Skip to main content
Things we aren't supposed to say...

Things We Aren’t Supposed to Say About Mastectomies, Reconstruction & Breasts

June 2nd marked three years since my bilateral mastectomy. The day came and went with no one really remembering other than me. Or at least I don’t think anyone else remembered. No one said anything. As the day progressed this year, I finally mentioned to dear hubby that it had now been three years and I could tell the fact I had brought it up made him uneasy.

I shared it because not sharing it would have made me feel even more uneasy. It’s not like I’ll ever forget that day. I know he has not and will not ever forget either (though he doesn’t remember the exact date) for reasons of his own. I can’t forget because the mirror doesn’t allow for that. There are a whole host of reasons that don’t allow for either of us to forget. This post isn’t about those things. At some point I will write about some of those personal things too, but not yet.

No, this post is about making a simple statement that I think many of us who’ve had mastectomies, and to some extent maybe even those who’ve had disfiguring lumpectomies, hesitate to make. It’s this statement:

I miss my breasts.

Sometimes it seems I’m not supposed to say this. I’m not even supposed to think it. I am supposed to have put all that behind me. I am supposed to be grateful. For the most part, I have and I am. There is even a certain amount of guilt involved in saying or thinking such a thing. After all, I’m alive. Shouldn’t this be enough? Well, yes, but…

There is a lot of talk these days about mastectomies, prophylactic and otherwise. Some even say there are too many being done. In a way, having a mastectomy of any sort has almost become some weird kind of normal.

It’s not.

Along with all the discussion about mastectomies, there is lot of reconstruction talk as well. Sometimes this process is made to sound too easy and almost normal-like as well.

Again, it’s not.

Reconstructed breasts may or may not turn out ‘lovely’, but regardless of the outcome, they are still exactly that – reconstructed. And if a woman chooses not to do reconstruction for whatever reason, she might be looked upon with skepticism by some and perhaps even made to feel she must explain her reasons for making the ‘radical’ choice she made. Again, there’s guilt inserted into this picture. Why is this?

Two other things that really struck me as I was thinking about this post were:

First of all, after a breast cancer diagnosis things often get rolling really fast and there isn’t time allowed or time taken to grieve for sacrificed body parts. We do perhaps need and deserve time to grieve for things we lose to illness; things like hair, breasts, ovaries or whatever it might be. It’s important to acknowledge the losses and be allowed to grieve a bit. A partner might need to grieve as well.

Secondly, even though this very blog is about breast cancer and loss and undoubtedly I have used the word breasts a gazillion times, I don’t think I’ve ever come right out and said, I miss my breasts.

This is a strange absurdity for a breast cancer and loss blog, don’t you agree?

For some reason there seems to be a certain amount of guilt involved when a breast cancer patient, says she misses her breasts. (And think for a minute how our partners might perhaps be unfairly scrutinized/criticized if they were to openly admit they missed their loved one’s breasts). I do miss mine. They were nothing special as breasts go, but they were mine. I don’t think of my reconstructed ones as mine. They are still foreigners in my body. This, too, is another interesting self-revelation.

So yes, I miss the breasts I gave up to this disease and I always will. There, I finally said it! I should not have to feel guilty for thinking or saying such a thing.

Neither should you.

If you have had a mastectomy with or without reconstruction, do you miss your breasts?

Why do you think we sometimes feel guilty about admitting such a thing?

If your partner has had a mastectomy, do you ever admit your true feelings about it to her or to anyone?

Sign up for news/emails from Nancy’s Point!

 Things we aren't supposed to say...

215 thoughts on “Things We Aren’t Supposed to Say About Mastectomies, Reconstruction & Breasts

  1. I feel guilty for missing the way my body used to look. I feel like that makes me shallow, vain, frivolous.

    And it’s not like the mastectomy did anything worthwhile. My cancer was “upgraded” to stage IV before the end of the first year. So yay – I have a disfigured body that didn’t even stop the cancer. Bitter? Hell yeah!

    1. Knot Telling, You don’t have to feel guilty for missing your old body and, of course, you are not shallow, vain or frivolous. I don’t blame you for feeling bitter. Who wouldn’t? I appreciate your honesty here and in all your posts. Thank you.

  2. Missing your breasts seems very normal. How could anyone not miss their own breasts surgically removed? We all together as a society need to allow for this, expect it, and support it. No guilt, just truth!

  3. Whew, I agree. I 100% miss my right breast. There’s no doubt about that.

    I think in terms of ‘things one isn’t meant to say’ . . . I would say (eep). . . that I’m glad I didn’t have reconstruction. I know many women have fought for their right to reconstruct, and reconstruct on their terms – and I’m glad that option is available to women. But when I had the mastectomy, none of my doctors seemed to believe I wouldn’t want to reconstruct. I must have said ‘no thank you’ a dozen times before it sunk in. Maybe that’s why I’m hesitant to say that I’m happy with my flat right chest, and glad not to have gone any further. And while I really, really do miss that breast (though not the cancer) . . . I’m okay with how I look today. ~Catherine

    1. Catherine, It’s interesting that you had to “convince” your doctors that you did not wish to have reconstruction. I’m glad you are comfortable with your decision. Mostly, I’m glad you are doing well and are doing such wonderful work. Thanks so much for adding your thoughts here.

