(Warning: men may be uncomfortable with the content of this post – but by all means, please read it anyway!)
I am not a buxom woman. The only time in my life when I had actual cleavage (not pushed up bra cleavage) was when I was pregnant. I have always been fairly flat-chested. The only reason I have ever had to wear a bra is because I have nipples, which are large and firm even when I am not cold. And that is my issue. Men with larger breasts than me do not wear bras. In fact, they appear in public bare-chested, with no covering at all. But because I am a woman, my breasts must be down-played and hidden.
No, this is not a rant for all women to go bra-less. Some women enjoy wearing bras, even the under wire contraptions that dig into the flesh but are made of pretty material. Many women need to wear bras, to help support their back so the frontal weight does not damage them for life. Other women need to wear padded bras so they appear shapelier, to hide those nipples, or to appear more even than they are naturally.
For me, I have found a solution. This is NOT right for everyone, but it is for me. This year I turned 55 years old, and I am declaring this my year of Freedom 55. Retirement is not my freedom, but no longer wearing bras will be.
You see, in January of 2013 I went for my regular, annual mammogram (also known as a boob crush or squeeze & peek). The new digital machine at our state-of-the-art hospital detected a suspicious spot way back by the chest wall in one breast. Further exploration with a magnified mammogram, an ultrasound, and a core biopsy confirmed cancer, so surgery was scheduled. I had a lumpectomy followed with radiation treatments.
In 2014, an area of the other breast raised concerns, so I had a second lumpectomy. A lumpectomy is considered “breast-conserving” surgery, and is often sufficient to remove cancer that is found in its early stages; cancer that has not grown or spread. The tissue removed in the second lumpectomy proved to be benign (not cancer). The surgeons did a good job of keeping the gals aesthetically pleasing and well-shaped.
This year, in January, another area of concern was again found in the breast that had cancer. So the rollercoaster of appointments and tests and waiting began for the third time. Further tests have shown this present concern is probably not cancer – but there is no guarantee without surgery and further tests of the tissue. So do I have a third lumpectomy in as many years? If it is cancer then protocol is a mastectomy. Or if it is not cancer, I am left to wonder in six months or a year if another area of concern will be found.
I must say, I am done with wondering if my breasts will lead to my death. I am not worried – I am ready and willing to see my Lord. But while I am alive, I would like to live without the concerns and discomfort.
So I have asked to forego a third exploratory surgery and go directly to a bilateral mastectomy. Hopefully, this will be a final surgery to end the constant breast cancer concern of the past three years. AND to give me freedom from bras! Of course, should I wish to look more womanly, I can put on a bra with padding.
Ladies (and men), please do not ignore the simple tests to ensure breast cancer does not affect your life. These tests do not prevent cancer, but they may catch it early so appropriate action may be taken.
• Do self-examinations of your breasts. Know your body so you can recognize changes.
• Have a mammogram every year or two. Basically, the screening program will do a base mammogram at age 40 and every two years after, but if you have breast cancer or prostate cancer in your family, perhaps ask your doctor to schedule one before then.
Men, there seems to be a connection between breast cancer and prostate cancer. Ask your doctor for a PSA test.
• See your doctor regularly for clinical breast exams and pap tests.
Don’t let the fear that something will be found keep you from going for a mammogram or to see a doctor. Fear is defeated with truth. Yes, the ride may be a rollercoaster, tossing you this way and that, turning life upside down for a while. There may be confusing information and difficult decisions to be made along the way. However, knowing you are doing what you can to care for yourself gives peace to your daily life. There is peace in truth.
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)
photos: free woman, bras, ribbon CCO License, courtesy of Pixabay.com
Marnie writes from northern British Columbia. She shares from her heart, drawing from both painful and joyful life experiences, where she believes God's presence makes all the difference.