Many Mellys

Brace yourself, this is a long one.

MellyBehaved

In the above photo I am wearing a Handful Bra with padded inserts and the camisole I am wearing says,

‘Well-behaved women seldom make history’.

This week, I read Stephanie Forsyth’s post called, ‘I Yam What I Yam‘, where she talks about being a potty mouth, beer guzzling, super-rad, quilter chick who doesn’t want to put on airs to please anyone else. Well? She stirred the pot and now I want to write a similar post.

I have kept this blog for many years, I was an early adopter and was blogging when few quilters had blogs. I published Inspired to Quilt in 2009 and my latest book in 2012. For years I thought my ‘audience’ was traditional quilters who had an artistic side that they wanted to indulge. I don’t think this anymore. I think I have gathered a community of artistic people and that I am a member of an artistic community who are interested in expanding and growing visually, many of these people know how to quilt traditionally, but only do so occasionally or under duress. πŸ™‚ (I am kidding about that part.)

I have a personal history of catering to a ‘presumed audience’, with biases and traditions that do not apply to me or my work. In the face of this, I have held my tongue in fear of offending a potential reader of my blog and books.

Want to know some of my thoughts?

I don’t like the term quilt art. I think that the focus remains on quilt in the traditional sense and not art. When we show ‘quilt art’ in quilt shows, it separates us from the art world. Quilt shows provide space to show (which is wonderful), but degrades the ability of the quilt artist to be taken seriously in the art world because the focus is on conjuring as many categories as possible, so that as many quilts as possible can be shown. At the same time, quilt art is often judged by traditional quilt standards, when it does not seem that the judges are well versed in art history, tradition or technique. Many quilt shows also run along side consumer events which is an engine in itself, and a bit of a distraction from the event itself.

I argue that traditional quilting is a fabulous craft (This is not a bad word! Rather it is a respectable word used by people who hone their skills to high standards, to present beautiful and functional objects), and that art is art, non-functional in use, perhaps inspirational or confrontational and artist’s must learn many skills too, drawing, composition, color theory, history, materials and how to use them, to name a few. Artists cannot and should not work in a vacuum and I fear that many quilt artists work in the vacuum of the traditional/quilt art community.

I think it is great to have quilt shows (I both participate in and enjoy them), and understand that quilters have gone unnamed and and created works in anonymity for much too long, perhaps our need to fit as many categories as possible into each show is as a result of this. I don’t mean to say that I don’t understand how difficult it is for female art to get seen either, these shows do wonders in this respect. I just wish that the cross over between the quilt art world and the art world was not so vast and I question weather we do ourself a disservice by showing our work in insular, mixed focus environments. It is almost as if we parallel play with both the traditional quilt world and the art world.

And don’t get me started with ‘crafty art supplies’. I want my pigments and paints to mix to the color I-intend-to-mix and use, and so I want them labeled with pigment names and numbers so that I can get the repeatable results no matter what sub straight or media I use the paint on. I do not like using supplies whose real intention is getting me to purchase brand name refills.

Phew.

MellyKWest

Now onto some other topics that I would like to open up and explore in this space. It is no secret that I had breast cancer and that I opted out of ‘reconstructing’ my body. Choosing not to reconstruct and not wear prothesis is an interesting proposition. If you look at the numbers, 1 in 5 American women have (immediate) reconstruction after breast cancer treatment. This means that 4 out of 5 women are… wearing prothesis? I don’t know. If these numbers are right, there are a fair amount of Very Quiet Unobtrusive Women out there. Luckily for me, there are also a good number of women who are banding together to create community based on our Flat and Fabulous perspective. If you are flat and would like to join a private group for some support, comment and I will hook you up.

It may be a good time to read my Role/Reboot article on this topic.

So I wonder, why are all of these women being so quiet, where are they, why can’t I see them? Why are there such expectations for conformity and body image? After surviving breast cancer treatment, why is the human body, with all of its beauty and will to remain healthy, not enough? Must we put on the prothesis and carry on like nothing happened? Must we hide behind a body image standard that is no longer possible as a result of this disease? Is it because breasts make us female, womanly, feminine and without breasts we are…inadequate?

Recently I have begin to think that perhaps I am gender queer. I do not think similarly to the mainstream, I do not think you are either male or female. Gender is not a two way street. I don’t think this is a discussion about gender at all, but rather one of being human, open, compassionate, willing to accept difference and if need be to celebrate that difference. What makes this a discussion of gender is that mainstream society, and even the breast cancer community does not question the ‘breasts make us female idea’ often or thoroughly enough.