    1. Sara, You’re very welcome. Opting in or out of reconstruction most certainly is a choice, or should be. I did stop by your site today. Looks great! Thanks for stopping by mine. Hope to hear from you again.

  4. I agree wholeheartedly. Seven years later, I still miss my right breast.
    And with every crisis, the emotional and the mourning have been delayed for me – hitting me hard when my body has mostly healed.

  5. I miss my breasts. When I went in to plastic surgeon for the consult about my areola tattoos they had a “before” picture there for me to see so I could help pick colors to match my original areola. I would love to have those beautiful breasts back, even though they had stretch marks from three pregnancies and were a little squishy from nursing for five years. They were lovely and my reconstructed ones are firm and perky but they don’t feel like mine.

    1. Brandie, I have not looked at my before and after pictures. Maybe some time I will. I know how you feel about missing your breasts. I miss mine too. Thank you for sharing about something so very personal.

  6. Nancy, thank you for acknowledging the fact that husbands and partners also share in such a loss. While the “fallout” from breast cancer isn’t as brutal as standing at ground zero, the collateral damage to significant others is deserving of more notice than it typically garners in discussions of this disease.

    I fully supported my wife’s double mastectomy, but my regret of it was not appeased by its value as a treatment. I only wish there had been a better way to reduce her risk. I’m sure I speak for both of us when I say we did not view it as a matter of salvation, but as a necessary evil.

    The full scope of breast cancer is not solitary. It is very much a shared loss on multiple levels. I’m unspeakably grateful that my wife is alive, but I will never stop grieving the loss of her breasts. Those were “my” breasts, too.

    1. Michael, I think it’s really important to acknowledge the impact on the partner, and yes the grief that might be felt by them as well. It very much is a shared experience for a committed couple and I appreciate that you shared your thoughts about it here. I hope you clicked on the link in my post about partners grieving. It’s an astounding article. Thanks so much for commenting.

  7. Breast cancer is a string of losses…and losing breasts is a huge alteration in one’s body image. It’s hard to describe. The year before I had my reconstruction I/we felt the lost most actutely. And for some time after that.

    We need to give ourselves permission to mourn what we mourn, and to have love what we loved about our bodies.
    Thanks for a wonderful post, Nancy,

    jms

    1. Jody, A string of losses, what an accurate description that is. We definitely do need to give ourselves permission to mourn the losses. It has to be part of emotional healing in my view. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  8. I’ve read your column with open mouth. It says exactly the things I cannot speak. And even I do, I miss them enormously. My hubby knows this also, but I find there is no way back, so it makes it difficult to accept. Even after almost 4 years. Sometimes, when I least expect, it overcomes me to burst in tears. Knowing that I did the “right” thing, but not feeling it….
    Thank you very much for your words of understanding… Big hug, C xxx

  9. Before breast cancer took my small but cute breast I wanted an enlargement so bad. Well now when woman mention they are getting the surgery to enlarge their breast all I can think about is careful what you wish for. I got my enlargement with all the ugly scars that came with it. I am now stage lV fighting for each day. I miss my cute little breast so much.

    1. Christine, I’m sorry about your stage IV diagnosis. I know what you mean about listening to those comments…and I understand how much you miss your breasts. Thanks for sharing.

  10. A word from the lumpectomy side. I’ve had 4 breast surgeries, 3 lumpys on the left, one on the right. I made my decision based on the overall mortality rate being the same for lumpectomy vs mastectomy, at the stage 1c my tumor was at diagnosis. I also wanted to save my nipple and keep sensation. So 10 months later I have scars on both breasts, one is pretty puckered, and my left nipple has hurt since treatment. I definitely miss my old breasts. If I knew then what I know now.. I would have gone ahead with the mastectomy, no reconstruction. If anything happens in the future, my choice is already made.
    I wish we could have a campaign to prepare women for their first mastectomy, start talking about options, if a problem is found, prepare them for the kind of decisions they may have to make. We are so afraid of scaring women with information, it’s easier to pretend everything will always be alright if you just get checked, than be prepared in case it isn’t. So many women must make these frantic decisions without nearly enough time to process the choices.
    Thanks for another great post, Nancy.

  11. Great post! I agree also. I now have one boob and one foob (fake boob), really recycled belly fat and skin. They aren’t pretty like the old set were. And the scars!! Those are just crazy and extensive. When I had to lose a breast to cancer at 37.5 years old, my and my husband’s shock was great. That shouldn’t happen at that age! So yes, thinking about all that vain stuff is just natural, I think, and as far as I’m concerned, entirely acceptable. And reconstruction–even the “best” methods are still too costly, dangerous, time-consuming and limited in their results. I want better all the way around, and I want a cure–NOW!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Lopsided Blogger, It’s a lot for a woman to deal with no matter what her age. I agree about the “vanity thoughts” being natural reactions. I also agree about the cost factor and I often wonder what would have happened to me had I not had insurance for any kind of cancer treatment. I do think we need to be cautious and yes, celebrate the successes of treatment and reconstruction too, but we still have a long way to go. And yes, a cure, that’s the ultimate goal.

