didn’t want to do a fat transfer.
I wore a prosthetic for almost 3 full years. I got pockets in my bras, I replaced my silicone “cutlet” (I loved calling it that), and I forged ahead with my plans to go back to normal.
Wearing my prosthetic or not
Until the pandemic. When I was in lockdown, I didn’t want to wear my prosthetic. I was more comfortable without it! See, my career was focused on beauty. I was a hairstylist, and I felt wildly uncomfortable without looking balanced as it were. I had to look put together, and I felt so naked without the cutlet in my bra.
At the time, I was talking to my then-girlfriend, now-wife, and she suggested I stopped wearing it altogether. I had never been out of the house without one. The only time I didn’t wear one in a public space was at a festival, and I felt comfortable as all heck there. I was very nervous about what the working world would think if I looked uneven.
Feeling like myself
So I tried it. I went without the cutlet more often than not, and I LOVED it. It was so freeing, I can’t believe I went so long wearing one when not wearing one felt so good. I wasn’t in the salon, so it came easily to me, and it worked for me. Even going back behind the chair, I still had days where I didn’t wear it, which were some of the comfiest days I’ve had in my own skin.
After many days of wearing the prosthetic and many days of not wearing it, I got diagnosed with stage 4 in November of 2020, and I never wore it again. That was the diagnosis that rocked me. There can be something so dehumanizing about going into the clinic day after day, repeating the same info, getting the same blood work, the nurses, the techs, the scans. I didn’t feel like anything, let alone a woman.
Changing how I view my body
That’s when it started. I broke down what I thought I had to look like on the outside and really examined it. All of my life I had been put into this box and made to play the part to fit in, and now was the time to break that box wide open. I could be whatever I wanted to be, and I could finally feel comfortable in my own skin. I took back what was mine, and I shaped how I felt on the inside to how I looked on the outside.
I threw my cutlet away. I have never looked at one with longing ever again. I continue to get tattoos to “decorate my house” as I like to call it, and I keep my hair short because I never had the courage to do so until now. I live my life the way I want to live my life, not the way I have been pushed towards in the past.
Instead of trying to fit inside the binary, I push against it every single day. I was born a woman, I am woman presenting (some of the time), but what I am at my core is a person.
I’m a person with dreams and goals. I’m a person with a family. I’m a person who wants to live a life as loudly as I can because I don’t know how many days I have left to do so. I no longer wish to fit inside any box, because I don’t fit in one anymore, and that’s okay.
Advanced breast cancer is an isolating and lonely disease.