Let’s pick up our pens and share our experiences!
How do you live with being asymmetric?
Your own experience? That of your spouse? Your mother’s? Your grandmother’s? Your friend’s? etc.
Alexandra: Thank you for offering us a new perspective!
Just a few words to congratulate you for the courage that I do not think I yet have but I’m working on it…
I will undergo surgery in mid-November or December, after five months of chemotherapy.
I do not yet know what to do and am exploring the surgical options for immediate reconstruction but I also admire how graciously you accept the situation.
This opens a door for me that I had not considered.
Bravo for all these beautiful testimonies and photos.
How beautiful all these Amazons are!!!
Alexandra (a partner and two small children)
Sébastien: My grandmother has become an Amazon
A few weeks ago my grandmother discovered that she had cancer in her right breast. She is 80 years old. It had to be removed as it had been totally destroyed by the disease. I had never seen my grandmother in a hospital bed. I do not think I’d ever seen her with a common cold.
I’m gay so women always appear beautiful to me. Their breasts have only one meaning for me and that is maternal. I’ve never seen a woman’s breasts as an object of desire. So when I saw an Amazon on TV I found her even more beautiful simply because she showed that she can be a mother with only one breast.
Today my grandmother has become an Amazon. And this afternoon, while I looked at her asleep in bed, minus a breast and attached to three tubes, I realized something important… she will always be the mother, grandmother and great-grandmother that everyone dreams of having.
When she woke up I could not help but make her laugh. And then when she laughed I realized that these mythological women had jumped out of the TV screen and that they had crossed over into her life. I realized that grandma was a woman who would forever bear the marks of this cancer but she would also be marked by the strength of those women who expose themselves on screen challenging prejudice, those who fight arrow in hand. I shuddered and tears came to my eyes. My grandmother, she is strong. She is a warrior. She may be minus a breast, but even if she had two more, or none at all, she will always be the one with whom I spent very special moments of laughter that belong only to us.
Thanks you for your web site.
Sébastien, 30 years old
Florence: Today I’m fine…
I’m Florence. It is now a year since I had breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Only now can I say that I ‘m fine…
A difficult year, even without treatment… Very often with those closest to me, I was faced with reactions such as: “You ‘re lucky not to have had treatment” , “Now it’s over”, “It was a small cancer”, small quips that made me retreat into my solitude, me for whom the long adventure of acceptance was just beginning. Of course I chose to remain asymmetrical, but I wear my prosthesis daily, not wishing to be “categorised” by those looking at me. At first I was very resentful of my prosthesis and I looked for better ways to live with it. The trigger came after my contact with Sylvie and her ephemeral painting that I saw on the site. The idea that something could be beautiful has gradually taken root and then I found this breast grotesque with its small protuberance trying to look like a nipple, a nipple stuck on!… So I decorated my prosthesis with stickers and, depending on my wishes, it is decorated with flowers or birds… and no longer looks like a breast but has become a form that I have appropriated.
Small killer phrases: What I would also like to bear witness to, something of which you speak so well, is the medical diktat on reconstruction and I thoroughly agree with you on this point. I would also like to mention another diktat, the psychological one which is no less present. Indeed, “Cancer does not happen by chance”, “We are the source of our own cancer”, “We must change our lives”, are also little quips weighing us down with guilt… A double sentence, cancer and, on top of that, you are responsible for it yourself, and underlying everything if you do not go in the “right direction” you will not recover or the cancer will come back… We are far from empathy and respect for the intimacy of every woman.
The time for “why”: In my case, I chose to take a therapeutic approach and today I am unable to say ”I had cancer because…”. Cancer, from the sound of the word, has awakened the old familiar demons against which I have battled all my life… but can we ever recover from deep narcissistic wounds? I found nothing new, no trigger… After following some tracks and if I make a slightly provocative shortcut, I would say that I searched and I found that I didn’t need to search at all… Indeed the time for “why” came with a refusal as a way to prove to myself that I could explain everything in order to avoid losing the reassuring illusion of control… it was also a way for me to put my pain to one side. But it all caught up with me… and I suffered a severe depression and that was when I was able to connect to the depths of my pain and I started to accept the situation.