  12. One comment I find insensitive is when people say things like, “well, at least she’ll get a boob job” or “at least she can get ‘new ones.'” I realize most people mean well and they are trying to make light of the situation, but a mastectomy is not a “boob job.”

    1. Lindsay, Such comments are entirely inappropriate when talking about cancer related surgeries. People don’t really understand the situation, so I agree their intentions are generally good. Someday I’ll write a post about why mastectomies, including prophylactic ones, are not boob jobs, not even close. Thanks for commenting.

  13. I completely agree. I miss more than just my breasts–I miss being able to feel a good back-scratching, especially, because I had latissimus dorsi reconstruction. I just posted about it myself at my blog.

  14. Yeah even if my reconstructed ones look better or as good they are not mine. I miss the feeling in them and they get in my way and are to me just two big blobs that aren’t a real part of me. i agree.

    1. Jo, Isn’t it strange how you still don’t see them as yours? I feel the same way about mine. It’s a very odd feeling. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts. Thank you.

  15. YES, I MISS MY BREASTS!!! I’ve said it all along. My FOOBS, as I call them (fake boobs = foobs), are simply not a part of me. I’ve never accepted them. Probably never will. I never had breast cancer… I had ovarian cancer and the BRCA gene mutation, so, I gave up my breasts. To save my life. But I still miss them. I miss them every day…. every day when I get dressed in something that I don’t quite fill out in the top.

    I’ll never forget the first time I saw the plastic surgeon. He was measuring me, and he said, “You have remarkably symmetrical breasts!” Uh, duh?! But, I learned then that not every woman has symmetrical breasts! Many, in fact, do not. Hmmm. Figures. I miss them… I miss my remarkably symmetrical breasts.

    Thank you for a great post!!

    1. Melly, Good for you for saying it all along! Some of us have more trouble admitting it, openly I mean. I’m glad you took action and went ahead with the prophylactic surgery, but even under such circumstances, these decisions are huge and the impact is great, so of course, you miss your ‘remarkably symmetrical breasts’ – they were yours. I’m sorry you’re BRCA positive and had to deal with this stuff at all, but I’m glad you’ve taken action. Thanks so much for adding to this discussion.

  16. I miss my boobs…a lot. I had a bmx in late 2010; recon with silicone implants and tattooed pink flowers over the scars. They look good, for the most part…but god, yes. I miss my saggy, tiny boobs. If I say something about missing them, people tell me “well, at least you’re still here”…well, yea, I am. And I’m happy about that…but that doesn’t mean I can’t miss my boobs. And nipples. and sleeping on my stomach. This article prompted a thread in a group I belong to – and it was so good to discuss what’s been on my mind lately. Thank you for sharing this…I know i’m not alone.

    1. Diane, Gosh, you and I are so on the same page here. I always slept on my stomach and I miss that so much too! We can be grateful to be alive and at the same time we should be allowed to openly admit how much we miss things we’ve given up. In the long run, this is healthier IMO. As Jody said, there is a string of losses. Thank you for taking time to comment and thank you for telling me this post prompted further discussion in your group. That’s why I wrote it. We need to talk about this too. Thanks again for sharing.

  17. 5 years later I still miss my breasts. Not as fervently as before, but occasionally it makes me quite frustrated. Nobody really talks about loss of nipple sensation either. And how that alone, never mind everything else, can affect intimate moments. It took me over 3 years to fully accept my bilateral LD flaps + implants. I miss the sensation of my back being stroked! But it’s not just from a sensual point of view. My foobs may look pretty convincing (the surgeons were quite pleased with their work), but they’re heavy and still feel weird. I can’t pretend there haven’t been times when I thought, maybe I should have just chanced my luck with a lumpectomy. That sounds terrible, but I might as well be honest.

    I’ve finally come to terms with it, mostly. Luckily I’ve been able to admit my grief to my wonderful partner and even if he misses the old small-perky-but-soft-from-breast-feeding boobs, he’s never admitted that – he probably knows I couldn’t take it! But he seems to genuinely likes the foobs, which helps. And he thinks scars are cool – glad someone likes them! The last couple of years most times I’ve been feeling insecure, I remind myself how I would still love and fancy him if he’d had similar surgery, or his testicles removed, so it’s OK. And also the phantom nipple sensations finally stopped – that was a turning point!

