Rebecca Pine was a young mom, just weaning her beautiful daughter, when she made the choice for a prophylactic mastectomy without reconstruction. It was a bold decision, but for Rebecca it was an empowering decision.
For a young woman with breast cancer, the medical community assumes reconstruction. The breast cancer community assumes it. Even a woman’s family and friends will often assume that she will reconstruct her breasts after a mastectomy. It’s just what young survivors do.
In fact, according to this article, over half of all women under the age of 45 elect for immediate breast reconstruction. Compare that to just 11 percent of mastectomy patients ages 65 and older.
But not all young women are the same.
A Choice for No Reconstruction
At the time of Rebecca’s preventative mastectomy, she already knew what breast reconstruction felt like. She lost her first breast to cancer at the age of 33. At the time of her first mastectomy, she chose to reconstruct. The problem was that she never grew to love her reconstructed breast.
Now, after breastfeeding her second child and as a BRCA-positive woman, she was ready to prophylactically remove the second breast. She struggled with the thought of losing her second breast. However, the thought of reconstruction gave her anxiety. The thought of more grueling surgeries and how that would impact her as a mother did not appeal. Ultimately, she chose to go flat, even having the original implant in her first breast removed.
Rebecca has documented her relationship with her breasts and loss on her powerful writing and photography website, The Breast and the Sea, with photographer Miana Jun. She also runs workshops through The Breast and the Sea encouraging women toward healthy grief for their missing breasts, but also toward accepting their body and femininity post-breast surgery.
Rebecca’s strength and resilience shine through as she describes her journey. This episode is full of clear and evocative language, as she walks us through her decision-making process. She brings the listener–no matter where they are on their breast cancer journey–toward self-care, self-acceptance, and the realization of beauty.
The choice of whether to reconstruct or not is one where women often experience intense pressure. Rebecca wants to ensure women know that going flat is an option.
What We Talked About
- Rebecca’s personal journey from diagnosis to surgery to prophylactic mastectomy
- Rebecca’s work with other survivors and photographer Miana Jun, co-founder of The Breast and the Sea
- The societal and personal pressures women face when deciding between reconstruction options, including whether to choose reconstruction at all
- The difficulties many women face when struggling to hold onto their femininity and self-image after losing one or both breasts
- The importance of self-care, whether escaping to the bathroom for a minute or taking a walk along the beach
- The resources available online for women who choose to go without reconstruction
- Flat and Fabulous Site
- Flat and Fabulous Facebook Group
- My Flat Friends Facebook Group
- BRCA Sisterhood Facebook Group
- Rebecca’s New York Times interview
- Behind the Scenes of the New York Times article
- Rebecca’s personal website
- Rebecca’s personal blog
- The Breast and the Sea Project
- Reflections on Going Flat: Whole Without Breasts – a popular post on ITC written by Rebecca Pine
If you are considering going flat, in addition to many of the wonderful links above, you may want to visit our Going Flat page, where we keep all of our latest articles and podcasts on the topic.