"DEAR BREASTS, I DON'T MISS YOU."
I cut my boobs off when I was 20. Since that May day, I have had two reconstructive surgeries, both fallopian tubes cut out, an eye tumor removed, and 22 oocytes taken from my body. I am a mutant. I have a genetic mutation on my 17th chromosome which gives me an 87 percent lifetime risk of breast cancer, 67 percent risk of ovarian cancer, and 50 percent chance of passing this thing, otherwise known as the BRCA1 mutation, along to each of my offspring.
When I removed my breasts, my lifetime risk of breast cancer went down to 5 percent.
When I removed my fallopian tubes, my chance of having ovarian cancer went down to an unknown percentage. However, studies are showing 60 to 100 percent of those cancers start in the fallopian tubes.
The five years I was on birth control lowered my risk of ovarian cancer by 10 percent each year.
The fertility treatments and subsequent planned preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) test on future pregnancies gives my future children a 1 percent chance of having this gene and the bodily mutilation that goes along with it.
And still, people think I am insane for getting rid of these organs simply because they are deemed as what makes me “feminine.”
The go-to question the reporters and doctors asked when my surgical plans became public were about my relationship status. No, I was not married. No, I was not engaged. No, I was not dating anyone. No, that didn’t matter to me.
“Are you worried about finding someone who accepts your body?” “Is there any part of you that fears this will make you undesirable?” Those were actual questions I was asked by medical and media professionals. Me, a young single woman facing an almost certain risk of contracting cancer. I was being asked if I was worried about what men would think. I understand their concern, it’s their job to ask the tough questions, but I couldn’t help but feel belittled. Like they were disregarding all I had to offer outside of my body. For every one question I was asked about my hopes for my cancer-free future, I was also asked one about how I would handle my love life. Would I tell men ahead of time that I didn’t have breasts? Would I wait until the 3rd date? Would I wait until we were laying in bed together? Honest to God, these were questions I was asked. I am proud of myself for my respectful responses, but now, a year and a half later, I don’t think I’d be quite so polite.
Call it ignorance, call it hope, call it naivety, but when the first stories came out, I made the mistake of reading the comment sections:
“You’re such a pretty girl, why would you want to change that?”
“She just did it for the free boob job.”
“Might as well kiss her dating life goodbye.”
“R.I.P. to those glorious funbags.”
“She had some pretty nice knockers too. R.I.P. pretty young boobs.”
And the list goes on. Comment upon comment on how it was “a shame” to cut off my DD and too-big-for-my-body breasts. Men saying their hearts were breaking knowing that my perfect breasts were being thrown away. I know there are good men in the world. My father is one, my brother is one, my boyfriend is one, but why is it that the bad ones feel the need to make asinine comments behind their computer screen?
Joke’s on them though, this boob-less girl has a killer love life. I met my guy 2 weeks after I cut off those “glorious funbags” (For the record, I told him my boob status prior to our first date, and he didn’t care). I’ve got a rockin’ (but numb) set of fake boobs, and you bet your ass that 70 years from now I’ll be walking around that nursing home topless. But more importantly, I’ve got confidence that I’d never dream I’d have. I am planning for an amazing cancer-less future that once seemed impossible. I am happy, healthy, and loved. There is nothing better.
I don’t miss you.
I know people are constantly expecting me to grieve over my loss of you, to spend my nights awake wondering if I did the right thing by getting rid of you. I did. A thousand times over, I did. I live without fear now. Not in the way that I’ve taken up bull riding or driving without a seatbelt, but in the way where I can look at myself in the mirror and appreciate what I see. Now I don’t view my body as out to get me, I view it as the thing that’s been through hell and is still, somehow, healthy and thriving. I view my scars as tiger stripes and delight in the fact that I never have to wear a bra again. I laugh when I play a good game of “Can you feel that?” with my boyfriend (who, by the way, doesn’t miss you either) when trying to figure out exactly where the scalpel scraped you away. I never liked you, even before I found out you were trying to kill me. You were asymmetrical and too big for my body. You reminded me of the very organs that ended up putting some of my favorite people in the ground. I am grateful now, because losing you has put things in perspective for me. I can brush it off when the scale is a few pounds heavier or my face has a couple more pimples than it did the day before. I don’t hold grudges after arguments, and I smile at strangers. I eat more chocolate, and read more good books. I spend more time with my family, and am even more determined to become the best teacher I can be. You’re in good company, wherever you are. Joined by part of my right eye and both fallopian tubes. Other organs that, given the chance, would also try to kill me. Eventually more of myself will join you in that biohazard dump, but the more of myphysical self I lose, the more heart and personality I seem to gain. Breasts, I know you didn’t mean to hurt me. I know you didn’t really have a choice in the matter. It was predetermined before I even took a breath or opened my eyes.
Thanks for understanding that you had to go.
Thanks for putting up with years of being squished around, poked at, and prodded by cold doctor hands.
Thanks for taking one for the team. My other organs thank you, too. But I still don't miss you.
Kelly Rothe had a prophylactic double mastectomy at the age of 20 after being diagnosed with the BRCA1 mutation at the age of 18. Her mother and aunt both lost their battles with cancer. Kelly is currently working as a student teacher, is a die hard Detroit Red Wings fan, and lives in Michigan.