    And if ‘I should have chanced it’ floats into my head, I remind myself that I was 29 when diagnosed, it runs in my family and the payoff was worth it, mostly. My surgeon (a professor no less!) tells me they are doing less mastectomies these days (in the UK) and also researching chronic pain associated, but I still fall into the high risk bracket and their decision still stands. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Frizzstar, Thank you for your incredibly candid comments. It’s funny you mention the nipples. I find now when I see nudity on TV and in movies, I’m immediately drawn to the woman’s nipples. I know this is because I miss mine. I have some, but they’re reconstructed and… well, that’s another post! Women who’ve had surgeries such as yours (not implants) do sometimes have lost sensation on the back too to deal with. Many don’t realize this. The back is also a very sensuous area of the body, so I can only imagine how hard this loss is as well. I’m sorry for all you’ve had to deal with. I’m so glad you have an understanding partner and I’m also glad that overall you’re still comfortable with all your decisions. I think everyone gets those “floater thoughts” from time to time. Thank YOU for sharing.

  18. I chose non-reconstruction (bilateral, though I only needed a single mastectomy and I did it for symmetry, peace of mind and not wanting to have several surgeries) and I do not wear breast forms. I encounter assumptions that my breast cancer must have been really bad… to not reconstruct, to just go flat. I find it interesting that the beauty of this choice is hardly embraced. My results are gorgeous and I need no revision. I accept my body the way it is, without apology. I do pause when people are curious and want a ‘justification’ of my flat. And yes, I miss my breasts but no amount of reconstruction would replace or replicate them. I miss feeling their weight as I wash in the shower. In retrospect I realize they weren’t great sexually and I am glad that I don’t miss them in that respect. Thank you for linking to the article about our partners.

    1. Melly, I think it’s so important to remember that choosing to not reconstruct is a very viable option and many women do in fact choose it. This should always be about choice. It’s interesting how some people assume your cancer must have been really bad and that you feel you need to justify your choice. Sorry about that. Thanks so much for sharing about your decision. And yes, that was an amazing article about partners grief wasn’t it? Thanks again.

  19. I so appreciate this post Nancy. I miss my breasts, but I try to keep it in perspective. In the first moments waking from my surgery (bilateral mastecomies) I took a look at my new chest terrain. It took time to heal both physically and emotionally, and it took time for both my husband and I to adjust to my changed body, but he has been wonderful support all along and has always made it about me, the whole person, not just body parts. I had months to think about my final surgery option and don’t regret my choice not to have reconstruction.For me, it came down to the fact that nothing could replace my God-given breasts. They weren’t perfect, but they were mine. And I am also a marathon runner. I wanted the best chance to be able to keep running and keep running comfortably.
    My hope for all women facing such decisions is that they feel they have all the information they need to help them make the best decision for them, and that most importantly, how they personally feel about it is at the top of the list, not what other people think they should do, not what society and the media imposes. These words came to me as I worked on an essay a couple of years ago. They fit well here: “I am not less of a woman, just a woman less her breasts.” I am very grateful to be here, living life fully today. Thanks Nancy!

  20. It would be surprising if any one didn’t mourn the loss. It hit me the day of my surgery. it felt like one whirl wind appointment after another Seeing the surgeon Tuesday having surgery that Friday! It didn’t hit me till I was undressing taking off my bra for the last time in the hospital bathroom. I had a melt down – not a pretty sight I sobbed.. Once I came to grip with a good dose of sedative I went to surgery. I opted not to have reconstruction, personal choice I didn’t want more surgery. The option is available to me Our health care covers it. s for feeling guilty never I am of the attitude I do what needs to be for myself not to appease apologize to anyone who may not understand. Friends should like me with or without breasts if it bothers them ..move on….I will never beat myself up because I had to make this life changing decision to save my life not theirs… alli x

    1. Alli, I think most of us have had a few melt downs too. I’m glad you’re comfortable with your decisions. That’s ultimately what matters most. I agree, it would be more surprising if we didn’t mourn the losses. Still, I think many women hesitate to speak about this, as well as so many other aspects of this disease. Thank you for sharing, Alli.

  21. Nancy,

    I commend you for your honesty and I am thankful that have come to a place where you can openly share that you miss your breasts.

    I have not had my breasts amputated although my heart was damaged by chest radiation and Adriamycin 35 years ago and my heart was amputated w/ a new heart seated in its place a little more than 5 years ago now.

    The feelings of guilt and ingratitude over giving voice to the fact that I miss my heart especially knowing that life was lost yet mine continued can be overwhelming at times.

    I had to make time to grieve my heart amidst a host of family and friends all of whom were over the moon rejoicing that I had been gifted a new heart. They weren’t grieving my old heart in the same way I was. In a lot of ways it’s been a lonely journey in grief, but I am intent upon capturing the sun.

    Acknowledging, articulating, and grieving our losses does not make us ungrateful in any way, shape, or form. To me, it makes us genuine and reminds us that we are not alone.

    I know my loss is different; I don’t presume to know not can I imagine the string of losses that come with breast cancer. I am inspired by so many of you as I get to know you through your blogs and one another.

    Thank you for this post!

