Breast Pockets-with deadline! 1000 pockets in 3 weeks?

I feel passionate about being a ‘flattie’, a woman who chose not to reconstruct after breast cancer treatments and doesn’t want to wear breast forms either. I am getting used to being flat and am experiencing the stares of curiosity that is a normal part of our humanity but also a showing of how few women chose to ‘go flat’ after breast cancer treatment. You may have read a recent article I wrote for Role/Reboot, an online magazine questioning gender in society. Here is the link:
 
 
The article pretty much sums up why I think women are hesitant to put their breast forms aside. I am active in an online forum for breast cancer survivors and the women on this board really would like ‘Flat Awareness’ to occur. We cringe at the thought of Plastic Surgery Reconstruction Day (October 17, search google-!) We don’t want foreign objects in our bodies. We don’t want to wear forms to maintain a ‘socially acceptable body image’.  We want to be accepted as women who have decided against reconstruction and we want to push this image into being widely accepted in the societal visual lexicon of what a female body can look like over the course of a lifetime. This isn’t just a choice for women who are ‘of an age’ (i.e. having no stake in the game, and believe me, this is often the response I hear when I say that I decided against reconstruction, it goes like this, ‘Oh! My mother (aunt, grandmother) decided against reconstruction but she was _ _ years old.’). We want to turn the repressive body image pressures off and create a new sexy, strong and beautiful but we are flat or half flat!
 
Today, I participated in a taped segment about my hospital’s Breast Cancer Survivors Pool Program. This is a local ABC News at 5 program. And believe me, I made sure I would be taped with no towel covering up my beautiful flat chested body. I went to represent me and my fella flat chested survivors. Hopefully, my interview will make the 90 second segment! At the same time I spoke with the reporter about the Breast Pocket project to raise awareness for those of us who decide against reconstructing our bodies. The reporter said, “If you can get 1000 pockets, contact me, we will try to do a story.”
 
 
I seek a physical representation of the women that you know, who made the decision not to reconstruct their bodies after breast cancer by way of making breast pockets (explained below).
 
Women who decide against reconstructing their bodies often wear prothesis or breast forms, as they are also called. These breast forms need pockets sewn into bras, camisoles and swim suits in order to hold the form in place. These forms can be quite heavy, uncomfortable, they shift, rub against our scars, often contribute to the dreaded, under-studied and life long struggle with lymphedema. Many of the women on the cancer boards I frequent do not want to wear forms, these women often feel compelled to keep up a ‘good image’ in their workplace and on the streets of their hometowns. We want to see acceptance of our choice and to let other women who have to make this decision to know that it ain’t all bad! So, won’t you please make a breast pocket in the name of your friend, mother, aunt, sister? Lets break the walls down, stop being quiet and making nice, lets build a world where it is acceptable to go flat after breast cancer treatment. With this call for breast pockets, I am using the idea of the shirt pocket, also called breast pockets to make an artistic statement about breast cancer and deciding to forego reconstruction.
 
Please, help me to take this reporter up on her offer to build awareness for us ‘flatties’. 

 
Call For Art: Breast Pockets (pockets as you would find on your favorite button up, pocketed blouse). There are many shapes of pockets, the western, patch, button down flap, choose a style! 
 
 
If your aunt had a unilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, make just one pocket and/or flap. If I am the only ‘flattie’ you know? Oh, well, you will need to make a pair!  The point is, I would like a physical representation of how many women forego reconstruction. I am lifting the curtain and peeking in. How many women do you know? Make pockets for each one, unilateral or bilateral. Each pocket should have a name attached to it, first names only. Please use the pattern on my site (see link below), or make your own pattern, because breasts come in all sizes and shapes, make them with your tools and media, don’t think twice about it. These pockets can be cloth or paper or. 
 
And please, invite your friends, in fact, forward the link to this post freely, please speak up, talk about it on your blogs. 
Email me when you have your  pockets completed and I will tell you where to send them. 
 
Deadline: Please send the pockets to me during the week of October 22. Comment on this post and I will put your name in an already growing list of participants. I will let you know where to ship your pockets in a private email.

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Comments

  1. I’ve considered what I might do if I had to make this decision – and I believe that I too would choose to be a flattie. I can only imagine how the other options would discomfort scaring. I applaude your decision and the project! Way to go!

    • Hi, Melanie. I smiled when I saw your project on Craft Gossip this morning, because I didn’t know others called themselves Flatties! I had followed your thread and posted a comment on Role-reboot. My family calls me LB, because I’ve always been small-breasted, and now the one that remains is my Left Breast.

