“I love my boobs, the journey they’ve taken over the 23 years I’ve had them has been eventful…” Yasmin
“Boobs, bust, tits, mammaries, honkers, breasts, hooters, boobalabies, udders, teats, bosoms, call them what you will … one friend of mine has ‘floppy doppies’.” Kate
Boobs – all us girls have them, but for some women, the very tissue that nurtures and nourishes our babes, provides us with somewhere to catch crumbs, and perhaps a rogue partner to nuzzle in and lose themselves, is a ticking time bomb of quickly mutating cells that in turn can end life.
This is the story of my friend Yasmin, who is the most intense “go-getter” I have ever met. An iron-woman, in fact! Quite literally – you know, the “180km-bike-ride-3.6km-swim-42km-run-in-11-hours kinda gal! Her spirit is captivating and her smile contagious.
We got talking some time ago about the prospect of her needing to make the decision to go ahead with surgery to remove all her breast tissue and nipples (known as a Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy or PBM).
“This basically means that in the hopes of avoiding future disease, I’m electing to have both breasts surgically removed. While there’s no 100 percent guarantee, the risk reduction is in the vicinity of 98 to 99 percent.” Yasmin
What a decision! I feel that most of us really do know the answer to the “will I, won’t I” question – we would choose life and living and, with this, surgery.
“Strap yourselves in; it’s going to be fun! However, I won’t lie and pretend I’m not a little scared, OK, so probably a LOT (read: sh!t) scared, but I can’t ignore the continual nagging in my head telling me that this is important to do. Important not only for myself and my beautiful family, but indirectly it’s important for others out there who might be on a similar journey.” Yasmin
Have you, as a woman, (I’m just going to assume here I’m talking to women with boobs – so fellas, please understand) ever stopped to look at your boobs and think about their meaning and role to your body?
Talking to Yas really got me thinking about what I would do and how I would cope with the prospect of losing my breasts. I guess now that I have borne my children I would do whatever it took to be sure I was around to watch my daughters grow up, but, I realise it would be hard to say goodbye, adios, au-revoir, sayonnara, to my boobs, too.
Just like Yas, I would want to help my chances of watching my girls grow up and become beautiful young women, and hopefully mums themselves.
How do you feel about your boobs?
Personally my pair have done a fine job, behaving how they should throughout my teens and 20’s ,not too big not too small. Then came the monumental task of feeding my two daughters – one for over 2 years and the other for around 3.5 years. After this time I wouldn’t say I admire them anymore, but I certainly appreciate them, and I’m happy there’s a little something there that, with a little help from a padded bra, works just fine to make me feel womanly.
In the interest of well-rounded research (pardon the pun), I asked other women how they feel about their boobs.
I was surprised at how many of the responses echoed my deep sense of appreciation for feeding babies…
“What do my breasts mean to me? The power to sustain the human lives that I created, comes to mind. Most importantly, though, the intimacy that only I could share with these same human lives. A cherished time.”
“My relationship with my boobs has complexities. I want to say that the most fulfilling thing I have ever done, ever in my life was to feed newborn babies from my body. That is an absolute unshakable truth…”
“The answer to this would have been very different before I became a mum. I would have spoken about ‘getting the girls out’ and showing cleavage on a night out, enjoying how they were proportionate to my figure and their perky shape. Until I started breastfeeding I had no idea how much I could love my boobs. Now I know they are everything my son needed to grow, be healthy and nourished for the first six months of his life and they continue to provide immunisation, comfort and relaxation to him as a one year old. They will hopefully do the same for my next child. I really don’t know how I would get through each day as a mother without them. So yes, I love my boobs now more than ever.”
“I love that they could feed both of my babies. It was such a special time to share with them.”
“My boobs fed our two beautiful children and it is definitely the most fond and special memory I have of my breasts. Sitting there gazing at our daughter’s when they fed was just amazing – a memory that I will forever treasure. “ Yasmin
“There is so much I dislike about me and my appearance and I feel like I rely on my boobs to distract. I’m lucky that they are smallish so they don’t look too showy when I flaunt them. I love that they fed my two babies and because they are small they stayed the same.”
Then there were some reflections for what they once were and what they have been…
“I don’t love my boobs anymore… After feeding 4 babies they look like deflated saggy water balloons…. They did serve a purpose once but now they’re just hanging there”
“I never really got into flaunting them, they were just there – a nice size. Nothing special. Now (after breastfeeding)- they are just nothing! Like wind socks on a calm day, they just hang, with no purpose.”
