I recently was in a bathroom in a doctor’s office with my shirt off feeling another woman’s breasts.
No, I was not doing anything sexual, or "L" (loving, lewd, lascivious or lesbian). I was trying to determine if I had made the wrong decision with my breast reconstruction.
I am a breast cancer survivor who underwent a double mastectomy followed by chemotherapy and reconstruction in the last year. Like all cancer patients, there are countless decisions to weigh and make fairly quickly. Your mind is in a tailspin from the shock of diagnosis and the results of chemically induced treatments. The only decision I have questioned so far was my choice for new breasts. Even though my husband and I sat in my surgeon’s office reviewing "before and after" photos and looking at the shape and feel of different implants, from saline to silicone, it is just not the same as feeling the breast inside of you or on another woman. An implant hanging from the fingertips of a physician’s assistant is different from hanging on someone’s chest.
I chose a new brand of silicone implants call "410." Their nickname is "gummi bear" because the texture resembles the popular chewy candy. The implants certainly looked like a gently sloping natural breast and held their shape nicely versus the round, squishy look and feel of the standard silicone and saline implants.
For anyone considering this implant it is helpful to buy the actual candy, roll it around with your fingers and squish it for the "touch test." They also taste pretty good!
Six months later, the implants still felt tight and extra firm. They also feel kind of weird, like breasts on a statue. I am still not comfortable lying on my stomach. But, cosmetically, the new gummi-bear breasts looked great! They were firm and, just, out there. I did not need to wear a bra. But, they did not move. Kind of like Barbie dolls breasts, or like wearing a sports bra all the time. They don’t gather or give.
I debated….should I go for something softer and more mobile? I was about to have surgery to create nipples, but I was given the option of exchanging my implants if I was truly uncomfortable. But, would I really be happy with the exchange?
And that is how I ended up on an early Fall afternoon in my reconstruction surgeon’s office topless, feeling another woman’s breasts. We shared the same surgeon, and, with both of our consents, he made the introduction. She hated her new silicone breasts; she did not like the look. She could see the silicone liquid moving around, creating shadowy lines. She was thinking about changing them to the gummi bears.
We made a date and met at the doctor’s office waiting room. We exchanged a few pleasantries, went to he bathroom, locked the door and got to it. Shirts off; bras off. And we looked at each other’s breasts intently, and our handed reach out to each others breasts. I complimented her on the soft tear drop shape of her new breasts. They could move and be pushed into sexy push up bras to create showgirl cleavage, something I will never be able to do. She said she hated the fact that she could see the silicone liquid moving around and leaned over to show me. She was right, but they were such nice moveable touchy feely breasts!
She loved the fact my new breasts held their shape; there were no strange silicone gel striation lines. "They look very natural," she said.
A cleaning lady knocked on the locked door. "We’ll be out soon," I said. And we giggled. What the heck were we doing?
We finished our mutual look-and-feel, put bras and shirts back on, left the office. Outside, we agreed to stay in touch and let each other know what we decided.
In the end, I decided not to change my implants and just get new nipples. I decided to give the new breasts some more time and see if I would adjust to them. I touched base with my new breast cancer pal and she was still undecided. They say the "grass is always greener." In our case the breast was always prettier. I know we should both just be happy having survived breast cancer and enjoying our new reconstructed breasts. But, you really want to feel and look "normal" again, and nothing will ever bring back your old breasts. I did not want to settle.
I told my breast reconstruction that every breast cancer patient facing the choices about reconstruction should be able to look and feel another patient’s breast to get the "real story." I found it helpful. He responded telling me that would be difficult since he has to respect a patient’s privacy. I suggested to a local cancer support group. SHARE, that they should have a list of breast cancer survivors willing to open up (both their mouths and their shirts) to share their experience and feedback with other survivors making reconstruction choices. I encourage anyone facing reconstruction to feel the actual reconstructed breasts and talk to women who underwent the procedure and made the choices.
Why I am sharing this story with MORE readers is this: When you are faced with major decisions that affect your health or your life, forget your inhibitions and be honest with yourself. Do not settle for anything without going all the way to really know and understand what the outcome will be and if you will truly be happy with it.