  2. Sunny Hemphill says:

    I applaud your decision to be ‘a flattie.’ Too much attention is paid to how our breasts look and too little to why we have them (feeding babies), how to heal us if they become diseased, and what it means to be a women who no longer has them. Breasts are part of our identity as women, but that doesn’t mean we need to wear fakes so that the world doesn’t have to confront reality. All women are beautiful and it’s not our breasts that create our beauty. It’s the spirit inside. Courage, resilience, strength, compassion, grace, humor, creativity, generosity and all the rest of the gifts of the spirit …. these are the things that make us beautiful. I will happily send you breast pockets for the women I know who no longer have breasts. My mother in law, two dear friends, my grandmother … these women deserve tribute and I think you have found a lovely way to honor them.

  3. Ok, I’m in! And I’m going to talk to the women in the embroidery class I’m teaching, and see if they want to join the fun. I also posted your link in a crafts teachers’ group on Facebook. Let’s hope you get lots of breast pockets from Finland. You’ll get at least one, I assure you.

  4. I started cutting out pockets last night. I am going to try and do a couple of guy themed pockets too, if I may. Our neighbor died from undiagnose breast cancer. He claimed the doctors were wrong -“men don’t get breast cancer” was his motto. Unfortunately, he saw the light after it was too late. xoxo

  5. I’ll make a pocket to honor my mom’s memory

  6. I think you are doing a fine thing … I’m in !
    My neighbour had her breasts removed 40 yrs. ago and, alas, she didn’t have the option of going ‘flat’ … and right now she is under going radiation for lung cancer … she’s 74 yrs. old.

  7. I’m in the studio figuring out what I want to make right now! You’ll be getting it (them?) next week! As far as I know you are the only flattie I know. There could be more and I just don’t know. They are likely hiding. I know that would be a very difficult decision for me to make. Best wishes on reaching 1000!

  8. Not sure what I would do. I have 6 people in my life living and passed from BC, 4 had reconstructive surgery, two were in the 1960’s and were older with fewer options then. I know the emotional side of BC leave as much scarring as the surgeries. Go Girls (& men) and choose what makes you happiest with your body.

  9. I had reconstruction with my right breast, they used my fat tummy to make it. It was arduous and has left me with many scars and was so not worth it. The second time, I opted to go without reconstruction because i refused to have a foreign object in my body. My sister had a double mastectomy and no reconstruction so I am up to 3 and if I add you that is 5. Whoops, I better get busy.

  10. I’m a nurse and while I do not work on a chemo unit or clinic, I often care for patients who have undergone mastectomies without reconstruction. I do not ‘know’ them as family or friends, but I have experienced their courage as they go on with their lives and other unrelated health issues. I’m going to make a few in honor of these women who are in my care for just a short time, but who always impress me with their bravery.

  11. I would like to participate in your project in honor of my mother in law who was a flattie also. Please let me know where to send my pocket.
    Aileen~

  12. My mom went the lumpectomy route — 3 times! Can I still do something on her behalf?

  13. I’ll be doing two for Nancy in Hawaii as well. She’s our heroine!

  14. YAY….I can make four. 2 for my friend and 2 for me? Do you want them anchored on a shirt?

  15. I’d like to do a pocket from my half flattie quilt mom, Gerrie. My aunt chose reconstruction, as did my military spouse mentor (though I’d love to do one for her and use a uniform pocket — it would be so unique and be a nod to the many women in uniform who battle cancer).

  16. Count me in! I want to make one in honor of my mom, who is a 10 year breast cancer survivor. She’s 85 yrs old and going strong!

  17. Mele, My Mom is a half flatty so I will make one pocket in her name. If I find the time I will also do at least another two. Sad to say I know of so many women who have faced this challenge. I hope this gets all the publicity it can to foster better understanding and acceptance of flatties!!!

  18. I’m a fairly new flatty … bilateral 7 weeks ago. Initially the idea of a mastectomy freaked me out. I had a lumpectomy 5 weeks earlier. After thinking about, investigating sites online, and consulting with a multi-specialty team of doctors, I decided to have a double mastectomy even though there was no cancer in the other breast. I didn’t want to have to go through surgery again for reconstruction nor for recurring cancer within a few years. I don’t yet feel comfortable without a little something filling out my breast area in public. I know the time will come when I’ll proudly present myself as I am. In the meantime, while the incisions heal and the swellings diminish I’ll make 2 pockets for myself, 2 for my sister, and 2 for my mother, as well as pass the word about this project. Thank you.