Are my scars, gotten through battle with breast cancer just too scary to contemplate? Is it freightening to know, to see, to understand that women get scarred from breast cancer?

Please watch this video:

The Scar Project from Sara Dehghan on Vimeo.

I really like and appreciate the work David Jay has done with The Scar Project. He has opened the door for a more thorough discussion of breast cancer, reconstruction and opting out of reconstruction. The above video rubbed me wrong when I first watched it. Now that I have had some time to think it through, I understand that what rubbed me wrong. David Jay was shocked to see the removal of a breast. Women’s breasts are sacrosanct, revered, used (and abused). David Jay made me realize that society is not acclimated to seeing women have scars, get scarred, or be scarred. As more women like myself begin to talk about our experience, and embrace the choice of Going Flat, as I like to call it, this body image will gain greater acceptance. And hallelujah! (When one of the plastic surgeons I interviewed said that ‘reconstructed breasts looked good in clothing’, he meant it, and to me, the amount of time spent on creating the look of breasts without the sensation or function is not worth the risks).

All of this is to say, my feminist head had been reared and I don’t feel like holding back anymore! Breast cancer is not going away any time soon, unfortunately. If I can be a voice for a simple, noninvasive and really quite beautiful result-bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction, I will and gladly. (In fact, I am actively doing this, the breast cancer support forum I use has no pages on what to expect when opting out of reconstruction, no pages on what to discuss with your surgeon, if you need a plastic surgeon, or what testing proceedures to expect after having bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction. I asked why this is and now they are creating content that says more than, “Some women decide not to have reconstruction and opt for a prosthesis instead.” And I got myself invited to a luncheon presented by City of Hope where I hope to make connections and to network on behalf of women who opt out. Doctors and nurses fall prey to societal expectations of the female form too! And I have the energy to speak out.)

MellySassy

And last but not least, goodness gracious, have I been having fun lifting weights! I have never been into exercise, but when I was diagnosed, I knew it was the one thing that might help me fight disease, it is an action that I can accomplish to help my body function as well as it possibly can for as long as possible. This space will not become a fitness blog, not by any means, but I will discuss my gains, how it makes me feel and I may well show my ‘guns‘ every now and again.

I am tired of not being fully present to myself. Not voicing my thoughts, needs, concerns. I have faced my mortality and do not want to live by half. So, thank you Stephanie. Thanks for speaking up on your own behalf and helping me do the same. And hey, if you, dear reader, don’t agree with me? Speak up! Minds are made for changing and my opinions and thoughts are no more important than yours.


Back to gallery

Comments

  1. Thank you for saying this! I am fully flat as well and I love the freedom that brings. Many people seem not to notice my lack of cleavage which just goes to show how observant the majority of people are.

    I am planning on doing my Art Therapy thesis on the choice to not reconstruct, I am not sure what form of inquiry I will be using at this point but I am sure of my topic.

    I am wondering where you purchased the little bra-let you are wearing in the first photo? I think I could be persuaded to wear something like that, but I simply detest protheses that fit in my pocket bra. In fact, I could quite cheerfully burn my pocket bras if they hadn’t been so darned expensive. And what is up with that? Why does so little fabric cost so darn much?

    I hope you continue to speak up for women who opt to be proud of the challenges their body has faced. That is how I view my choice, and I am not changing my mind. I may however, get a mastectomy tattoo composed of several of my art pieces to cover the mismatched stripes my surgeon gifted me with. I am ready to take the pain of those tattoos, but not the pain and lengthy recovery of reconstruction that seems to be dictated by societal norms and not my personal choice.

    • Jody, Handful bras are covered by most insurance companies as a mastectomy bra, I bought the one you see directly from them, the link is in the post.

  2. Thank you, Melly. I’m too moved to be able to say more than that, right now.

  3. *applause*

    First of all, I agree 100% with your comments about quilt/art and also about supplies – it’s why I buy my supplies at art stores rather than craft stores.

    Secondly, as you know, I am 100% in support of your choice to be flat – and you’re right – it IS a feminist choice. But it is also a feminist choice to *not* be flat, and in out support of either; I think we all have to be careful to not shame the other.

    Thirdly, I was quite taken aback by your gender queer statement.

