Advantages of mastectomy? Now there’s a conversation stopper. Cancer removal is the obvious benefit, but there are others. It took the figurative sting out of losing body parts when I could look at silver linings. Don’t get me wrong, I would have preferred to keep my God-given pair. But when cancer was found in my right breast and fear and worry took up residence in the left, I said goodbye to both.
As a lifelong runner, I pondered the aerodynamic advantage of mastectomy. I did feel a little faster after returning to running post-surgery, but aerodynamics were a minor factor overshadowed by the sheer joy of being well again and upping my training mileage.
My breasts and I had a 30-year running career. We logged many miles and completed five marathons together before cancer threw us a major curve ball in 2008. It was fitting that running helped me through two prior surgeries and four rounds of chemo in the months leading up to my mastectomies.
Shortly after my diagnosis, I came up with this mantra, aimed at the cancer cells in my body . . . “I have run hundreds and thousands of miles, millions of steps, I can outrun you little S.O.B.’s.” Running and the endorphins produced kept me strong and hopeful through difficult times and setbacks.
The first advantage of mastectomy came when making decisions about what to do with my cancerous breast and its partner. Such decisions are extremely personal and daunting. Considering surgery options in light of my love for running, mastectomy without reconstruction emerged as the leading candidate in my months-long quest.
More surgeries, additional scars, more possibilities for complications and chronic pain, and longer recovery time were all concerns. Being able to run and run comfortably outweighed creating a semblance of breasts that would never match the look and especially the feel of those I came by naturally. It was still a grueling decision-making process, but when finalized, I felt some peace.
Other advantages of mastectomy emerged post-surgery. Losing my breasts required a period of grieving and transition, then months of physical and emotional healing. Once again running sustained me. My former size 38C cups required two running bras to keep things orderly and stable, creating numerous straps and edges that invited chafing.
In turn, the chafing brought the need for a runner’s best friend . . . an anti-chafing product known as Glide. When bidding my breasts adieu, I also said farewell to running bras and Glide. I haven’t missed either. The envy I once felt for my husband and other male runners has subsided. The ease of just putting a shirt on and heading out the door is now mine.
The flat terrain of my chest also offers better ventilation. The heat and humidity of summer can make donning a bra a real challenge. I can choose to leave my prosthetics in the drawer on a hot day. And when I want some cool air flow, a shirt lifted from the bottom sends a nice breeze all the way to my face, no longer blocked by mammary mass.
The little things do matter. There are advantages to mastectomy. And there is healing in focusing on those advantages to help offset the losses.