And lets never forget our Breasts as our feminine identity part of our sexuality. Personally I think our culture has completely over-sexualized breasts. (but that’s a blog post for someone else to research and I’m sure they have). Regardless of this…
“My breasts allow me feel like a woman. They act as a life support and cushion for my children when they need a hug and I like that my partner appreciates them on my feminine form.”
“I love my boobs! They are not ‘perfect’ and not as high and firm as they once were, but they are all mine. They are an intrinsic part of my sexuality and femininity. I love all boobs – I think they are the most wonderful part of the female form. Big fan of boobs!”
“They are luscious and heavy and full, and sensitive, and they have provided myself and a few others a great deal of pleasure over the years. I love ‘my girls”
“My lover is attentive and definitely a ‘boob man’.”
“Certain outfits and a little cleavage can make you feel womanly and sexy. It’s not how I dress everyday so it’s a bit of fun.”
So what happens when we discover that our beloved-boobies are ticking time bombs, or in fact we find that lump, that turns out to be something sinister. What decision then?
The journey to prolonging life begins for many; an uphill, downhill, around the bend over the mountain, back up, back down, through the jungle, through the desert, until hopefully safety is reached – although we all know that this life is uncertain. But for Yasmin, and now many more women, this decision is a “no-brainer”.
“I’d do whatever I could to stick around with my family for as long as possible”
“I have thought about this a lot and I wouldn’t hesitate to have them removed. I love my life and children more than I love my boobs. I would mean that I would have to find something else I love about myself.”
“I would be upset. Despite my complicated feelings towards them, I love my body intact. I had a skin cancer cut out several years ago and was terrified of having part of myself taken away. I floss because I’m scared of having teeth removed. My body is precious to me, so to lose any part – especially something linked to my femininity – would be devastating to me.”
“I would be upset if I had them removed but if it was a choice between life & death. Life will always win.”
“I’ve often wondered how I would feel if I were to lose them. I’d give them up in a heartbeat, if it was the difference between being there to watch my boys grow up, or not.
I think most women wear them with pride, I just have them. I’m not fussed. I do t feel any less if a woman for having floppy little boobs. They’ve done their job.”
Here’s what Yasmin has to say:
“I’m not overly attached to my boobs, primarily because they get in the way with competitive sport. The journey to have them removed has been quite a ‘process’ style decision to be honest. Having them removed for me means I can live a life without concern, fear or worry that they might one day kill me. I don’t think about it right now, but I’m not prepared to sit back and take a reactive approach to breast cancer when I know with just one decision, I can almost guarantee that I’ll never EVER be a statistic.
It won’t change much to be honest, other than the way my body looks naked, but what it will do is empower me to have the confidence that every little lump, bump, soreness or change isn’t something lurking in there to take me away from being the most awesome grandmother of all time.” Yasmin.
Since our initial discussion, I had been thinking about how I could help Yasmin. I wanted to help her celebrate her boobies. I wanted to document her journey as a gift to her, but then we talked some more and she told me she wanted to document her journey not only for her own family history, but for other women. For women who are also facing this prospect. There’s power in this decision, to me it’s fighting back but also it’s a massive letting go, because your decision is far more weighted and conscious, because the imminent danger hasn’t quite yet arrived.
I love the hope of community connection with this journey. I simply love what I’ve shared with Yas so far, the rich tapestry of our own stories and those other women have shared with me here are so very humbling. Baring these vulnerabilities is such an amazing way to connect with people beyond the superficial everyday.
I feel hopeful that others will be touched by Yasmin’s story in this post and journey following and also Yasmin’s own blog “Previvor”(feel free to share this as much as you like).
Yasmin wants to help remove the any “uncomfortableness” around talking about elective surgery like this. She wants to share the crap parts about it (don’t get her started on her fear of hospital food and getting chocolate as a get-well gift).
She wants to show women how brave we ALL are, how much love and family are the glue that holds us together and how any other women would do the same. She thinks she is just “normal and nothing that special” but my friend, you are like a lighthouse, using your amazing light to guide others to safe shore.
I hope these images help you tell your story with the beauty that truly emanates from your spirit xxxxxxxx
“Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.”
― Emily Dickinson
Stay Tuned for the next installation, coming soon! Jess x