The time for “how”: The time for “how” has arrived. Minus a breast, how to accept my asymmetric body and yet feel beautiful, feminine and desirable, how to digest the experience with its traumatic announcement and ablation, how to return to a full life knowing that you can lose it, how to deal with the fear of death felt throughout the interminable length of time between the first suspicion of cancer and the postoperative diagnosis, how to live without any certainty about the future… I will not oppose, in a Manichean manner, the “why” and the “how”, and I only speak from my own experience, but what I stand for is the freedom and the absolute right of every woman to choose without feeling guilty, to take or not to take a decision, as in to “reconstruct” or not. The cancer has changed me deeply and I think today that I am fairer with myself, more tolerant, attentive and respectful towards others, my priorities have changed and I’m learning little by little now to let go and be confident. But that’s the lot of any ordeal, which beyond the suffering, connects us to our deepest selves.
Emmanuelle : A little choreography for my children
Everything went very fast when I needed surgery because I was quite young – I was 42 – and doctors do not want to lose a minute; I could not – even if it had been possible – prepare my children. These included my daughter Marie who is the youngest and who, at that time was very young, 3 years old. When the scar became smooth with time, I asked each of my children, at different times, if they wanted to look at it. Since my return from hospital they were obsessed with the idea of the disappearance of the breast and their eyes were almost always fixed on that part of my body when they spoke to me. I always wear a small camisole style top with straps under my cotton t-shirts and I slowly showed them a small area of the line of the scar visible just above the camisole. This made them shiver and wince but once it was done, we made headway.
A Certainty: this new body was mine. I am fortunate to have had great support from my husband. From the day after the operation, I felt an immense certainty that this new body was mine and I wanted to live with this transformation. I must say that I became more pragmatic: I said to myself that a lot of people had accidents that left them disabled or maimed with scars. It also helped me to answer the enduring sadness of my little girl. Every day, for months, she told me how it was sad that I had only one breast. She did not understand that it isn’t as bad as that. I replied with a little light heartedness. I said – yes, it’s true, you’re right, it’s sad. But what if I only had one leg, I could not so easily run with you. And if I only had one arm, I would not be able to carry you and give you a hug.
She was afraid of losing me: With time, as in all important situations, my little girl’s sadness faded away. Now she never speaks of the missing breast. We go to the swimming pool together. I choose once-piece bathing costumes in which I feel good. One needs to be patient because children need to find the balance that has been particularly threatened by the onset of the illness. And it was clear that Marie, in actual fact, was scared that I was going to disappear, and that she was speaking to me of her fear.
Geraldine: Mum, when will I have a breast, like you, that sticks on?
First of all, I want to congratulate you for this site to which I can relate from several points of view. I had my cancer a year ago. Following removal of the left breast I had 6 chemo and 25 sessions of radiotherapy. I am currently on hormone therapy. I am 31 years old and have two children, Romane aged 4 and Raphael 18 months. With them everything has gone well. I answer questions without any taboo from the older one and now that I am over it, we laugh. Romane even said to me, “Mum, when will I have a breast like you that sticks on?” This can send shivers down my spine, but it shows the ability of children to find a situation normal if it has been properly explained and especially without any taboo.
Geraldine, 31 years
Florence : An image of angels on my scar …
Three months ago I underwent a mastectomy and in the middle of my inner storm, I found a haven of comfort by visiting your site. The photographs acted as a trigger for me, in particular, those where women have painted their bodies and scars. I was deeply touched and the idea of ” depositing” beauty on this wounded area leads me on to a path where I can better accept, soothe and transform this reality which is painful for me and regain control.
Having gained strength from these authentic photos that are full of warmth and life, I was able, for the first time in three months, to consider the possibility of looking for solutions to make me feel good and feel beautiful. That evening I put a picture of angels on my scar and I said to myself, that’s okay!… Angels for me are symbolic, not religious, and as such they represent for me the idea of protection and immortality, a moment of eternity in the place of my lost breast !…
Without you I do not think the idea would have come to me.
Thank you once again!
