To Breast or Not to Breast
Breasts are serious business.
Society has all kinds of ideas about them - from vulgar to sexy to beautiful. They are a part of life. Unfortunately for many, so is breast cancer. We all know it is out there and more than likely we know a survivor or someone who wasn't so fortunate. I know both. My friend Melanie Testa battled with breast cancer last year. During her fight she made the decision to "go flat." No reconstructive surgery and no pockets in her clothing to put in prosthetics. You can read more about her decision here. Mells has been posting on her blog about making Breast Pockets in order to bring more awareness to "Flatties." She has decided to ask others to make some as well in an attempt to raise awareness and unite with others who have made the same decision. Here is her plea:
I feel passionate about being a ‘flattie’, a woman who chose not to reconstruct after breast cancer treatments and doesn’t want to wear breast forms either. I am getting used to being flat and am experiencing the stares of curiosity that is a normal part of our humanity but also a showing of how few women chose to ‘go flat’ after breast cancer treatment. You may have read a recent article I wrote for Role/Reboot, an online magazine questioning gender in society. Here is the link:
The article pretty much sums up why I think women are hesitant to put their breast forms aside. I am active in an online forum for breast cancer survivors and the women on this board really would like ‘Flat Awareness’ to occur. We cringe at the thought of Plastic Surgery Reconstruction Day (October 17, search google-!) We don’t want foreign objects in our bodies. We don’t want to wear forms to maintain a ‘socially acceptable body image’. We want to be accepted as women who have decided against reconstruction and we want to push this image into being widely accepted in the societal visual lexicon of what a female body can look like over the course of a lifetime. This isn’t just a choice for women who are ‘of an age’ (i.e. having no stake in the game, and believe me, this is often the response I hear when I say that I decided against reconstruction, it goes like this, ‘Oh! My mother (aunt, grandmother) decided against reconstruction but she was _ _ years old.’). We want to turn the repressive body image pressures off and create a new sexy, strong and beautiful but we are flat or half flat!
Today, I participated in a taped segment about my hospital’s Breast Cancer Survivors Pool Program. This is a local ABC News at 5 program. And believe me, I made sure I would be taped with no towel covering up my beautiful flat chested body. I went to represent me and my fella flat chested survivors. Hopefully, my interview will make the 90 second segment! At the same time I spoke with the reporter about the Breast Pocket project to raise awareness for those of us who decide against reconstructing our bodies. The reporter said, “If you can get 1000 pockets, contact me, we will try to do a story.”
I seek a physical representation of the women that you know, who made the decision notto reconstruct their bodies after breast cancer by way of making breast pockets (explained below).
Women who decide against reconstructing their bodies often wear prothesis or breast forms, as they are also called. These breast forms need pockets sewn into bras, camisoles and swim suits in order to hold the form in place. These forms can be quite heavy, uncomfortable, they shift, rub against our scars, often contribute to the dreaded, under-studied and life long struggle with lymphedema. Many of the women on the cancer boards I frequent do not want to wear forms, these women often feel compelled to keep up a ‘good image’ in their workplace and on the streets of their hometowns. We want to see acceptance of our choice and to let other women who have to make this decision to know that it ain’t all bad! So, won’t you please make a breast pocket in the name of your friend, mother, aunt, sister? Lets break the walls down, stop being quiet and making nice, lets build a world where it is acceptable to go flat after breast cancer treatment. With this call for breast pockets, I am using the idea of the shirt pocket, also called breast pockets to make an artistic statement about breast cancer and deciding to forego reconstruction.
Please, help me to take this reporter up on her offer to build awareness for us ‘flatties’.
Call For Art: Breast Pockets (pockets as you would find on your favorite button up, pocketed blouse). There are many shapes of pockets, the western, patch, button down flap, choose a style!
If your aunt had a unilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, make just one pocket and/or flap. If I am the only ‘flattie’ you know? Oh, well, you will need to make a pair! The point is, I would like a physical representation of how many women forego reconstruction. I am lifting the curtain and peeking in. How many women do you know? Make pockets for each one, unilateral or bilateral. Each pocket should have a name attached to it, first names only. Please use the pattern on my site (see link below), or make your own pattern, because breasts come in all sizes and shapes, make them with your tools and media, don’t think twice about it. These pockets can be cloth or paper or.
And please, invite your friends, in fact, forward the link to this post freely, please speak up, talk about it on your blogs.
Email me when you have your pockets completed and I will tell you where to send them.
Deadline: Please send the pockets to me during the week of October 22. Comment on this post and I will put your name in an already growing list of participants. I will let you know where to ship your pockets in a private email.
Make a Breast Pocket today! Paper, cloth, whatever! If you live near me I will deliver them to Melanie next week, and if you need to put it in the mail send me or Melanie a message and we will get you an address to mail them too!