Celebrating My Body From Cancer to Motherhood
October 25, 2023
After having had both a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction surgery, I don’t miss my original breasts. To be honest, my breasts weren’t my favourite feature to begin with, but once having my surgeries I experienced a moment of doubt. Did I make the right decision?
I thought about my future and the future of my children and not having the ability to breastfeed. I wondered, when I have children, if I would feel like I was going to miss out on something. At the time, I knew many women do not breastfeed for different reasons and I truly believe that ensuring a child is fed is what’s most important. I quickly took those worries and threw them out the window and my focus from then on was thinking about my future and hoping that I would still be able to get pregnant even after all the chemotherapy and radiation that was used to fight off my cancer. Knowing that I still could live a normal and healthy life was the only thing that mattered, real breasts or not.
My name is Christina and I am a breast cancer survivor. In 2019, I was diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer in my left breast. After under-going 16 weeks of chemotherapy, 3 weeks of radiation and a full year of hormone treatments, I can fortunately say that I am cancer free. At 26 years old, the only thing that mattered was getting better. Although I was terrified of the situation, I went into this journey with the belief that there was only one possible outcome; to get healthy and become stronger than before. I knew it was going to be a struggle, but I believe that at the end of the day our struggles help shape who we are. Of course, I was scared, but deep down I knew that I could not let this break me.
I have now been in remission now for 3.5 years and am currently pregnant with twin boys. I am grateful that I was blessed with the ability to get pregnant without struggles and not only be given one, but two babies on the way. This brought me right back to those thoughts I had about my future when I was navigating my surgeries. Finding out that I was pregnant was such a wonderfully emotional day for so many reasons. After all the stress and worry if I would even be able to get pregnant, I was finally able to put that worry aside and focus on my soon to be babies. After all the struggle and tears going through my cancer journey, I am proud of my body, real breasts or not, and I am appreciative every day.
Being pregnant after cancer is an interesting thing. One thing I’ve noticed people look at you two different ways. The first look is of admiration, knowing your history they look and say, “WOAH! This is incredible, how far you have come is truly amazing.” The second look is of pity, and these two looks can be given at the same time from the same person. Luckily, the second look is one that I haven’t seen too many times, but it does unfortunately come from the fact that I cannot breastfeed my babies. When you get pregnant, people focus so much on how breast is best and that the babies will thrive if they are breastfed. At the end of the day, does it really matter how your child is fed? Why obsess over the fact that someone is unable to breastfeed? I know that it is not only women in my situation who are unable to breastfeed, it happens to many women regardless of their history. Why make someone who is unable to breastfeed their children feel any less than they are?
I am proud of the things my body has been able to do and I will not let the inability to breastfeed my children stop me from being anything less for them. We need to stop looking at people with pity because they are unable to do something. What would the world be like if we instead could celebrate the fact that they are still able to do so much, the fact that they are here? These beliefs and thoughts and judgements in our society remind me how important it is to focus on how I think and feel about myself, not what other people think. As a survivor, I don’t want to feel like I am being pitied because I do not have the opportunity to breastfeed my children. I feel incredibly blessed to be given the opportunity to conceive and have children on my own. I know it’s not an opportunity everyone gets, especially in the breast cancer community. I feel proud of my body for everything it has done. I’m grateful this body has carried me here. — Christina Gonzalez
Read more from the community on body image, here!
If you’re someone in the breast cancer community in a similar situation to Christina’s and could use some support with baby formula, Rethink has created the Baby Formula Grant in collaboration with Dr. Arielle Cantor. Learn more about it here.