Mommy’s Boobs are Different — A Wildfire Story
March 14, 2023
The first time Reese, my now 2-year-old daughter, pointed to my naked chest and said “boo-boos” I almost cried. Reese was one and a half years old at the time and probably meant to say “boobies” and not “boo-boos,” but this felt like the start of one of many difficult conversations I would need to have with her in her life. Because Reese was still too young to understand what she was saying, I just teared up and brushed off the comment, but my mind started to spiral. I knew we would be faced with some difficult conversations in the future but figured we would have some time until these took place.
When we had Reese just over two years ago, we knew that her life would be a bit different from her peers. She was entering this world as a female with a long line of breast cancer in her family (about four generations). I was diagnosed at 29-years-old with Stage I breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy, reconstruction, chemo and radiation. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer about three years after my diagnosis. My grandmother (her mother) was diagnosed with breast cancer at 80-years-old (she is now 98-years-old!) while her mother unfortunately passed away from her cancer in the 1940s. I’m constantly thinking about what I can do to help Reese navigate the world of breast cancer. How can I prepare her? From a young age, this is something she will need to be aware of since she falls under the high risk category. Although Reese is still very young this weighs heavily on my mind. As Reese begins to understand the world around her, I find cancer sneaking up on us in unexpected ways.
Lately, Reese has been learning about her body. We chat about body parts, about peeing/ pooping and all that fun stuff. I have vowed to be very open and transparent with her even at a young age to demystify any thoughts around hers or other people’s bodies. In our house, we use real words like vagina, penis and boobs to describe our body parts, and no topic is off limits.
One day, while Reese and I were drawing pictures on her white board I drew my typical person stick figure outline: Mommy, Daddy, and Reesie. Reese went ahead and filled in the details, always a dot for the belly button, two eyes, and a curve line for the mouth, but today she wanted to draw on the boobs. I was very curious to see how her little brain imagined “boobies” as represented in her drawings. I watched her do two dots for Reese representing her nipples, then two dots for Daddy, and when she got to mommy she went to do the dots. At first I was hesitant to correct her but then decided this is a perfect moment to talk about our differences. I showed her my scars and pointed out the fact that I had lines, not dots. I then showed her what they would look like on the white board as I drew two lines on the mommy’s chest in place of the dots. We both proudly looked at our picture and moved on.
Weeks later as Reese was getting dressed into her jammies with me and my dad she yelled, “Boobies!” excitedly as she proudly puffed out her chest. She then exclaimed, “Zaidy (Yiddish for grandpa) I need to show you something. Mommy’s boobies are different.” She was very insistent to show Zaidy that mom’s boobies were different from hers. My dad and I explained that he already knew, and we tried to redirect her attention as she was tugging at my shirt by changing the subject. But wow, wow, wow – we were not expecting this. She remembered our conversation! I was so impressed how this little person is absorbing and learning daily and how our words really truly matter. Every conversation is an opportunity to enhance her learning.
This was a difficult conversation I had to have with her, especially since I am trying to put cancer behind me and not let it control my emotions, my anxieties, or my self-perception. It’s taken me years to get to a place where cancer doesn’t pop into my head on a day to day basis, but I always want Reese to feel comfortable to talk to me about cancer and to know that mommy’s scars signify strength. They tell a story; one which I will be happy and proud to share when she is a bit older.
Dory Kashin • Project manager. Diagnosed at 29. Stage IA ER+, PR+.
Dory was diagnosed with breast cancer at the peak of her career as an event planner. After a year of active treatment, multiple surgeries, dealing with infections as well as multiple rounds of fertility treatments Dory now finds herself with a miracle baby running around and in a new career as a project manager. Dory tries to give back to the cancer community whenever she can since this is the community that has helped her feel less alone during some very dark times. • @dkashin
This piece has been republished with permission from WILDFIRE Magazine, the “5 Years & Counting” issue, published originally February 18, 2023. More information available at wildfirecommunity.org
WILDFIRE Magazine is the only magazine for young women survivors and fighters of breast cancer under 45 years old. Headquartered in Santa Cruz, California, WILDFIRE is a beautiful, story-based bi-monthly magazine published on different themes relevant to young women survivors, from stage 0 to stage IV. Beautiful and ad-free! Visit wildfirecommunity.org for more info.