Going Very Public

Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work

JANUARY 19, 2017

I have an old poster in my office, a photograph of a one-breasted woman, a flowering vine tattooed over her mastectomy scar. Her arms are raised towards the sun, and she looks strong and confident and beautiful. Most of the time no one mentions it. Sometimes someone will say something like "wow", and once I received a note from a woman who had met with me once and was very disturbed by it.

I have known a number of women who, post mastectomy without reconstruction, have scorned a prosthesis and met the world with one obvious breast or a totally flat chest. The closest that I have come happened a few times several years ago when TSA first introduced the x-ray scanners. In the beginning, the readers clearly did not recognize a prosthesis, and I was regularly pulled aside and patted over. It was infuriating. It was so infuriating that I began taking out the prosthesis at the same time that I took off my shoes to go through security, dropping them all into the plastic bin. It worked, and it surely got the attention of the people around me.

This is a lovely, I think, article from People.com about one woman's choice to go very public: Cancer Survivor Proudly Bares Mastectomy Scars in Powerful Equinox Campaign

Samantha Paige had already been diagnosed with thyroid cancer when she tested positive for the BRCA 1 gene mutation, which meant she was susceptible to various female-specific cancers.

“When my daughter was seven months old, my determination to be healthy for my baby was so strong that I decided it was the right time to preemptively have the double mastectomy,” Paige, 41, tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t want to keep going for MRIs and mammograms every three to six months — it was too unnerving and the risk seemed too great.”

Even though she knew it could be the best decision for her health, choosing to undergo the surgery was “scary.”

“It’s a huge surgery and a painful one, but for me [making that decision] was also a moment of empowerment and committing to something, which was to be in control of my own wellness,” says the Santa Barbara, California-based artist. “As a new mother, it felt very powerful to make the decision to not be waiting for a diagnosis, but to sort of flip that on its head.”

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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