There are certain topics in Cancer Land that come up time and time again. One of these topics is what you should say or not say to a cancer patient. Generally, I try not to critique too harshly what people say or do not say because most people mean well. Generally, I try to refrain from suggesting what people should or should not say; well, most of the time anyway.
But there is one thing I am pretty darn certain you should not say to a woman facing a mastectomy of any kind, including a prophylactic one.
Do not say, “Gee, at least you get to have a free boob job!” or the other equally distasteful yet often heard question, “You’re going bigger, right?”
Both of these comments are annoying, crass, insensitive, potentially hurtful and simply out of line.
I imagine there are a handful of women out there who do feel ‘lucky’ they had this ‘opportunity’ to get ‘better boobs’. I’m sure there are some who do like their new ones better than their originals.
But trust me, these are not things you want to say to a breast cancer patient, or to a patient trying to avoid breast cancer. Do not say them. Please, just do not!
I realize I am preaching to the choir here, but maybe the message will miraculously trickle out somehow if enough of us keep saying it.
When you need a comeback response, sometimes a list is helpful to pull out of your pocket or your brain, so…
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Ten reasons not to call breast reconstruction a boob job (of course there are more reasons, but I’ll just go with ten for now).
1. First of all, some breast cancer patients will not be having mastectomies for various reasons (such as stage or tumor size). Secondly, some who will be having a mastectomy are opting out of reconstruction for various and sometimes personal reasons. There will be no boob job of any sort. Enough said.
2. Breast reconstruction is not a boob job. They are very different procedures. I wrote a post on the differences here.
3. A boob job goes relatively fast – it’s usually an outpatient procedure. Breast reconstruction surgery of any type takes hours and often requires multiple surgeries and therefore multiple recoveries. And of course, multiple procedures also create multiple opportunites for complications to occur.
4. Many women who opt for reconstruction do not reconstruct their nipples, again for various and personal reasons. Not quite as pretty a picture now is it? And reconstructed nipples have no feeling in them; they are mostly for appearances sake only.
5. Speaking as an implant recipient, I’ll just say the darn things are heavy and at times quite uncomfortable. They feel nothing like my originals. They just don’t. I’ll write a more detailed post about this at some point.
5. When you have a boob job, it’s an enhancement choice, not a salvage job. Big difference.
6. With breast reconstruction your partner’s sexual pleasure is
always often times impacted negatively for obvious reasons, as is your own, for too many reasons to go into here. Some relationships can handle the changes. Some cannot.
7. After reconstruction, sometimes it hurts when you are hugged, squeezed or even touched in certain ways. And yet at the same time, the sensation or feeling in your breasts is gone or greatly reduced, usually for good. Go figure.
9. I don’t know for sure, but I imagine most women who’ve had boob jobs rather enjoy looking at their new enhanced forms when they shower, get dressed, don that sexy bra or whenever. On the other hand, some of us who’ve had reconstruction avoid mirrors, struggle to even wear a bra comfortably again and work daily at reclaiming a positive body image. The physical scars are many. The scars fade, of course, but disappear they do not. The emotional scars, the scars we cannot see, can be even tougher to deal with.
10. Oh, and let’s not forget there is that whole cancer thing to contend with. Breast reconstruction is only the cosmetic component of the cancer treatment plan. Besides the slash, there is also often the burn (radiation) and poison (chemo) to contend with as well. And even for women choosing the prophylactic route, cancer is still the silent lurker in the background.
So no, breast reconstruction, prophylactic or otherwise, is not a woman’s chance to at least get a ‘free’ boob job out of the deal.
Don’t say that. Just don’t. Think of something better to say, or else perhaps it’s best to just keep quiet.
Breast reconstruction is not a boob job, not even close.
Has anyone ever said to you, “At least you get to have a ‘free’ boob job?” or “You’re going bigger, right?”
If you did not choose reconstruction, has anyone ever questioned your decision to opt out?
Do you have a good comeback response to add to this list?
Want to read more on this topic?
Check out my ebook, Facing Your Mastectomy & Making Reconstruction Decisions