    Stephanie

    1. Stephanie, Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Though your loss is very different, in some ways it’s also the same. Giving up body parts is an experience that’s difficult to fully come to terms with sometimes. I’m sorry for all you’ve been through and for the grief you still feel. On top of grieving for your own heart, you also grieve for the person whose heart you received. I can only imagine what that might be like. The heart represents so much as to what makes up any given person, and just physically. That old saying “heart and soul” is said for a reason. Thank you so much for your valuable insights about this topic. Your thoughts here are always welcome. My best to you.

  22. I don’t only miss my breasts on daily basses, from time to time the loss is so deep, I suffer phantom pain, which might be physical, but is certainly emotional.
    Last summer I’d been with my kids in Greece, and I was sitting at the beach, staring at the reveled breasts, like the worse sleazy guy on the beach…

    1. Efrat, I have not experienced phantom pain. I’m sorry you have. I do, however, know exactly what you mean about the staring. I guess it’s human nature to long for what we no longer have. Thanks so much for sharing. I appreciate your thoughts on this.

  23. Nancy, this is a great post. There is a lot of guilt pressure with breast cancer! It’s almost as bad as the guilt of being a mom! And my daughter is a teen so it has been the the double-decker guilt sandwich.

    I have felt different pressure, not to hide my grief over the loss of my breast but the fact that it wasn’t nearly the emotional loss I expected it to be. Do I like the fact that I’ve had seven surgeries? Of course not! Was it easy? Of course not! But I feel like I’m healing from them.

    I do miss having sensation but again it is not the worst loss I have felt in my life. Losing the illusion of health has been the biggest loss. I saw illusion because I had nudged my weight into the obese range, yet again in my life, about a year before my diagnosis. So, I was not really as healthy as I thought.

    But I feel guilty about admitting that I did not feel as much grief over my surgeries as I thought I would.

    Just as there are messages that mastectomy and reconstruction are not a big deal, there are also messages that it they are horrible, awful, and terrible.

    There are a whole lotta messages telling us how to feel. And I don’t think these pressures come from nefarious places. Part of the loneliness of cancer is wanting to connect with others who feel similarly. And part of the worry of a loved one of a woman being treated for breast cancer is that she is suffering.

    1. Elizabeth, I agree that losing the illusion of good health is a pretty big loss. Isn’t it interesting that you feel guilty because you don’t feel as much grief over your surgeries as you thought you would! My goodness, we women do know how to do guilt don’t we? There are a lot of mixed messages out there telling us how we should or should not feel. Truth is, no one has the right to tell us how to feel. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  24. I hated the breasts I was born with, but would give anything to have them today.

    Life will never be the same and not just because of these round thing in my chest. Lymphedema, pain, complications, many surgeries…I still don’t know when I’ll get nipples that I’ll never feel, except for the pain I’ll probably experience getting them

    Yes, I have options but none will ever bring about the ease and comfort of living with what I was born with.

    I’m tired of people trying to blow sunshine up my ass and hearing, “but you’re alive!” Is this what is called living? My life is forever altered by cancer with this whole process, which includes a BRCA1 status.

    I will work through this–these feelings, but the disfiguration and physical pain gets to me. I don’t spend time looking at the distortion on my chest because I’m too angry, sickened, afraid and busy trying to find this “New Normal” people keep talking about.

    1. Tracy, I understand. It’s a lot to deal with isn’t it? There’s a lot to work through and we each must do it at our own pace and in our own way. Thank you for sharing so candidly.

  25. Do I miss my right breast? Of course I do. What’s more I am certain my husband does as well.

    It’s funny because I was ambivalent about reconstruction to start but my surgeon told me she thought I would be happier if I did it. You know what? She was right. When I awoke from surgery with “something” there, I realized it would have been a shock to wake up without a breast.

    I’m glad to have that breast even though I often think it feels like I have a brick attached to my chest. It’s just doesn’t feel normal to me yet but I’m grateful that I seem normal to others who only can see me from the outside.

    Although the thing about looking normal is that it gives people the impression that things ARE normal for you even when they are not. I think that is where some of the dumb comments come from…. people can’t see how much you have been hurt. No one knows that there are probably 25 inches of scars on my chest and stomach. If they saw me under my clothes maybe they would be able to better understand just how much was taken.

    That’s the message of the scar project. To show what happens. I still think people don’t get it. No matter how skilled your surgeon is…. that’s the best we have right now. The results you see in those photos are not anomalies. That’s what you get. Lopsided, nipple-less, asymmetrical masses with scars and no feeling….. except the feelings we all have that we lost something.

    I shared a photo from my recon in this post.

    http://mariatfowler.blogspot.com/2013/02/you-should-have-seen-it-in-color.html

    1. Maria, “Although the thing about looking normal is that it gives people the impression that things ARE normal for you even when they are not.” Gosh, Maria, that’s quite profound and so true. And of course, you’re so right, no matter how skilled your surgeon or how good the outcome, things are never the same again. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and the link.

  26. Wow Nancy reading this again today about your bilateral mastectomy is so strange because mine has been on my mind a lot lately. I had a recurrence with a radiated breast only a year and a quarter after my lumpectomy, chemo and radiation.