  19. QuiltgrannySharon says:

    I will be making at least two in honor of my sister and aunt (both deceased at a yoing age and uniboobies). I am not a flattie, but if it returns or moves to the other side, I will join your ranks proudly.

  20. Kathy York says:

    I will be making you some breast pockets for your project. I applaud your efforts to make flatties socially acceptable. I have a number of friends who have died from breast cancer, so my pockets will be to honor them.

  21. I will start with 2 for you. My mom died from BC 10 yrs ago at age 61. If she had gone that route the first time, maybe the second time wouldn’t have happened. She did reconstruct.
    If I were to ever face it….I would be a “flattie” too, no messing around.
    I am happy to see you put this in mind.

  22. Christina says:

    Count me in for my BFF Gail in CA! Yay for Gail! Yay for Melanie and all! Yay to infinity and beyond! Survivors with their own mind and choices.

  23. I’m IN! Will also do one in honor of my mamogram last week!!

  24. Melanie, I’d love to help you! My grandmother had breast cancer as did my husband’s mom and grandmother. Let me know where to send things to you.

  25. I have just posted about this project on my blog.

    • Dale Kathryn says:

      About 40 years ago (before cellphones), I had non-cancerous surgery that required a long stint of home care by a visiting nurse. She used my parents’ phone to call her next patient who had just returned home from a BC-related mastectomy. The nurse told me that the woman was crying, because her husband would not look at her – nor would he up to their suite from the swimming pool in their condo. My pocket will be an in-your face lime green cotton and salmon pink silk.

      (Also thinking of my friend Pat and her Parabees,)

      The lump I had removed one year ago today – was just a lump.

      You BC survivors are my heros.

  26. Lauren T. Furey says:

    I applaud you 100%. My mother had a mastectomy and then had reconstructive surgery. I just couldn’t understand why she bothered. She skipped the nipple reconstruction/tattooing. Her original plan was to have a star tattooed where her nipple would have been, but then she remarried and her new husband was against that idea.
    It confirmed my choice that if I ever had to make that decision, I would be a flattie.
    Please add me to your list!

  27. Ann deakers says:

    One for rita

  28. Carol Kunnerup says:

    Count me in….

  29. I’m in, too!

  30. I was amazed to find such a site. I guess I have chosen to be a “flattie”. I love that someone came up with a “cure” for finding ways to make it, how shall I say, less conspicuous. Thank you for sharing you clever idea.

  31. Pam in IL says:

    Oh my goodness, there are so many in my life that have gone through breast cancer and most of them have decided against reconstruction. Count me in!

  32. Mine will be in the mail hopefully this week

  33. I am a concavey….not a flattie and have been since 1998 when I had a mastectomy which then told me I was Stage IV….my daughter, who was then 4 is now almost 20….even though it came back in multiple bone sites in 2009, and I have been on chemo since 2010, I hope to make it to her graduation. Many of my other BC warriors have also chosen to not go the reconstruction route. Please count me in and send me your shipping info. Thanks.

  34. Kristin McNamara Freeman says:

    Melly…Have two pair of pockets under way…so glad to be able to contribute to this great program of awareness that beauty is not determined by how one chooses to walk with their cancer journey….and add my stitches to the collective healing of attitude. Looking forward to the where to send information.
    Thanks for doing the project

  35. What a wonderful idea – making you one for my Mom. She always said she wanted her well endowed chest to be half the size it was… never dreaming it would become true in a way we never imagined.

  36. I am a half flattie, I hate my prosthesis so my half flat DD shape is swingin’ in the wind, I go commando and I do not care who knows it.

  37. Count me in for one at least – I know flat is the choice I’d like to think I’d make.

  38. Normajean Brevik says:

    Three cheers to you Melanie, freedom on choice is always a cause worth fighting for. My pocket for you is posted on my blog http://seasew.blogspot.com/ as well as a link back to your blog. I await your mailing instructions. Hugz, Normajean

  39. Vena K. Oliver says:

    You Go Girl! You have the right idea..and my Great Grandmother had it too in the seventies! She had a double mastectomy and wanted no part of phonie fronts..she didn’t see the need, and if I ever have to overcome and be brave like so many have I will be proud to do the same!! My pockets will be made in her Memory!

  40. I stand in awe of all women who have faced the battle with breast cancer and have made the brave decision to forgo reconstruction. I would be honored to make a breast pocket for your project.

