Eleven Things I Have Learned About Breast Reconstruction

  1. Reconstruction following a mastectomy is totally, completely, 100% covered by insurance in this country, no matter who, when, where, how it is done.
  2. Many people believe this is a great feminist feat. I am more skeptical. I suspect it is a way to minimize the number of women in the room with one or no breasts.
  3. If you choose to do reconstruction, you need to choose between implants or using your own body tissue. And then you need to choose what type of implant, or tissue from what part of your body. And then you need to choose what size and shape and position. And you only have certain choices at certain times with certain treatment plans and certain body types and it seems that every time I think I’ve connected the dots and figured out my options, I’m presented with some other piece of information that brings me back to the beginning.
  4. All of this makes choosing a type of reconstruction feel like a choose-your-own adventure story, where every decision leads you down a different path with different variables. Or maybe in this day and age it makes more sense to compare it to surfing the internet, where every option sends you to new links and new links and new links. How does one ever find her way home?
  5. If you choose not to get reconstruction following a mastectomy, you can choose to wear a prosthetic breast or two; you can buy special bras or can simply sew pockets into the ones you already have, slip in the plastic boob like you might slip your cell phone into the inside pocket of a coat.
  6. My friend’s mom once bent over at the beach and moments later, caught her plastic boob in her hand as it slipped right out of her suit. Apparently she had a great laugh over that one which makes me smile. But it also makes me wary of prosthetic breasts on beaches.
  7. Women who undergo a single mastectomy with no reconstruction sometimes feel off-balance.
  8. Some women are relieved to be rid of their breasts. Some mourn the loss of their breasts, then live the rest of their lives flat-chested. Some never give a single thought to not doing reconstruction.
  9. It turns out I am none of those women. Who knew I would ever have to think about breast reconstruction? Who knew I would end up among those who struggle and second-guess and change their minds and change their minds again before ultimately deciding to replace my breast of 40 years with something plastic.
  10. Breast reconstruction is nothing like a boob job.
  11. Many women who have gone through reconstruction are offended by the often-made comment that it is like a boob job. I am not offended (at least not yet). In fact, I’ve made that offensive comment—luckily only in reference to myself, not to someone else going through reconstruction, and now I know better. Now I also know not to get my hopes up about my new breast.