    I think about my mastectomy every day especially because my radiated breast is so numb and my back a little numb too from the lat flap. Since I had a radiated breast I had many failed surgeries but I finally found someone who fixed it. Each time I woke up with the expanders in I felt so positive everything was fine. Then came the waiting to get the drains out and the injections. The expanders would come out, implants in and over time many surgeries failed.

    What I must do is bring my mind to a positive place and be thankful that all is well. I just wish that this disease did not have so many awful side effects and cause mets and take away people that I loved very much. What’s most important is that I release all of this into the universe, take a deep breath and focus on all of the positives while I try to be the best advocate I can be to others.

    It’s ironic that there are people who think we got free breast jobs! LOL!

    1. Susan, It’s just about impossible not to think about these things every day. And yes, the irony… indeed. Thanks so much for sharing, Susan.

  27. I just had my right breast mastectomy May 24th 2013. I opted for no reconstruction. I’m 53. I guess it is early but I have definitely done the woulda shoulda coulda. I don’t want reconstruction because I know it would not be my breast but a sac of saline I would be carting around with multiple surgeries, risk for infection etc.

    1. Dee, Who hasn’t done the woulda, shoulda, coulda, right? We all have to determine what we want to do based on our own situations, risk factors, health care access, goals etc. Your surgery was very recent, so be kind and gentle with yourself physically and emotionally speaking too. Hope you are healing well.

  28. I only just had my double mastectomy op in February so it’s hard to know how I’ll feel in a few years, but I imagine pretty much the same. I do miss my breasts, and I feel grumpy about the numb feeling all the way down my arm, and the way the implants feel cold when I wake up in the morning. Mostly, I miss being able to feel anything, I sometimes lean on something with my “new bumpers” without noticing which is just bizarre. It feels a little bit like I’m just being silly but I sometimes shed a tear for the missing bits of me.

  29. As usual, thought provoking conversation and YES, I miss my breasts.

    I hate that I have absolutely no sensation…. and what bugs me more? What once brought me tremendous pleasure….. now, ITCHES like mad. Today has been a particularly awful day. I can’t get the itching to subside…

    Why does something I can’t feel still itch? Really upsets me….

    AnneMarie

    1. Lois, It did strike a chord didn’t it? I miss mine too. It’s interesting your choice of words, Lois – not every minute. I think that says a lot in itself. Thank you for stopping by.

  30. Hi Nancy… I did miss my right breast at first, it was the favourite, the go to nursing breast for my three boys, sentimental stuff. I still have my left, complete with all the beautiful stretch marks and flatness from constant inflating and deflating through the 12 years I breast fed. However, I wish I had none. I miss my old self now, not my breast.

    I miss running up the stairs, and marathon cleaning days. I miss moving any single part of me without feeling the scar tissue, without the discomfort through arm, back and chest… My right breast is itchy on occasion, nothing like scratching at air to raise a few eyebrows. I did not go the reconstruction route. Not only is stage IV a constant mind game, my amputation is as well, the after effects are forever.

    Big hugs…

    1. Carolyn, As Jody said, breast cancer is a string of losses in some respects. I’m sorry about all those things you miss and I know being stage IV is a whole new ballgame. I agree the after effects are forever, some of them anyway. Thank you for sharing about such personal matters. Hugs back.

  31. Hi Nancy,

    Trying to catch up on my blog reading. I loved this post! I’m kind of in a strange position because as I said in my blog, I was diagnosed in 2001 and did the lumpectomy, radiation, and chemo route, but it wasn’t until 2006 that I got a prophylactic bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Take a year plus of recovery, and, well, I’m not that far out from surgery.

    I miss my breasts (the ones I was born with), too. At the time of my surgery, I admit I hated them because they were a threat to my life. But now I wish I had taken “farewell” pictures. I don’t feel vain in saying they were nice. And I don’t feel guilty saying how much I miss them. They were mine and now they are gone, but the amputations had to be done.

    Every day I notice the scars and numbness. But I am grateful to be alive. I miss my belly button, too. It was so nice, but the DIEP flap reconstruction resulted in it being somewhat distorted. Oh well. Maybe I’ll write about the belly button some day. With all the talk about breasts, I’m sure the belly button feels neglected — ha!

    1. Beth, Your experience has in some ways been even harder since it was “dragged out” over so many years. What an excruciatingly difficult process it’s been for you. We all feel that mix of gratitude and loss I guess. Thanks for sharing and yes, maybe you should write about the belly button!

  32. I miss my breasts but I’m very proud now to say it’s been 8-1/2 years since my bilateral mastectomy with TRAM reconstruction. I did not have nipple reconstruction but I swear that I experience sensations in my phantom nipples. That helps with the loss.

    1. Bev, That must be a strange sensation. I’m glad it helps with the loss. I miss my breasts too. I think most of us do. How could we not?

  33. I am just 8 weeks post op- dbl. mastectomy. I don’t miss them yet. In a weird way I am okay with how I am. I have not had reconstruction and I am still tossing that around too.
    There is no shame in missing your breasts! They were a part of us, with us all our lives… Ok to grieve them too! 🙂

    1. Tatiana, I’m glad to hear you feel okay with things. I do too, but I still miss my breasts. I always will – and I think that’s okay too. Thanks for stopping by.

