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Wait Just a Minute! Words Matter!

Recently, I stumbled upon a blog post with this title, “Breast Reconstruction Makes Breast Cancer Patients Whole Again After Mastectomy.”


This particular choice of words immediately made me bristle. In fact, I found them down right irritating.


It’s the definitive nature of the statement that annoys, no offends me.

Breast reconstruction makes breast cancer patients whole again after mastectomy.

It doesn’t say breast reconstruction might help make you feel better about yourself. It doesn’t say it might make you feel whole again.

No, it says, breast reconstruction makes breast cancer patients whole again. Hmm. 

I couldn’t get the statement out of my head. That’s usually a sign a blog post is percolating.

This is when having your own blog comes in handy.

This particular title was on a plastic surgery website, so maybe it’s not all that surprising, but yet…

I applaud them for trying to educate women about the process of reconstruction and the options available to them. This is a good thing. However, making implied judgments about the decision is over-stepping.

With or without breasts, women are whole — either way they are complete human beings.

A woman who chooses not to have breast reconstruction is not any less whole.

The fact that I did choose breast reconstruction does not make me whole either.

Somehow, this all ties in with part of the reason I don’t care much for the tactics of various breast cancer awareness organizations like Feel Your Boobies, Save the TaTas and Second Base.

They feed into this notion about femininity (and wholeness) being embodied primarily by a woman’s body parts, specifically her breasts.

Even if unintended, that message is in there.

But this post is not about those organizations.

Again, I spotted this particular title on a website that should know better. This was a professional website geared to helping women who are balancing facts, opinions and harsh realities while trying to make life-changing decisions.

Whoever penned this title should have chosen their words more carefully.

I know they meant well. I understand their point. I chose breast reconstruction myself. I get it. But still…

There are many reasons a woman chooses to do or not to do breast reconstruction.

A woman is whole no matter what route she takes.

How we say things matters.

It’s just that simple.

Words matter.

You might want to read, The Sum of All My Parts.

Has someone’s choice of words regarding cancer offended, annoyed or angered you?


Words Matter! #breastcancer #cancerlanguage #breastreconstruction

Words Matter.

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Tuesday 9th of August 2011

[...] recently taken on this topic in her blog. And another favorite blog of mine, Nancy’s Point.¬†addresses wholeness after breast cancer (with or without reconstruction). And a few years ago, [...]

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Sunday 7th of August 2011

[...] I have spoken with enough women who have made different choices to get a sense of the trade-offs. I have no illusion of “becoming whole again.” [...]


Thursday 4th of August 2011

I was thinking in the shower soon after reading your post, what word would you use in place of Lumpectomy? I had 3 lumpectomies. I never felt "disfigured", just missing a third of my breast. The surgeon said I would not be happy with the result. I have to say I never thought about it, except to be glad to be alive. Today I was in to have a breast MRI and I asked the technican for a different word, and she didn't know of any either. Just wondering.


Thursday 4th of August 2011

Betty, That's a really good question. I don't know what a better word might be. Maybe just calling it a breast surgery might be better. To me "lumpectomy' just doesn't fit, but I guess it's the best term we have for now. Thanks for the comment and question. Showers are good places to think aren't they? Hope your MRI turns out ok.

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