Recently, I learned that I have breast cancer. I started to post photos about my tests and mourning process without explicitly stating my diagnosis on social media. A few friends reached out to me to ask if I was okay. One of them was a friend I had not talked to in years.
“Hi, nice to hear from you, ” I replied to his text. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer.” Then I explained to him where I was in the testing process and where I was in life in general.
At one point in our conversation, he wrote, “I know you’re strong, so I know you’ll put up a fight.”
I described how stressed I was and typed, “I’m scared at the thought of losing my breasts and nipples, but I’m more scared of the cancer. I’m doing my best to process my feelings in a healthy manner.”
“I’m at a bar right now watching football and trying to fight back tears,” he admitted. “You have every right to feel how you feel. And you seem to be processing everything in the best way possible.”
Losing my breasts and nipples has been a theme of many conversations with my friends and family. For the record, I do not know yet what the doctors will recommend for treatment, but the mere thought of losing my breasts and nipples has been on my mind a lot.
When I have raised this fear to friends and family, some have joked that I could “upgrade” my breasts by getting bigger ones. I have made it clear that I have no desire to get larger boobs; I just want to keep the ones I have minus the cancer.
In a text to my cousin last week, I wrote, “I didn’t learn to love my body, particularly my breasts, more until I got engaged with new social circles as an adult. It just sucks how long it took to love my body and be in environments that were affirming. Now I have to readjust all over again.”
I wish I had loved my body sooner.
The photos I am sharing with you today are from my 2011 trip to Hawaii. I was there to visit a friend. I do not recall the name of the beach in these pictures, but I remember coming across it during a hike with my friend on the Big Island.
After I posted photos of this trip on my social media, my sister called me to talk about the vacation. Then she made time to critique my body in the photos. She zeroed in on this particular hike to call out photos where my chest looked super flat, and she gave me tips for bikini tops to wear in the future so I could look like I had a curvier shape.
In case you didn’t know, triangle bikini tops are what small-chested women are advised to wear if they want to give the illusion of bigger breasts. My sister wanted to remind me of that.
I told her that I already knew this tip because I used to read that type of advice in fashion magazines when I was a teenager. I explained that I didn’t like triangle bikini tops because I didn’t like the tan lines that they left. Plus I had no problem if people knew I had no breasts. (It’s ironic how the woman with “no breasts” ended up getting breast cancer.)
It was so freeing to stand up for my body.
I grew up in a family where my cousins all seemed to have complexes about having small breasts. Being the baby of the family, I somehow jumped on the bandwagon and from time to time covered my chest with padded bras.
On that same 2011 trip to Hawaii, I also visited aunts, whom I had not seen since I was a kid. They were beautiful, confident, and didn’t mind that they were small-chested. One of them proudly declared to me that she hadn’t worn a bra in years. It was so refreshing to be around them that I started to adopt their attitudes in the way I perceived my own body. (I also realized how much money I could save by not spending so much on thickly padded bras.)
I’m not going to say that I was 100% confident all the time with my body after that trip, but I made great strides in loving my body in the years following that vacation.
I wish I had loved my body sooner.
I wish I had loved my breasts sooner.
At least I eventually learned to love them. I still love them even if they’re going through a hard time right now.
After I first felt the lump in my breast, I felt the need to know right away what was wrong.
As I wait for more test results, I’m okay with slowing down this process of finding out what the problem is.
I recognize that my body is changing and will continue to change pretty soon.
I definitely want a cancer-free body, but a part of me wants to freeze time and be with this specific version of my body before anything drastic happens to it. I want to properly mourn and say goodbye to it.
This body has been good to me. I’m happy that I finally recognized its beauty, but now I need to upgrade it so that it’s healthy.