  34. I love this blog post because it put into words what I myself have thought so many times but have been afraid to voice out loud. I had a bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction (tissue expanders) on September 6, 2012). I had my final surgery to exchange the expanders for implants on May 6th of this year. The reconstructed breasts feel foreign to me and every time I look in the mirror I think to myself “This is not me”. But I know that I should be happy because I am alive. So I just go on without saying anything.
    Thank you for being brave enough to put into words what so many of us I am sure have thought privately.

    1. Debbie, I know exactly what you mean. It’s been over two years since my trade out to implants and they still feel foreign to me and honestly, I think they always will. Thanks so much for reading and for your kind words. I’m not brave at all, just hoping to help others feel less alone. There are many losses to cancer, I don’t think our voices should be one of them. Hope all is going well for you now. Thanks for sharing.

  35. I had Diep reconstruction on the same day that I had the double mastectomy. I went to sleep with breasts and woke up feeling like I still had my breasts. The recovery was awful, and I miss having sensation in my nipples, but I still feel like I have MY brreasta since the tissues are all mine.

    1. Janet, I’m sorry your recovery was awful… I’ve heard that the procedure you had can have a long and sometimes difficult recovery. I’m glad you still feel that ownership. I wish I had looked into the procedure you had further. Thanks so much for sharing.

  36. I appreciate reading all of these comments. I was diagnosed last Friday with Low Grade Stage 0 DCIS. I’m only 41. I am grateful that it was caught so early. But now I am faced with the decision of lumpectomy plus radiation or mastectomy. The more I read, the more conflicted I feel. I initially thought the lumpectomy was a no brainer until I realized it could result in multiple surgeries to get clean margins plus radiation for 6 weeks.
    More and more I’m considering the mastectomy and perhaps a double to at least feel symmetrical and reduce the potential of going through this on my other breast. I’m concerned the lumpectomy will leave my already small breast gravely disfigured. All that to say, I appreciate knowing that I will mourn my body either way. With Stage 0, there’s a small part of me that has to remind myself that it IS cancer. It still needs long term hormone therapy…. surgery is required…. it’s still a big deal. I’m super blessed to have it caught so early…. and while I will mourn the changes to my body, I will simultaneously celebrate the life I get to live.

    1. Joy, I’m sorry to hear about your diagnosis. It’s a lot to grapple with isn’t it? I certainly would not rush into the mastectomy decision. Take time to thoroughly discuss, further research and think about your options. Be sure you understand all of them. Lumpectomy isn’t something to necessarily rule out. Good luck sorting through things. And yes, allow yourself to grieve for the losses while also celebrating life every day. My best to you. Keep me posted.

  37. I have to be honest, I don’t miss my breasts all that much. They were too big and seemed determined to make my life a living hell. They even tried to kill me! I like my new breasts better and sometimes think I’d be even happier if I were “Flat and fabulous.” What I do miss is my sexuality, which I feel was largely taken away by hormone therapy and chemo. Still I am happy to be alive….

    1. Kate, It’s good to hear this actually. I’m glad you feel the way you do. I can’t say I feel the same. I don’t. I understand about the hit you feel your sexuality has taken due to hormone therapy and chemo. Cancer treatment takes a real toll on the body and mind. Sometimes I think people forget how harsh treatment can be. But of course, absolutely – we are happy to be alive! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  38. Yes, I miss my breast! That droopy thing that nursed my three kids. I feel absolutely furious at anybody that says “well, now you can get the breasts of your dreams.” Lose your breast and the breast of your dreams is that saggy thing that was you, that had sensation. I am also still very angry at family members who wanted me to be rejoicing with them that the cancer was gone instead of allowing me to mourn. (Very premature I might add, cancer came back by first 3 month check-up and I’m now stage IV.) My husband even demanded one of the doctors put me on antidepressants because I was mourning my breast. This was at 2 weeks after the surgery.
    What I miss even more than my breast is the marriage I once thought I had. Oh, my husband is a “long-suffering saint.” Just ask him and anyone of friends and family who has been listening to him. And he still insists on going to appointments. Even says if I die of this, he is going to die. But, at my surgery, he moved into the guest room “until I healed,” that’s been over a year. There is no affection given to me or accepted from me. I have no chance to know what the hormone therapy has done to my sex drive, I don’t even get kisses or hugs. And when I used to be stupid enough to try to share with him how ugly I felt, one breasted with scars, looking for affirmation of myself as a woman, he merely would reply “but the alternative was to die.” (Now that I have hair again, he has complimented my hair – but I am greedy, I want to hear I am still a good looking WOMAN – he could even throw in for my age!)
    I’m still thinking about reconstruction. It would have to be DIEP because of all the radiation, so there would then be scars on my stomach, too. But, if I do it, it will be so I can wear clothes without having to watch every neckline, because even in many modest scoop necks, it is obvious.(Maybe I wasn’t as droopy as I thought.)So when I bathe or shower, it won’t be as dramatic a reminder. And hopefully, so the backaches I get if I try to do anything without a weighted foob balancing things, will go away or be better. (Am I the only person who gets backaches from being out of balance? I never hear about it anywhere.)
    OK, my rant is long enough. Just, I need somebody to care enough about me to allow me to mourn my loss without trying to make me feel guilty that I do so.

