It’s been over a year since my mastectomy and it still feels so strange to say “I have breast implants.” When I was considering reconstruction options, I was presented with the following options.
1. Do Nothing
Women either wear a prosthesis or nothing at all. Badass.
2. Implant Reconstruction
Using silicone or saline implants under the chest muscle to create the look of natural breasts where the breast tissue once was. While it’s a faster recovery time relative to tissue reconstruction, implants aren’t forever. Most women who do this need a few revision surgeries over the course of their lives.
3. Tissue Reconstruction
This amazes me the most. They literally take a piece of your ass or your stomach and create new breasts. They feel quite natural because it’s your own tissue but the recovery time is much more than the implant surgery. It’s quite popular among women who have already had children because they get a tummy tuck and new boobs at the same time.
(note: there is a new type of non-surgical reconstruction on the market called the Brava method that also uses a woman’s own fat, but it’s still fairly new, and was not a viable option at the time I had my surgery).
I chose implant reconstruction, and I’m thrilled with the cosmetic results. They look great and they will remain perky for life. On the other hand, I’ve always had a negative view of breast implants. Before I went through this process, I viewed implants as something for Real Housewives of Various Places.
I am grateful that the innovations in the field of plastic surgery have enabled me to feel whole again, but getting breast implants is not something I ever would have considered before my mastectomy. The obsession with breasts in our society is unhealthy and odd, and my feminist side feels that the growing number of breast augmentation surgeries are a symptom of a larger societal issue. The psychological aspect of having fake breasts is not something I ever thought I would have to contend with.
Body acceptance is a process, and I just had a wrench thrown into mine. Changing in the locker room has become uncomfortable as I have visible scars and from certain angles, they don’t look very natural (although I guess no set of breasts look great from every angle). When I see a woman’s fake breasts falling out of her shirt, it makes me cringe that I’ve got something in common with her. And while I know that our circumstances are quite different, sometimes I feel embarrassed that I have implants. At the same time, it’s the demand for augmentation that drove implant technology and innovation. So should I be thankful to women who choose augmentation instead of judging them? I wonder if my decision to have a preventative mastectomy would have been more difficult if the reconstruction options and outcomes weren’t so fantastic. Also, I strive to live as cleanly and naturally as possible. Where does plastic surgery fit in with that lifestyle? I enjoy makeup and beauty products that alter my appearance, and isn’t plastic surgery just a more extreme form of body modification?
But then I think about the sense of peace that my implants have brought into my life. I traded in my breast cancer anxiety for a brand new pair of boobs – a pair that don’t have to be tested anymore for cancer. My moments of vanity and uncertainty are quickly followed by a deeper appreciation of the life that I chose. I chose to really live. I chose to be breast cancer free, and that’s what these implants represent to me. And that’s a reason more compelling than vanity.
We are all walking paradoxes in some way. The choices we make are important, but the reasons why we make them hold the most value. So the next time I see a woman with fake breasts, I will no longer assume I know why she has implants. Instead, I’ll smile at her and move along with mine.