    If you’re a straight woman (I don’t know if you are); you have to be very careful not to co-opt a queer identity. Similarly, if you’re cis-gendered than you have no right to co-opt another gender. Keep in mind that being gender queer is not *only* about presentation, but also about sex, sexuality and culture. If you maintain all the privileges of heteronomativity as well as those of being cisgendered (are you going to start using the men’s washroom or only use gender-neutral washrooms, as a basic for instance?) then it’s dismissive of all the pain and suffering (both physical and mental) that those who are gender queer struggle with their entire lives.

    However, if you’re part of the LGBTT community – then – nevermind! lol

    • Interesting comments Kit.
      I consider myself to be bisexual, I have dated both men and women and I fell for a man, whom I married and am committed to. That said, I am sometimes mistaken for a man because of my flat chest combined with short hair. I also feel quite fluid between both manly and womanly presentation, in an androgynous and fluid manner. Not many women choose to Go Flat after breast cancer treatment, so I feel I am sometimes caught in what many gender queer people call gender policing. If women choose reconstruction because of gender policing, which is what I am talking about even if it is not as acute as what transgendered people may experience, then yes, I think this is an issue of thinking and acting outside the perceived gender ideal and I align myself with and consider my experience to be a bit queer. I won’t be using the mens bathroom any time soon, but I do want to buck the norms. Maybe gender queer isn’t the right word, but I do have a better understanding of what these people go through than the average person and I do see our gender assumptions as very limiting.
      I do not feel I disparaged those who choose reconstruction in any way. I will re-read to see how I feel on that account. I do feel there is quite a bit of information in support of women getting reconstruction if they choose to. My concern on this count is that failure rates, revisions, reconstruction failures, and information about the negative side of reconstruction is not as easily available. Combine this with the standard of treatment being surgery, then chemo and rads, I feel women are not given time enough to find the information that will create a well informed decision. As long as women go into the decision to reconstruct fully informed I have no problem with reconstruction.

      • I think I fit into this description on several levels: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genderqueer

      • Re Gender-queer – Since you’re part of the LBGTT community – then of course you do have a better understanding of gender-queer, the privilege of being cis-gendered no matter your sexuality and the difference between sex, sexuality and gender presentation. So in that case, only you can know whether you’re gender queer or not. (My impression, given past postings about your husband, was that you were straight, straight/acting and cisgendered.)

        As for breast reconstruction vs. flat – as an observer, it seems that there is no question that there is pressure from *society* to present according to gender norms; and given that, one can infer that there is no question that the medical community would subtly (or not so subtly given the extra dollars in their communal pockets) push towards that as well.

        I don’t think you shamed woman who choose reconstruction in this particular post, I just think we ALL need to be careful not to shame one choice in our enthusiastic support of another – and be aware that *both* are feminist choices. πŸ˜‰

        • I find it fascinating that you’re telling Melanie that “we” need to be careful not to shame someone’s choice, and yet you shamed Melly for identifying as “gender queer” if she’s not part of the LGBTT family. I also find it absolutely irritating that people always assume that because someone is married in a “hetero” relationship that one or both of them aren’t possibly bisexual.

          Any choice made by a female out of what is best for the self is a choice made as a feminist. Whether that choice is to have breast reconstruction, have children, get married, etc.

          Even if Melly were a straight woman who had had a double masectomy, the LGBTT community should support her. Why? Because people sometimes stares at flatties, some people make derogatory comments about being gay, or seeming to be like a man. Isn’t that something the LGBTT community should stand up against, because despite what her sexual preference might be, the prejudice against her is from the same place.

          Sadly, your rather strong reaction to her post has now proven that it’s not just the quilt world that is self selective and cliquish. Also, I hate the term “straight/acting”. Are gay people gay/acting? Are black people black/acting? Musliims muslim/acting? Gay, straight, bisexual, etc, are not ACTING they are being who they are.

          • Kit Lang says:

            !. I was pretty clear in my initial post that I didn’t know whether she was part of the queer community or not, and that my comments were predicated on her *not* being part of the community.

            2. If you re-read, you’ll see that I was making the point that any choice a feminist makes is a feminist choice.

            3. Though I can’t speak for the LGBTT community, I’m sure many would support her choice to be a flattie, much as many straight people would.

            4. straight acting refers to queer people ACTING straight. I do it a lot, myself for safety reasons and for business reasons. And it gives me privileges that other queers, who can’t “pass” don’t get to experience, which is what I was alluding to in my post.

            Cheers,

            Kit

          • I think my point was missd. I was saying that it should not matter whether or not she is part of the LCBTT community, how she identifies is how she identifies. Period. She doesn’t need to be in “the club” to identify as gender queer or any other identification.

            I’m well aware what “straight acting'” is referring to. That does not mean I don’t find it an offensive term.

            I’ve always been fascinated how minority groups often segregate themselves even more. To be a minority and then form such a tight bond that its “us” against “them” usually only serves to continue perpetuating the issues that are creating a divide between people. Fighting hostility with hostility never forges understanding and cooperation.

          • There’s no hosility in my post, or in my life, except, maybe, from you.

            I think that in order to identify as “queer”, you should BE queer ; however, your mileage may vary.

            As for the rest, I also think that If you’re not part of a minority group, you don’t get to speak to our motivations, no matter how “fascinated” you are by them.

            Namaste

          • Melanie says:

            Alright, I am going to butt in. To be honest Kit, I do not understand why you feel so strongly about this subject, you have used inclusive wording about yourself, so I assume you consider yourself part of the LGBT community. I don’t think I have fully explored the use of the words gender queer in this blog post, so I can see where some of your comments apply. I tend to agree more with Stephanie’s stance on this topic. But I don’t think either of you is ‘right’ to the exclusion of the other.
            I do not agree that one needs to be part of the LGBT community in order to identify with it, relate to it, support it and find support from it. If this line of thinking were applied in other realms of life it would be akin to saying no straight women should emulate the look of a lesbian, and if you go to any neighborhood function you will see some women with short spiky hair, button up shirts, jeans and a husband. To say this woman is identifying with queers, or lesbians, is to shut both you and her off from a human experience of connection, and to deny that some women just don’t pay into the trappings of accepted ‘femininity’.
            For myself and the use of the word gender queer in my post, yes, I think this word fits my thought process and experience for the most part.
            The breast cancer community, doctors, nurses are pretty convinced that women either, must have reconstruction or wear prosthesis. Many women who wear prosthesis don’t question the need, even when they find the things uncomfortable, heavy, itchy, sweaty or just plain frustrating.
            As I go about my daily life with shorter hair, I get some looks, intense looks from people trying to figure my gender out. I am fine with this by the way and I do not feel the need to overcompensate for my lack of breasts by growing my hair, covering my chest with ruffles or scarves or becoming more feminine by way of dress or make up. The real issue, is that I am one of a very small group of women who have opted out of reconstruction and breast forms and this, weather I am gay, straight, bi, black, white or whatever puts me in the position of presenting a very ‘queer image’, and not for any other reason than I chose not to reconstruct and not wear forms. I could quite possibly be singled out and gay bashed because I do not want to conform to the expectation of the ‘normal’ breast cancer survivor. For the most part, people really don’t notice or care that I am a flat chested woman, but that doesn’t mean I have not been heckled.
            And then there is the issue of being a breastless woman looking at society and wondering why we seem to be so female breast focused. Women’s bodies sell everything, cars, liquor, make up. Breast cancer sells more ‘awareness’ because it is BREAST cancer. Breasts are sexy, at least that is the prevailing sentiment.
            I was asked to speak with a psychologist when I told my breast surgeon I did not want reconstruction, and it wasn’t a request, it was mandated. I must be crazy not to want a single breast on my body, not to want symmetry (and peace of mind). Most of my doctors, many nurses and techs were quite surprised that I did not want to subject my body to the number of surgeries it would take to (hopefully) get good results.
            From the outside looking in? Why assume all women want to present the shape of breasts? Do you want to know how many friends suggest I get ‘just a tiny form, a bra with padding’. They are suggesting I conform but to what?
            I guess what I am trying to say is, I don’t conform and I am not interested, I think society and culture makes me gender queer and I gladly accept and align myself to those who have similar understanding of the challenges I was forced to make because I was diagnosed with breast cancer and can’t be bothered to make like I am shaped like ‘your’ expectation of the female form (I hope you understand I don’t mean you in particular). But because I am on the forefront of a movement where women chose not to present a ‘womanly’* shape after breast cancer, I am falling pretty close to the gender queer tree. And I have no problem with this. I face similar challenges in daily life as gender queer people and my having these emotions and talking about them honestly in a self referential way does not hurt or diminish a transgendered persons experience, rather it opens the gender discussion up just a little more. Discussion is needed, necessary. Body conformity and expectation is oppressive.
            *And if I have any say in the matter, my shape, this choice, bilateral mastectomy without reconstruction after breast cancer, will become seen and known as ‘womanly’.

          • Okay, maybe the “fascinated” was a little hostile. My apologies.

            Now, I think we should stop hijacking Melly’s post.

            If you’d like to continue the conversation in private (because I feel it’s clear you’re misunderstanding me, and perhaps I, you) my email is kit.lang.ltd@gmail.com

          • Woah, woah, woah! SCCREEEECCCCH! Lol

            I never said or was trying to say that you have to look a certain way to be a lesbian, or that you should look a certain way to be straight (!) or that personal expression is in some way related to your / their support of the queer community at large (or *any* community).

            You said ” The real issue, is that I am one of a very small group of women who have opted out of reconstruction and breast forms and this … puts me in the position of presenting a very β€˜queer image’…. I could quite possibly be singled out and gay bashed …”

            I fully agree. If I saw you on the street, I would assume you were “family” as we say. (Yes, I’m a queer femme. I don’t talk about it on my own blog [though I do on Facebook] because people from work read my blog – or at least know of its existence – and I’m not out at work.)

            But a less-than-common gender presentation, or presenting as “queer” doesn’t automatically make you gender queer.

            Why did I have such a strong reaction? Two reasons. Number one, for about 10 years I worked as an activist with people who have gender dysphoria, body dysmorphic people, people who were/are trangendered, transsexual, male and female identified though opposite sexed, and “other” including bigendered, gender queer and other people who fall outside of the Western belief in two sexes, two genders.

            Number two, I both an undergraduate and graduate degree in social and cultural anthropology, and did my thesis on gender warriors such as Leslie Feinberg.

            Gender is an extremely complex social construct – and my reaction to your initial post came from a concern that you were basing your “gender queer” label based on image alone. Gender is far more than image, and to reduce it to just that is dismissive and disrespectful of people who experience real, psychic and physical pain around gender and sex. However, you since clarified that you are a: queer (which lessens my concern thinking you must have done work around this issue, or at the very least, that you didn’t just pluck the term from the internet ether and say “Oh that sounds good, I’ll use that!”) and b: that the Wiki definition (which I haven’t looked at yet) suits you in more than the one way.

            I agree that body conformity and expectation is oppressive. I experience it myself (all women do) and I also experience body dysmorphia in ways that may surprise you – but this is about you, so I’ll save that for another time.

            I agree that you, too (and other women like you, who choose to buck societal and medical expectations) are also gender warriors, but again, that doesn’t make you gender queer. *You* may identify that way, but many (perhaps most?) women who are flatties would strongly assert that they are women, with or without breasts, that their lack of breasts and refusal to conform doesn’t make them any less womanly, and that both their gender and their sex remains unchanged. And that makes *them* gender warriors too.

            So that’s where I’m coming from on this issue. Hope that helps to provide understanding.

          • Melanie says:

            Kit, I am sorry to have used the words gender queer. I mean no disrespect and see your points. I am going to step away from this discussion and give myself time to think.

          • Kit Lang says:

            Melly, You don’t need to apologize and that wasn’t what I was seeking (although, I will take it, with thanks on behalf of TG/TS and “other” folks if you feel one is necessary); and I am glad if I have helped in any way as you sift through your thoughts and feelings about your gender presentation. I was seeking clarity and I’m glad to have contributed in some small way to yours.

            Namaste

          • Melanie says:

            I do not know that I feel heard or understood by you, but you have made your stance and concerns known and I’m willing to think them through and see where and if I can use them. I think there are many assumptions and judgements in your words, some of which do and do not apply. Conversation and discourse is welcome however and I appreciate thinking through the lens of your words.

    • Um I think my brain just exploded from all the new terms you two just educated me on through this conversation!

  4. …er… that should be in “ouR” support, not “out”. lol

  5. thanks Mell…I am one of the women who had a scare but then was told all is fine….I get 6 months re visits with the old mammo machine but it started me thinking…what would/ will I do??? I decided if the time would come I will opt to be flat also….and also no fooling around with treatments…if its there ..they are off….I have watched you and your art and health struggles for many years now and I for one am so proud of you! You are a big influence on me….I even started “art quilting after seeing you on TV)….Just wanted to say thanks and you are one of the strongest people I know!

  6. Hi Mel, Your comments are deep and sincere and therefore important. I’ve not had cancer so I won’t comment on that aspect of your comments. I don’t know how I would feel about it until or if I get cancer. Concerning your comments on art quilting, in the circles I travel locally and on the Internet, the people I talk with seem to refer to art quilts as art more than as quilts. I just took my entry to SAQA’s Color Wheel of Emotions around town to show my artist friends and the owner of the local quilt shop (who does traditional quilting). The art professors asked questions about the design and pointed out details in my quilt with color, value, how the design fit in with the theme. They spent a lot of time looking at all the details of the art. It made me feel really accomplished. The owner of the shop was talking about me with one of her employees and (in passing) mentioned to her employee that I make fine art. That made my heart sing! In part, I think because I have been talking about myself as an artist as opposed to as a quilter. But, if there were enough hours in a day, I would love to make some traditional quilts, too. I’m very impressed with their designs and precision. Having to choose, though, I choose the freedom of breaking rules and freewheeling with non precision.

    • There is alot of room for art and quilting to coexist, this is for sure. I am glad you were able to get some external validation for your art, and am happy that you sound so grounded in showing your work and hearing feedback about it.

      My bottom line in the quilt/art discussion is, “Does this work hold steady alongside it contemporaries in the fine art world? If not, why not (and what can I do to improve my lapses?)? If so, perhaps it is time to start showing it to a broader audience.

  7. Hi Melly – Very thought provoking post. I agree with your opinion on the term “quilt art”. I like to say I’m a fiber artist even when I make the occasionally “art quilt” for a group exhibit. I totally respect traditional quilters. I just have a different style and mindset.

    Regarding breast cancer, my mom is now a 12 year survivor. She was diagnosed at 74 and elected not to have reconstructed surgery. She is lopsided and pride of it! I know it’s a personal decision to have reconstructed surgery. I wish you continued good health.

  8. Sonja Jeter says:

    Way to go Melly!! So glad you set that free! I have tried to not ruffle feathers since I was told as a child that people did not want to hear the truth so I should stop saying what I think. I do want to hear the truth. I do want to know what people think. I enjoy having people around me who are characters/personalities who say what they mean and believe what they say, that do unique things, who are interesting … not clones. It takes a lot of courage to put yourself out there fully, but once you do it, you are free and you free others with you. Thanks for shining so brightly that we can see ourselves in your light. Stay strong … in all ways. I think the 40s do this for you … after 40 years, I have had it with the judgmental, labeling crap that we spew on each other to stay comfortable … the if we come up with enough rules and high standards we can make a comfortable box of impeccability to live in kind of stuff…. It is such an uncomfortable box of fear. It just takes a minute to completely free the spunky little girl from all of this, so I am still working. Can’t wait to see what you do and hear what you think next! Shine on Melly T … shine on!!

    • Melly Testa says:

      Thanks Sonja. I don’t know. I am genuine, maybe too much so. Not sure. πŸ™‚

  9. Melly,

    First, thank you for your super kind compliments lady. You do realize that you are a HUGE contributor in my finally just putting myself out there and letting it all hang out, don’t you? You’re always telling me to be myself, to go with my gut. πŸ™‚

    Art has often been a platform for social awareness and change – why shouldn’t that platform be open and valid for flatties to be seen/heard/normalized? πŸ™‚

    Whatever/however you identify is awesome. Know why? Because it means you can be yourself and not some projected facsimile of what people expect or want from you. It’s not the identifying that is the important part, it’s the fact that you’re looking into your being and understanding WHO you are and WHAT you need. (Labels schmabels, we can call ourselves anything we want but what really matters is how we feel and interact with our world. And that we strive to make a world that interacts APPROPRIATELY and RESPECTFULLY with us as individuals)

    You are such an amazing person, and I am ever so grateful to have gotten to know you. You are smart, funny, beautiful, strong and sassy! You’re also kind, caring, thoughtful and a wonderful model/teacher/mentor/FRIEND. You help make me more confident in myself and my art. Much love for you!

  10. Melly, Thank you once again for sharing your feelings and for opening up my brain. I love learning and growing. You have taught me so much about art and I thank you for it. I am also grateful for all you are teaching me about breast cancer and the choices that are available to women. Until you made the choice to “go flat” and not wear a prothesis I didn’t realize such a choice existed for women. Isn’t that a funny thing to say? But it’s true. Sometimes I just conform so much that I don’t realize I have a choice in such things. Since your surgery and chemo and everything you have shared about going flat I have had a lot of things to think about. I pray that I never have to make such a choice but if I do I know it would be difficult, as it was for you. You were smart enough to not just go with the flow but to think for yourself and because you did, you are opening up that avenue for other women! I like my breasts. Sure they are a big pain sometimes – more like bras and finding the right one is the big pain but I do like my breasts. haha I know that if I or one of my daughters need to make this decision there will be a lot to think about now that I know all the avenues. However, I’m trying to decide how to say this without being crass but I have always felt that my breasts were the most sexual part of me and if I didn’t have them (whether real or reconstructed) would I still feel sexual? Do you know what I mean? I think you do. I think that would be my most difficult thing to come to terms with.

    Thanks again for opening up this conversation! I enjoy reading about all aspects of your life that you are wanting to share. Maybe I’ll agree, maybe I won’t, either way it’s great to “listen” and “talk” with you through your blog and Facebook. Keep up the good work! And btw – I am down 40 lbs now since I saw you! I started an exercise program the other day too. It’s amazing how much easier it is to move when you work to be healthy!

    • Lisa!
      CONGRATULATIONS on loosing weight. This is not an easy task! 40 pounds is a lot! Wow!

      In retrospect, and in an overall sense, not specific moments in life, I never liked my breasts much. Yes, I had fun showing cleavage and dressing up at times. But mostly my girls were too big, disproportionate to my frame, not the prettiest out there. I would not have made the choice to be breastless without having been diagnosed with breast cancer, but I was.

      Prior to being diagnosed, I never gave a thought to the fact that reconstructed breasts to no function, have no sensual feeling, are merely ‘mounds’. In my case I would have needed to get expanders (bags with a port attached that get ‘filled’ once a week for months at a time and are painful. After that I would go for an exchange surgery, where they would take the expanders out and replace with implants. Assuming I got a good plastic surgeon I would need nipple reconstruction after that. It is suggested that implants be exchanged every 7 years. The complications to these surgeries are many. And it is harder to detect recurrence around breast implants or even Diep Flap reconstruction too.

      In the face of all this, I opted OUT.

      I do miss the sexual and sensitivity aspects of breasts, but I would not want to put my body into the hands of a surgeon or several surgeons in order to have a mere semblance of a breast.

      I have delved deeply into fitness for reasons other than physical health too, I want my bum and body to be as sexy, awesome, strong and able as possible. Strong is sexy. And in the face of this nasty disease, I will go for strong and sexy before reconstructed any day of the week, even if it means clearing a blazing path of Flat Awareness to do so.

      • Yes, Melly, I can totally understand why you opted out of all those surgeries. I had forgotten about that aspect when I was responding and I think what I was trying to say is that I would go into mourning for my breasts. I don’t think that I would want just mounds on my chest either. That said, I also don’t know that I would go without prosthetics because of my need to “look like a woman.” Remember how I said I conform or follow orders? It’s silly really but I can see that I would have the need at first but that with time perhaps I would get tired of the stupid things and not care what others think. haha Everything in time I suppose.

        Keep up the good work Melly!

  11. Hi Melly,
    Wow that was a lot to process. I am not a quilter and am too tired right now to comment on that. However thanks so much for your powerful post about breast cancer and your choices. Every woman must make up her own mind as to what to do or not do after mastectomy. Hopefully women are comfortable with their choices. I applaud you for speaking your mind.
    xox

  12. Loved reading your post and totally agree with most of it. I cant say all just because like others, Im simply not familiar with all the terms you used., but open to any. Like some readers, I’ve not had cancer, so don’t know how I’d feel. I’d like to think I’d be strong enough to stand up ‘flat’. Breasts are sexual parts but to me what’s the point if there’ll be no feeling? Why subject oneself to that?
    As far as what you had to say about so called quilt art I also agree. It should simply be termed art. I too call myself a fiber artist but I belong to a local quilt guild. For a while I belonged to the art society but I don’t seem to fit into either place.
    I feel much more about these topics but am tired as well. I felt I needed to add my support.

  13. Jeannie says:

    I read this post this morning, multiple times. Then I took C to the doc (poor baby sprained his back). While waiting, I thought more about this post. It touches me on so many levels.
    I am a maker. I make quilts, gardens, messes, art, etc. When asked, I reply that I work with textiles and nature. I hate labels of any kind. Throughout my life I felt like someone was following me with one of those alphabetic label makers punching out words to describe me. Once attached, the labels couldn’t be changed or removed, even if they no longer applied. When I have tried to change the labels, I find that others can’t relate to me very well without them. Sad, but true. It is like the clothing you buy that has the maker’s name or icon splashed across the pocket or even bottom. I would never buy that clothing, because I didn’t want to be “labeled” by some person I had never met or advertise their clothing on my body.
    I buy art supplies at art stores. Sure, some can be purchased with those handy dandy coupons for box sotres that are delivered in the mail, but they don’t make me feel “special”. When I am in an art store, I feel like I have been elevated. I am no longer a dabbler or hobbiest, I am an artist who takes her art seriously and wants tools that enable me to express in a quality way. The lessons I have learned from you regarding paints was life changing. I saw before my eyes that quality tools make a difference and that my art endeavors deserve that quality.
    Breasts. What would the world be like if women had breasts like men? Take the whole mound of flesh out of the equation. We would still be female and sensual, we could still nurse. We would be able to compete in sports a whole lot more comfortably. πŸ™‚ The Amazons seared the right breast of girl infants so they would be able to shoot arrows more efficiently. I have always felt like my breasts where a pain in the butt. They get in my way, they drew attention when I did not want it, and I hate when men talk to them and not me. (This isn’t as much as a problem as I have aged. LOL!) When I look at you now, I see a confidence, a fierceness that is more intense. I wish the journey through breast cancer hadn’t happened, but when I see the woman who has emerged on the other side, I am in awe and applauding.
    Thank you for being true to yourself and for inspiring us all to do the same. (love the hat and aren’t muscles fantastic to see?!)