Valerie : A look at my ancestral Amazons
Coming from an Amazon family, I have a childhood memory, from thirty odd years ago, of two anecdotes about these missing breasts, one about my maternal great-grandmother, the other, her sister, my great-grand aunt. I didn’t really know my great grandmother but there are still traces in the family of her embroidery talents: sheets, nightgowns, napkins, embroidered with patience and concentration… From this work also remains the memory of this woman, focused on her work, and who, often forgetting those around her, stuck her needles… on her prosthesis, a prosthesis she had probably made herself…
My great-grand aunt was a delightful woman, patient and very close to us, her great-grand nephews and nieces. She had no children, but she is the only one who really knew how to enjoy playing with me as a little girl: we used to get into my car (a red beetle with black spots, of course), where she would tirelessly and patiently tell me, ten times over if she thought it necessary, about my mother when she was small (” Because, yes, your mother was also once a little girl “). She had not given birth, but she knew how to give life to the family story. It is undoubtedly due to her spontaneity that I knew very quickly she had a ” real breast” and a “fake breast”. Uninhibited, she regularly allowed me to feel her chest, so that I could guess which was the real breast and which one was false. On the latter, I could honk the horn … Honk ! Honk!
Valerie, 38 years
Stéphane : The experience of a spouse, daring to touch
It’s been a while since I have wanted to put pen to paper, or rather the keyboard, to testify of my experience as the spouse of an Amazon… so I’m starting today!… From my experience, the role of touching, hands, mouth is especially important. In the first instance it’s in caressing Caroline’s breast that first I felt a small lump… the beginning of a long adventure.
After removal of the breast, the doctors asked that the scar be massaged so that it became supple. The first night back home, Caro showed me her scar and very quickly it was me who massaged it every day, tenderly, with a little cream. It quickly became natural and I felt how important it was for Caroline to experience a sensation from my fingers all the while looking at her tenderly. It’s amazing how simple it is, but also how it expresses so much acceptance and love “as you are”.
After that, it was the chemo cycle, during which the whole family was subjected to the rhythm of the treatment (once every 3 weeks). There, again, regular massage of the scar, not forgetting to cuddle the other breast at the same time… it’s a strong emotional time together. And during the last few months in order to alleviate pain in the legs, shoulders and neck, nothing was worth more than a good massage of the whole body. I really saw in Caro’s face and eyes all the good this simple relationship was doing to her, this touching and natural look, this support through contact of fingers and lips. Another thing that helped each of us equally was the strong desire to live normally when the effects of the treatment eased during the few days before the next chemo treatment: Gentle sports, going outside, little trips. To live life to the full, to enjoy it… and continue on the road with plenty of energy to be “demolished” by the next session of treatment…
Now, with chemo behind her, her health is coming back, the hair is beginning to grow again, we are loving all the happiness of it, and we continue our regular little tender massages to soften the scar… and have fun! So for all of you who read my testimony, my advice to you would be: be daring, touch, massage, kiss, as soon as possible and as often as possible! Everyone reacts differently of course, but for us that was really the best!
I hope I have not been too longwinded and I’ll be happy if my testimony can help some spouses to live through this unchosen adventure more simply and serenely and share it profoundly with their preferred amazon.
Stéphane , 47 years old
Agnes: How I told my niece and my nephew and children around me about my breast cancer and my mastectomy… and also about my wig!
In January 2008, at 30 years of age, I was operated on for breast cancer. I had a mastectomy, a lymph node dissection, chemotherapy, radio therapy and I take tamoxifen. After taking advice from specialists, from former patients and from the parents of my niece and nephew, especially their mother, this is how things panned out… My niece Louisa, and my nephew Gustave, were 6 and 2 years old when I was diagnosed. After my husband, their mother was the first person I told. She is my older sister. Yolenne told Louisa that I had a pimple on my breast and that it had to be removed (without specifying pimple or breast) so that I could recover. Once I had recovered, Louisa asked her mother if they were going to put my breast back…
“No, that ‘s not possible…” Shortly after the surgery, I was getting dressed in my room after my shower. I felt the presence of Louisa who was spending the weekend in my home. She was behind the door, curious and with her desire to “see”. I asked her if she wanted to see my scar, warning her that it was ugly (which she confirmed to me!). She wanted to see. I showed her, keeping it light and humourous. She asked me a few questions. I explained, and I think she left reassured. I showed her the prosthesis and she ended up playing with it!
Louisa, 6, wanted to look.
