When breast cancer patients with a genetic predisposition to the disease are faced with a choice between life and beauty, its a simple decision for most. The challenge is in living with it.
My bilateral mastectomy was in November, and Im still adjusting to the changes in my body and psyche. One can enjoy life without breasts and fertility. But treatment changes life for young, single patients in unanticipated ways.
Its tough to feel pretty without my breasts. The implants are weird looking, I told a psychologist at the University of Miamis Courtelis Center for Psychosocial Oncology. I really dont feel beautiful anymore.
You are not your breasts, she replied. There is more to you than that. You have a pretty face. You are intelligent and interesting, and that makes you beautiful.
Physical attractiveness is directly linked to human mating patterns. Studies have shown that women with larger breasts tend to have higher levels of certain hormones that promote fertility.
The face is not as important when it comes to first impressions for most men. In a 2009 study, researchers from New Zealands University of Wellington measured tiny eye movements to record which areas of a womans body men looked at first. Not surprisingly, they found that about 80 percent of mens first fixations were on the breast and midriff. About 20 percent stared at the womans face.
Publicists and TV producers use this to sell their shows. Last week, covering the Latin Billboard Awards in Coral Gables, I was glad I didnt have to compete with the women on the red carpet and even some of my colleagues for attention. The dress has to hug you in all the right places, a blond reporter from Argentina told me. She looked like a peacock in a tight, backless white gown full of feathers and sparkle.
The breast implant parade of Telemundo soap opera stars offered many va-va-voom moments. Actress Jacqueline Marquez wore a golden-sequined dress with a deep V-cut that barely covered her voluptuous breasts. Out of the dozens of women at the show, only a few had natural-looking breasts.
For cancer patients like me, whose real breasts were like time bombs, advances in plastic surgery have been miraculous.
Not every one gets surgery. It looks so fake, a male co-worker said. Its better to just leave the scars. I have seen some women get tattoos to cover them.
My jaw dropped. Are you crazy? Thats not me. No way, I said.
The saline-solution breast implants have made me feel less like an alien. Surgeons insert the expandable implants to stretch the skin. After several weeks of radiation therapy meant to kill lingering cancer cells, the skin needs about a year to heal to avoid injury.
Although Im working on placing more value on intangible qualities, Im looking forward to joining the silicone-implant club next year. I agree with a man on the Telemundo production team at the Latin Billboard Awards: Que viva the fake boobs! MY STORY
Part 1: At age 33, Im dealing with breast cancer
Part 2: Cancer treatment complicates dreams of pregnancy
Part 3: Hanging in when chemotherapy gets rough
Part 4: Tough surgery choices: Mastectomy vs. Lumpectomy
Part 5: Silicone implans are not the only way to go in breast reconstruction
Part 6: Rebuilding the breast from body tissue
Part 7: Body fat can be used to build breast
Part 8: Facing my fears after mastectomy
Part 9: Taking control of the fear that comes with breast cancer
Part 10: Doctor knows about being a breast cancer survivor
Part 11: Radiation therapy gives her hope
Part 12: Finding strength from others
Part 13: Facebook, medication help breast cancer patient deal with depression
Part 14: A new outlook on 2012
Part 15: Breast cancer patient faces genetic mystery
Part 16: Using diversion to cope with harsh reality
Part 17: After radiation therapy ends
Part 18: Friends breast cancer journey is not as fortunate
Part 19: Anti-tumor meds come with scary story
Part 20: Reentry into the world after breast cancer treatment
Part 21: Too much fear, too little trust
Part 22: Chemo brain complicates return to work
Part 23: The Cancerous tumor is gone, not the fear
Part 24: Drawing strength from a singers defiant spirit
Part 25: A breast cancer message at Ultra Music Festival
Part 26: High hope for new drug
Part 27: Religion is an unavoidable topic
Part 28: Treatment changes social life
Part 29: Fatigue is frequent post-treatment companion From the Editor
: Journalist confronts cancer, takes readers along