I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008 as a single 35 year old. It was a big shock, and then a huge relief when I was told I wouldn’t need chemotherapy, just a mastectomy. Luckily I was offered immediate reconstruction, and I have had a very positive experience, maintaining my shape.
I wasn’t prepared, however, (as a fit, healthy, active, working woman) for how much the surgery would knock me around, and how long the recovery and reconstruction process took. I think it was two years before the implant started to feel a part of me and I stopped being constantly aware of it and the overlying numbness.
In the last two years I have faced the most confronting body shape issue so far, pregnancy!
My normal breast increased in size continuously for 9 months, while the silicone implant stayed the same. As my belly grew I became increasingly self-conscious about my mismatching upper half, padding out the reconstructed side from a C to an F cup at the largest.
I felt decidedly unsexy at this point despite constant reassurance from my partner. I also found myself mourning the loss of the breast all over again, not something I had expected, and probably related to all the hormones making me weepy.
I was determined to breastfeed my beautiful baby boy, and after five weeks of dramas we got there in the end.
I was again very self-conscious in the hospital as nothing reminds you quite as much of the past as when you are required to repeat again and again why you are only feeding off one side.
Things are returning to normal now he is 10 months and only having two breastfeeds a day. I no longer have the beautiful matching pair the plastic surgeon achieved, but I am happy to be back to almost even again. Somehow every time I get a big cuddle from the baby the traumas of post mastectomy and pregnancy fade into distant memory as I feel grateful for this new life.