Our society has a complex relationship with breasts. They are symbols of lust, the subject of comparisons, and tools for nourishing our children. We are barraged with sexually-explicit images of cleavage and nips. We compare the size of our breasts with those of our friends, yet secretly (mistakenly so!) assume the girl with the biggest boobs is the biggest slut. And we look forward to nursing our newborn babies and forming a special, unbreakable bond that develops between the breast-feeding mother and child. Yes, it is obvious that our relationship with breasts is…well, complicated!
For me, the loss of my breasts…and the scars that remain where perky breasts once stood tall…are reminders of the warrior I can turn into when confronted with adversity.
I was a young mother, only 33 years old, with two small boys to raise, when I felt a lump in my right breast. My entire life changed when I hear the dreaded words…breast cancer. I knew that it meant my breasts would be coming off, and I was okay with it. My goal was to survive this disease and I was determined to do whatever was in my power to make that happen, even if it meant sacrificing body parts. A few weeks later, just after celebrating Christmas with my family, I had a double mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy, with the hope of one day regaining my former figure with breast reconstruction. My immediate focus, however, was recovering from the surgery, enduring the chemo treatments, and kicking cancer to the curb.
My reconstruction surgery was scheduled for late summer. For months leading up to this surgery, I had expanders in. The expanders work by slowly expanding, forcing the growth of skin and tissue that will eventually house my new breasts. It is a long, slow process, and everything looked good. But then, everything went bad.
I started to feel crumby, and I spiked a high fever. I had an infection in the site of my expanders and it was getting worse. It got so bad, in fact, that my pulse rate was 250 and the doctors at my local hospital insisted that I be transported to a hospital in Chicago by ambulance in the middle of the night. I remained in the hospital in Chicago for seven days, hooked up to strong, IV antibiotics to stop the infection, but the doctors determined that the best course of action would be to remove my expanders.
After my ordeal, my doctors spoke to me about the possibility of breast reconstruction again in the future. But I had gone through enough. Being in the hospital in Chicago, fighting off the infection, was traumatizing for me. It brought me right back to the bad place I was in while I fought cancer. It is a scary place that I never want to go back to. I decided not to have any non-necessary surgeries. If it’s not going to save my life, I’m not going to do it. Breasts aren’t worth it.
That’s when I said a permanent Adios to breasts. That meant no more cute bikini tops. No breast feeding future babies (which I can’t have anyway, thanks to the chemotherapy). No more second-base foreplay. And I am really okay with that.
I learned that having breasts was really just something that society told me I should have. But conforming to societal norms was not worth the potential cost. For me, it is more important to be present in my children’s lives, and to be happy and healthy. I don’t need a D-cup or lacy bralettes to feel fulfilled. I still feel sexy. I am blessed to have a husband who agrees with me; he told me “I’ve never been a boob guy, anyway”. Besides, there are benefits to going boobless. It is so much easier to work out without breasts!
I have learned to embrace my scars as a testament to my triumphs over adversity. I have channeled my energies into helping other women who are going through what I went through. I have learned to live a healthier lifestyle. I did a lot of research on the chemicals that we routinely put into our bodies and it is scary.
I am now trying to eliminate chemicals from my lifestyle, and I started with my personal hygiene products. I perfected a recipe for homemade deodorant that works great. So many of my friends and family loved it too, that I launched my own company. Spero-Hope, LLC., produces chemical-free, aluminum-free, paraben-free deodorants and body butters and my primary audience is breast cancer survivors.
Jamie Kastelic has a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in psychology from Lake Superior State University. She is happily married with two sons. She is the owner of Spero-Hope, LLC. and a Ford Warrior in Pink. She volunteers her time to various events and organizations that raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research. Her new deodorant scents launched October 1st, and she was featured on People Magazine. Make sure you take a look at Jamie’s products!