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Young and Breastless

Photography by Kenzie Elizabeth Photography

If you had told me two years ago that the lump I felt in my left breast was triple-positive breast cancer, I would have laughed at you. If you had told me when I started TCHP chemo last June that I would not be eligible for immediate reconstruction, I would have scoffed. If you had told me that following my double mastectomy and lymph node removal two weeks after my 30th birthday and first wedding anniversary in October that I would enjoy being flat, I would have throat-punched you. But, two years out from my diagnosis, I am young and breastless, and I am absolutely okay with it. 

You see, prior to my diagnosis, I was a size 38F. I started wearing bras in the third grade, and I was a long-standing member of the huge boob committee. I looked damn good in V-neck shirts, low-cut dresses, and anything that accentuated my much smaller waist. I also struggled to wear anything that had buttons. I had indentations in my shoulders from my breasts. I had issues with my posture because my shoulders were burdened with so much weight. My breasts were a defining characteristic for almost 20 years, and my love/hate relationship was well documented. When I made my diagnosis public the day I started chemo, my last line was, “If I don’t have the smaller, perkier breasts and svelte bod I’ve always wanted after treatment, I am going to be pissed.” Boy, was I wrong. 

On October 18, 2018, my husband drove me and my large chest to OU Medical Center. About eight hours later, he drove me home without my breasts. It was surreal, but the reality did not set in until the next day when he helped me remove the gauze and bandages, and I could fully see the damage. I wept uncontrollably, and my husband was speechless. I was angry. I saw all these photos on Instagram of breast cancer patients who got expanders. That was not my case. My surgeon told me that I was not eligible for any reconstruction for at least a year because I would have to undergo radiation. In my case, my surgeon felt that the odds of failure were too great and that giving my skin and my body a year to heal would be best. Unlike so many surgeons, however, she didn’t leave any extra skin. I guess that is a perk of having the best breast surgeon in Oklahoma. She’s got serious skills. 

Prior to surgery (and even immediately after), I fully expected to undergo reconstruction as soon as I was eligible. Now, I have no plans to reconstruct. After my fourth chemo, doctors discovered a large blood clot in my heart. They almost diagnosed me with another form of cancer, but they traced the clot to my port. My cardiologist wasn’t sure I could even go through with the mastectomy. However, my surgeon had seen clots in the heart before and knew that I needed to have my breasts removed as scheduled. She brought in a skilled and brave anesthesiologist, and she brought her protegé in to help assist in order to get me out of surgery quickly. And, as soon as I finished Herceptin and Perjeta infusions, I had to have my port removed by a cardiothoracic surgeon. Yay.

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On top of the clot issues, my triple-positive status is extreme. We’re talking 99% for both estrogen and progesterone, and over 90% for Her-2. Oh, and chemo has eviscerated my ovaries. After seeing a fertility specialist, my husband and I were advised to pursue adoption. So this summer, I had a hysterectomy. Yay, again. 

I have reached a mental limit. You want to remove my clot and port? Go for it. You want to remove my ovaries and uterus? Sure. You want me to undergo multiple surgeries regardless of the reconstruction option I choose? That’s gonna be a no for me, doc. I am exhausted. I am tired of being poked and prodded. I am tired of surgical drains. I am tired of feeling awful. My posture is better than ever. My shoulders don’t hurt. I can wear all the button down shirts and halter tops that my inner fashionista desires. I don’t even get stared down at the grocery store. 

For those of you considering going flat, do it. Go for it. Don’t worry about what others might think or if people will stare at you. After going through cancer treatment, the only thing that matters is your happiness. For me, being young and breastless makes me happy. No one is more surprised by this revelation than I am.  – Chelsee Wilson


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