  41. Normajean Brevik says:

    Here’s another. http://seasew.blogspot.com/

  42. Melanie, I’d like to make a breast pocket for you. Please let me know where to send it. I’m a friend of Teri Lucas’, and I saw you on Eyewitness News this evening. Many blessings!!!

  43. Stephanie Rose says:

    I recal that there was always a quilter in our guild fighting breast cancer at any given time. That’s not a good statistic, and so for that I sew pockets. I have 6 done. Please let me know where to send them.
    Steff Rose

  44. Melanie, I’ve been following along with your journey. This summer I had my own journey with breast cancer. I am 44 years young and I am fortunate that it was caught as early as possible, so I only had to have a lumpectomy.

    I read your article and I do think doctors should give the option of going “au natural” and not having reconstruction surgery. I applaud your choice and am sorry some people have judged you by one part of your body. If they knew your story, they might be a little more compassionate.

    I will make some pockets for you.

  45. Melanie, this is such a wonderful project. I’m fortunate not to have been confronted with this issue, either personally or through a family member or friend, but if I ever should I love the fact that you are helping to clear the way for acceptance of being a ‘flattie’ since I’m certain that would be my choice too!!! I will get right to making some pockets and then posting them and your link on my blog to spread the word. Way to go!!!

  46. I look forward to hearing from you with regards to the mailing address so I can get my pockets to you. Here’s a link to my blog post about them:

    http://lindakittmer.blogspot.ca/2012/10/pockets-of-awareness.html

  47. Recovering from another surgery and stumbled on this call. Count me in. The perfect project to relight creative fire.

  48. Melanie, I’ve made four pockets for your wonderful project. After having worked for many years in a university based breast surgery program, I know first hand the impact that body altering surgery can have on a person and I salute the brave “flatties” who have chosen not to have reconstructive surgery.

  49. Count me in for 2 pockets. This is a fantastic idea!

  50. I have made three for your cause. Hoping these help! please let me know where to send. I am a member of Fiber Art Traders with NJ Brevik. thank you

  51. I have made three for this cause. I am a member of Fiber Art Traders with NJ Brevik.

  52. I would be happy to participate in the pocket project. Where should I send the pocket?

    Regards,
    Pat

  53. Mel,
    let me know where to send the pockets. have too many buds that are flatties.
    <3 judi

  54. My mom had a mastectomy in 1975 and is half flat to this day. I’ll make a pocket for her. Where do I send it?

  55. Marla Richmond says:

    A week before I was scheduled for breast reconstruction surgery, I called my cousin who had been through it several times. She asked me why I was doing it. I said because I had a bilateral mastectomy. “I don’t hear that you really want to do this. Why are you?” Why indeed. So I cancelled the surgery and have been cancer free and flat for 6 years now. Tell me where to send the pockets and I will send you two for me and one for my late mother who only had one mastectomy. I will also send you a picture of my “before” and “after” bra quilts, done with real bras. I’m kinda proud of them.
    Thanks for doing this!

    Marla in Massachusetts

  56. I’m working on my pocket dedicated to my MIL, Winnie. She had a “radical mastectomy” in the early 70’s, she lived a full life happily flat :)

  57. This is very interesting. My cousin’s wife became a flattie…I am going to forward this link to her.

    So we just sew a regular pocket and send it to you? I am not at all sure how the pockets work.

    And will you send me your address?

  58. Victoria Rose says:

    I think this is a wonderful way to support all of us flatties. Like many of the women who have chosen not to have reconstruction, I too did not want any more surgery or intrusions into my body so I opted not to have reconstruction. I do wear prosthetics but not always, and I feel fine without them. At least I won’t have to worry about droopy boobs when I am 80!

  59. I just read of this project on Sue Bleiwiss’s blog. I am a ten year survivor of a bilateral mastectomy. I did not have reconstructive surgery, nor have I ever worn a body form. I was so clear about this choice right from the beginning. I have never regretted it. I will have to make my own pockets and get them mailed in. thanks for sharing.

  60. Hi Melanie,
    Thanks for all your work for a great project. I learned of it from Jeannie Evans on facebook. Count me in. I am ready to participate. Looking forward to getting your address. Thanks, Nancy

  61. Hi Melanie, I’m finishing up 5 pockets today. Thanks for organizing this – what a wonderful way to show support for other women!

  62. What a great Idea, I would like to send you a couple, can I get the address to mail them?
    Thanks
    M