Life without the girls. No more tatas. Adios to the twins.
About 80,000 women every year have one or both breasts removed. Some of these are after breast cancer, and some of these follow a pre-diagnosis.
The results for life after mastectomies differ in every way physically, socially, economically and emotionally. Some survivors are just plain thankful for the potentially deadly body parts to be gone, while others are devastated by the pain or by their new appearance.
Tobey Young chose a double mastectomy several years ago after testing positive for the gene associated with high-risk breast cancer. She had lost her mother 18 years earlier to breast cancer, and another relative had been recently diagnosed.
“I had a decision to make. I talked to my doctors and my recently diagnosed relative. I smacked myself in the head and said… female parts or my life?” Young, of Oceanside, NY, also had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed.
“After you get past the fact that you are going to lose your breasts, don’t look back,” Young said. She endured the surgeries, the pain, the inconvenience, the loss of income for five weeks as a dental hygienist and the recovery process. “It was not fun,” she said. “But it’s done.”
Young founded a support group for previvors and survivors in Long Island. “I just felt so driven to help other women because I didn’t really have anyone helping me.”
Some athletes worry about not being to continue with their sport and some mothers worry about not being able to lift their children.
For women who decide on reconstruction, there are several options: saline and silicone implants, using tissue and muscle from the stomach or other areas, or a combination of these.
After a mastectomy, it may be difficult to find clothes that fit. There may be sensitivity, tightness or pain. Some may choose bra inserts.
Some post-mastectomy patients blog about the individuality of this process.
Irene Healy, a sculptor and anaplastologist in Toronto, creates breast prosthesis by using laser scanning and modeling software. Her company, New Attitude, uses technology to match, shape, tone and nipple.
Young says that despite the negatives that come along with mastectomies, there are some positives, too. “You get to live. No more mammograms. You can have perfect, gorgeous breasts, and you may never have to wear a bra again.”