Closing a Chapter in My Cancer Book


A survivor reflects on having her breast implants removed as she hopes to turn the page in her cancer journey.

On June 27, 2019, I had my left breast implant removed. I'd had the right one taken out in 2016 after a second bout of cancer. My rationale for wanting the left implant removed was that I desired symmetry — even if that meant I'd be very small chested.

My plastic surgeon and my insurance company agreed with my thinking, and the implant came out. I saw this surgery as the end of a chapter in my cancer narrative. I hoped I had reached the end of the cancer book.

Without the implants, I was now an “AA.” Having been a “DD” before my first cancer in 2011. It was a huge change. Truth be told, I liked how I looked minus my old top-heavy breasts. But it was a heck of a way to get a new look.

What can I say? Being small chested was more comfortable. And there were other advantages. With large breasts, came acne underneath them, which became worse in the hot summer months. Big boobs also caught crumbs, which was a little embarrassing to wipe away in a fancy restaurant. And then there were the bras that were necessary to wear. Does anyone really like a bra? At least with small breasts, if I don't want to wear a one, I can get away with it.

But was I kidding myself? Was this the end of my cancer narrative, the cancer book, so to speak? What if it was? Perhaps, I'd live to a ripe old age of 100. I hadn't allowed myself to fantasize this for years. Was my life returning to normal? Certainly, the surgeries were over (for the moment).

No more surgery. No more counting backward from 100. No more disappearance into nothingness. Like dying. Suddenly you're there, and the next second, you're gone. In another instance, you're waking up from an operation. I have to admit, I enjoyed being anesthetized. To be put into such a deep place. Over and out. Blackness. How do they do that?

But anesthesia was one of the only appealing things about cancer. What won't I miss? Drainage bulbs hanging from my chest. Crispy red skin flaking off — a radiation nightmare. Mouth sores. Incredible fatigue. Oh, if this could all be over and never return.

No one knows their future. In this sense, I am just like everyone else. There's comfort in numbers. We're all just moving along blindly, not knowing what's going to happen next. This is the human predicament.

One thing is for sure: I've become a small-breasted woman. Clothing becomes me. I am less encumbered. A younger me? I don't think so. Too much has been experienced. Too much pain. Too much joy.

There is no going back. There is only hope that this is the end of my cancer book. I pray my next life book won't be such a downer. But everyone likes a happy ending, right?

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