    1. Elizabeth, I’m sorry for all the losses cancer has brought you and you are entitled to grieve for them. Also, there’s no reason to feel guilty. I care. I hope you can talk with someone face-to-face too. Your doctors should be able to offer suggestions. Don’t suffer alone.

  39. Wow! Reading this made me realize I’m not alone for saying I miss my breast like you they were nothing special but they were mine. I had a double mastectomy and it has now been 6 years (YA) in my memory bank is the day the told me I had breast cancer and the day I had my breasts removed which was the day before my 48th birthday so my birthday is always bitter sweet so thankful to be here with my son, daughter, grandson’s,and the rest of my family and friends, then I get that reminder of losing my breasts. I did do breast reconstruction I chose the Tram Flap I thought was an easier way to try to get back what I lost yes they used my own skin the doctor I had did a fantastic job however I have had side effects even to this day and I chose not to do nipples, sometimes I think about that time in my life and your point of saying how everything happens so fast you really don’t have time to think about choices.
    I just want to say THANK YOU for bringing this subject up about what we should say and not say or think. Unless you have been through the ordeal you really don’t know so go to the site often because I know that you all know what is like so to all my breast cancer survivor friends keep expressing your feelings.

    1. Kathy, No, you are most definitely not alone and yes, we do mourn for body parts (among other things) that we give up to cancer. The reminders are always close to the surface aren’t they? Thanks so much for reading and for taking time to comment. It’s so important to speak up about all aspects of the breast cancer experience, including the losses.

  40. Hi Nancy, I had type two cancer and waiting for surgery on my right breast. Bilateral surgery was my choice. As I already had breasts implants for thirty years, with no problems. My cancer was caused from hormones. So glad to be alive and be with my wonderful husband and three beautiful kids. Hugs to all.
    Deborah

  41. I dreamed a few nights ago that I had my breasts again and I could actually feel the nipple sensation. It’s been 10 years since my double mastectomy and I have never been able to accept my body. I have never shared this with anyone for the very reasons you give… It would make me shallow and ungrateful…

    1. Sheila, Your comment really spoke to me. It’s only been three years since my mastectomy. I know exactly what you mean. You are not shallow. You are not ungrateful. You are being honest about how you feel. It’s hard to accept our new bodies isn’t it? And even if and when we do, we still miss, and yes grieve for our old ones, at least from time to time. Thank you for your heartfelt comment. I’m so glad you shared.

  42. Hi Nancy, thanks for the blog.
    I have bilateral mastectomy from March 2011. I initially thought I’d ‘just’ have reconstruction, but in the end I wasn’t prepared to compromise on my fitness in terms of muscle strength, roaming implants, capsular contraction and the many other risks that I researched, plus it involved more surgery that I didn’t actually NEED. I felt there was a lot of pressure culturally, and there seemed to be many women around who were horrified that reconstruction wasn’t an option for them initially. the risk of it failing almost didn’t feature. It almost negated having to deal with the loss of one or both breasts.
    I decided that flat would suit my lifestyle (lots of outdoor stuff, especially swimming) and I got a range of breast forms including for swimming.
    They lasted a few weeks, and I forgot about it.
    I do have breast envy, and cleavage envy, quite often. But mostly I don’t mind that I have no breasts. Some people notice, most of them really don’t. It helps that I’m now 52 and extroverted, and people don’t focus on your body at that age as much as they do at 22.
    I miss them, I do. But I feel lucky that my cancer was caught in time. I find that when I put on a few pounds I look like ET and I have a strange bulge below where my breasts used to be. I feel a bit odd then, but It’s a small price to pay.
    I’m hoping to have a tattoo fairly soon,one that will grow from the scars rather than cover them up. It will be something beautiful, because I don’t feel that my chest is pretty.

    1. Lynne, Thank you so much for your candid comments. I agree that there is pressure sometimes to do reconstruction. The choice is a personal one of course and I’m glad you are satisfied with your choices. I know what you mean about that breast envy. I had reconstruction and I still experience that. I will be writing another post on that at some point. Let me know how the tattooing goes. I have a post on my tattooing if you’re interested. Good luck with everything and thanks for sharing.

      1. I had some breast work done and I used the Dr Max Powers Scar Serum on one breast and the scar treatment they gave me at the doctor’s office on the other breast. The Dr Max Powers Scar Serum worked so much better I wish i would have used it on both sides now!!! I didn’t use it on both sides because I didn’t know what the reaction would be on an semi open wound ( stiches). I am using it now however and it is working…but its taking much longer to fade the scar.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *