When you go through a major life event, like breast cancer, you know how important support is. Breast cancer is a body altering disease. You might choose reconstruction or not, but the truth of the matter is, it is beneficial to hear the words of other women who have gone though similar experiences. It is helpful to see images of women who have made similar choices. It helps to connect with others and to know you are not alone. What follows is a telling of my journey in finding support.
Early in my ‘flat journey’ I started to wonder, if the percentages I was reading were correct in stating 40-60% of women forego reconstructing their bodies. If this percentage was correct, why had I never knowingly met a flat or half flat woman? Is the fact that I have never knowingly met a half/flattie telling me something? Am I strange for wanting to simply embrace my flat new form without embracing the use of breast forms? If breast cancer survivors are so celebrated, why haven’t I seen any sexy, inciting or strong images of breastless women in the media?
Am I being told to cover up and fit in?
Do I care to?
I began scouring the web for my breastless sisters in scars. At first, there were hardly any or they were hard to track down (there are many more now and over the course of the month, I will highlight some of them). I continually visited Sentenced2Live‘s Flickr stream. I found Deborah Lattimore. Then Jennifer’s blog, No F***ing Pink Ribbons and I waited with baited breath for each post (she no longer posts). My main form of support at that time was a major online breast cancer forum. I would visit the ‘Living without Reconstruction’ forum.
That name always made me feel like I ought to be sad and pining for the’ better life’ with reconstruction. Focused, as it is, on the act of reconstruction or living without it, as the case may be.
I started a thread within that forum along the lines of: ‘I look for other flat chested women, a rant!’
In that thread, I said:
I know many of you wear prosthesis, so I probably wouldn’t be able to see or ‘know’, but. I look for you. I want to see you. I want to form a union, lol. I wish it were even more accepted, acceptable to be flat. To not wear prosthesis, not feel the need to, to opt out of reconstruction-if that is your choice. I do hope that women who see me, flat as can be, see there are options, that reconstruction isn’t par for the course. I want to make flat beautiful, sexy, stylish. Normal. And it is normal for me, is becoming normal, but I am talking about society, norms and expectations. Breast cancer is not about ‘boob jobs’. Yes, many of us opt for them, want and need them. But it is also about choosing to be flat.
That thread is now 118 pages long. We are gathering! Support is important.
About a year later, just when I really needed to put cancer into a smaller box, I was asked to join FLAT & Fabulous (Phew! Just in time), which was just a private Facebook page at the time. Finding this group helped me to back away from the major breast cancer support site and it introduced me to women like myself who were beginning to live life without breasts. We share photos, we talk treatment options, we do fashion hauls, some women talk about breast forms and pretty bras. You know, daily talk of whatever needs talking about.
FLAT & Fabulous covers a lot of bodily territories. Many of the members of this group wear breast forms, prosthesis, knitted knockers, some change out the size daily, by whim and outfit. Some had failed reconstruction, some deconstructed. Many, have a single breast. Many have bilaterally flat chests. Many do not wear breast shapes at all. That includes Me!! 🙂 Some had mastectomy as a result of gene testing.
All are considered flat.
It felt, and feels, so good to have this group as support. I am indebted to Sara and Barbie. The group came to me just in time! I am now surrounded by many, brave, courageous and beautiful women, who for whatever reason, find themselves, “Living without Reconstruction”.
And now, FLAT & Fabulous has a web presence! The founders, Sara and Barbie believe, no woman should proceed on this journey alone. Amen sisters! Thank goodness.
If you follow me on Facebook, you may know that breast cancer took Barbie from us last Friday, September 26. I am really sorry to introduce Barbie to you posthumously. Barbie is/was amazing, she set a beautiful example, she lived fully, her beautiful life force shown forth in every photo I have seen. I was never able to meet Barbie in person, but she has effected me so deeply, that I am forever changed. Barbie is/was an inspirational force to be reckoned with. We will all miss her dearly and stand in awe of her work and life.
Check out this post about her Scar Project photo.
Barbie was a Marine, a sister, a daughter and a hero. My hero.
Thank you, Barbie. And thank you, Sara. I am sorry for the loss of your best friend. My sympathy goes out to the Ritzco family, I can only imagine their loss.
Barbie loved running marathons. Her online moniker was ‘Marathon Barbie’. The first year on the FLAT & Fabulous support board, Barbie and Sara both, encouraged us to do a 5K.
I have never been a runner, I wasn’t interested.
This year, FLAT & Fabulous is sponsoring a 5K in Barbie’s honor and I am doing it, better yet, WE are doing it (my Man and I) this coming November 7. Maybe you will too! It is virtual. You can do it anywhere. You can walk it or run it, wheel it or peg leg it. David and I will be walking it. You might consider donating to FLAT & Fabulous in Barbie’s name. Or sign up to do it yourself!
Please, at the very least, consider donating to the group. There are great things planned for the site and every last penny is appreciated. I also think it is the first group of it’s kind.
Phew, wow! Glad you are still here. I know this is a long post, they won’t all be like this. It’s just, I had to talk about Barbie, FLAT & Fabulous, and the 5K all at once. I will come around to talking about Breast Pockets soon.
8 thoughts on “My journey to finding support: FLAT & Fabulous!”
Thank you for sharing this , Melanie. Barbie’s video was both inspiring and heart wrenching. Tears for her loss and joy for her courage…
Barbara, Barbie gave us her all. I am grateful, though I too shed tears of loss and joy.
Wow! I keep thinking about the old Virginia Slims commercials “You’ve come a long way, Baby”. I am just so amazed at how the Flat & Fabulous group has grown and flurished. The video of Barbie was so beautiful, yet sad to watch. Keeping her story and movement alive is important for generations to come and I will be supporting the foundation. xoxoxo
Jeannie. I get teared up when I watch this video. There are so many things about Barbie that I admire.
Thank you so much, Melanie. You have expressed so many of the thoughts and feelings that I went through during my journey thus far, only more accurately and eloquently than I could have ever done, and I am sure that others may say the same. I liked that you put those big blue words connections for us to go to. Also, of course the video of our hero, Barbie.
I think that her true warrior spirit of devotion to duty is shown in her comment: “Leaving my troops and my unit behind was and still is harder to deal with than my breast cancer diagnosis.”
Your post here will bring a lot of help to many people out here in the FlatLands and beyond.
Thank you again, and a big, flat hug! By the way, in case you haven’t heard, when two people hug without breasts their hearts come closer together. (My darling husband said this to me at our first hug after the surgery — and has repeated it several times since — he also likes to say “We are really Heart to Heart now.” What a guy — I think I’ll keep him. ♥ ).
See you at the Flat&Fab5K. I’ll be one of the slower ones this time as the Achilles tendon is still in therapy.
Love, Natasha OncoWarrior
Oh Natasha. Your husband story brings tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing it. I have always loved hugging. Since surgery, I find other people (not my Man) want to concave hug me. I don’t want that. So I grab and give a normal hug as often as is possible. I too will be a slow poke 5k’er, I still do not like running. I love walking fast. I like strolling. No running for me.
Melanie, You have been in some very big ways my Barbie. Your ‘I look for other flat chested women, a rant! post was for me life changing, other posts and the online interview were exactly what I needed and would put my feet on the path to find, celebrate, and empower my other sisters in scars. You inspired me in much the same way that Barbie and Sara would do when they formed Flat And Fabulous and included me in the initial core group. Now I suspect the new site will be the spark to give this movement wings. Barbara
Thank you for saying so, Barbara. It has been a pleasure learning from you, as well. In fact, I think you invited me into Flat & Fabulous! I have enjoyed reading your rants, queries and thoughts along the way.