Later on, several times, she wanted to look at me naked again whilst asking for clarification and the outcome was similar to the previous time. Sometime later, she also wanted to see my “funny thing” (a term which I have since painted on the box of my prosthesis !) And it ended in a battle… a prosthetic one! My nephew was not yet talking in the period just after the operation. I used to carry him in my arms a lot at that age. When I was told that I can no longer carry weight, I immediately thought of him and this was a whopping blow to my morale. Then we explained to him that I could no longer carry anything with my left arm which needed to be treated delicately. He understood that well and for a long time said, “there” – pointing to the left arm – “ouch!” but there – pointing to the right arm – “yes”. It was the first thing he said every time he saw me. Later, right or left arm, it didn’t matter anymore! The following summer, having been operated on six months earlier, I was getting out of the bath and my nephew sees me naked and points to my scar laughing and saying “Oh, Auntie!”, I explained simply to him what had happened to me. I had integrated this new “breast” very well, so it did not pose a problem for me. I was just bemused. Otherwise it would have been psychological torture!
With a knife, scissors, an axe, or a blade?
In February, thirteen months after the surgery, I was taking a bath with him and he sees my scar. He had obviously forgotten what he had already seen and what I had explained to him, and he asked me how the surgeon had removed the breast… “With a knife, scissors, an axe, or with a blade?” A really horrible phrase that continued to go on and on and on!!! His mother was the most uncomfortable of the two of us because of the violence of what her son had said, and tried to stop him! But, there again, having perfectly accepted my new body, this didn’t phase me, or at least didn’t upset me at all. I managed to laugh with him. And we moved on to something else, simply and naturally.
The wig… It went like clockwork!
With regard to the wig, I was playing hairdressers with my niece. I must have wanted to tell her something and I provoked the situation… We discussed how to style my hair which had recently become short cut after the announcement of the disease, at a time when I had much longer hair… Louisa was brushing my hair. The wig starts to fall off and I throw myself back on the bed trying to hold it on but only half succeeding in doing so! I burst out laughing. Louisa with a look of terror and misunderstanding looks at her mother (an expression from Louisa that Yolenne has never seen since), she must have had the impression that she had done something really stupid, that she had scalped me… I then explained to her very naturally, in a joking manner and continuing to laugh (forcing myself a little, no doubt) that as the drugs were ruining my hair it had to be cut very, very short, and that as I did not like it, I preferred to wear a wig. And once again it all went like clockwork (even better!).
You’ve got a plastic breast?
On other occasions, with other children, I told two girls aged 6 and 9 about my arm which I couldn’t use normally as I had had an operation on my diseased breast. One day when I was holding the little brother of these girls, I said to the girl who was present that the plastic breast seemed as comfortable as the real one. “Oh, you’ve a plastic breast?” I simply explained what had happened to me. Her only real concern was whether I had been in pain. When I answered her, quite frankly, that I had not been in pain she was reassured.
As I had marks resulting from the radiotheraphy I explained very naturally to a little three year old girl that these were there to treat my diseased breast by shedding light on it. I also explained this to my nephews and nieces who were asking me about it. I always wore a scarf throughout that period but they weren’t intrigued by this at all (their mother was the only one who couldn’t bear to see the scarf!). Since then all of this has been accepted by everyone and my nieces and nephews speak jokingly of “my plastic breast”. I feel free when naked before them.
Truth, simplicity, being natural, humour and lack of theatricals.
Every time they asked about me, my breast, my tiredness, the fact that I had to rest, take naps, no longer worked, their questions were answered in a simple and natural manner. This reassured them. They know that I have now recovered and are no longer worried about me as they see I’m in good form (Gustave never worried). And in addition that permits them to see me more often and I’m always available!
So I would recommend: truth, simplicity, naturalness, humour and no theatricals! And this goes for children and for us, sick adults, around them! As for my niece whose breasts are starting to develop, it will not be long, I think, before she covets my old prosthesis and those in cotton from the association “Vivre comme avant”- “Living like before”!
And the other breast…
Three years on, I envisage having my remaining breast removed as a precaution because I am genetically predisposed to this kind of problem. I’d rather be safe than suffer further lymph node dissection, chemo and radiotherapy and all their side effects! And even if that means having to return to the operating table to undergo another anesthetic, I have decided to go ahead with a preventive ablation and bilateral reconstruction.
Agnes, 33 years old