    • Melanie says:

      Jeannie,
      I love the idea of having someone walk behind us with a plastic label maker. I have felt this way too and just the idea made me chuckle because this encapsulate the feeling exactly. Right on!
      I am so glad that you like and understand good supplies, professional grades! I like the big craft box stores and lots of good things can be found there but they are also limiting. We need whatever tools we need, but quality tools and paint have pigment names and numbers and using this type paint means that you can use any type of paint, acrylic, watercolor, oil and have an idea of what quality blue you want to use. And I would rather mix the colors, not allow others to mix them for me, and I definitely do not want to get into purchasing a line of paints in order to buy pre-mixed colors. I want to learn!
      Love you mama! Thank you for the fierce comment.

  14. Miss Mellie,

    You are such a heroine, such a strong leading lady of your own life. I applaud you and read your blog posts with great interest. I agree so much with your thoughts about the art quilt world and the consumerism therein. At shows I often find myself wondering why it seems that we all (quilters) are our own best audience & customers? We say things at meetings like ‘we must get our work out there…’ and all the sudden in order for our art to be even considered or taken seriously we now are expected to be marketing mavens, social media monarchs and have a plethora of awards, articles, publications, teaching gigs, etc. Like it’s not enough to simply make great art and just be the artist? JUST THE ARTIST! *as if*

    ending here, i’ve written several paragraphs and just deleted them as all trite.
    xoxo

    • That video is wonderful!

    • Melanie says:

      Stacy, unfortunately the plight of the artist is now one of total business, we have to make, talk about why we have made, write statements, keep detailed lists, manage every aspect. Not only are we artists, we need to do it all and be whip start quick on our feet, managers, marketers and agents. It sure is a job if you choose to play the game.

  15. Melly,
    You have always inspired me: as an artist, and a woman. Watching you go through your biggest challenge of fighting the breast cancer and surviving with your signature strength has been an inspiration to me, as well. Though I’ve not had cancer, I do have a chronic disease and the medications I take have caused me to lose my hair. I wear wigs. At first, I was embarrassed by the hair loss. Once I embraced it, found fun ways to wear scarves, wigs, etc. found others who had medical hair loss and accepted that I was not ever getting it back, I found a way to live with it. I gladly share with others what my experience has been.

    In the end, Whatever the choices we make, they’re what’s right for us. And your willingness to share your decision is a constant reminder.

    Thank you!
    xoxo,
    Fran

    • Melanie says:

      Fran, I did not know this about you. I imagine you must have gone through quite a period of mourning and feelings of loss.

  16. Holy Cow ! I will take me days to work through and think through this comment column. How delicious! Thinking women! That’s where it touches me – thinking and acting for our own satisfaction and fulfillment. Regardless of the thoughts, preferences and ideals of others. I am a woman past the age of reproduction and I have young children in my home. Man – what about just doing what works. I would like fitness magazines that address female runners 60s.(and 70s) I would like fashion and fashion magazines that are not mate-seeking oriented. I love having sex, but I am not looking for a mate. I would like to buy durable clothes and tools that work. I want to look good, but in a clean and neat sort of look – not a ‘let’s make babies’ kind of good. I still love having sex and expect I will until I die – but cleavage is not very important…I’ll be reading along, between crafting my art. LOL Love the conversation. Lori W of Art Camp for Women

  17. Melly before responding I needed to reflect.
    I am often profoundly moved by your writing and your self, your generosity.
    As I reflect on this post I am once again deeply moved by how freely and openly you share your heart. This is like one of those full on Melly hugs, no reservations.
    You are a gift.

    Teri