Written by Holly Ireland.
Embracing the Flat and Fabulous: My Journey Through Cancer - Part 3
In the rollercoaster of my cancer journey, The first surgeon I met thought that dad jokes would somehow lighten the mood right before he delivered a statement I was shocked and surprised by, but now know It’s a phrase most women hear when seated where I was:
"You don't want to go flat; you're just 32, and what about what your partner or future partners want?"
My immediate response was my classic "No thank you" before I made my hasty exit from his office, never to return.
You see, prior to my extensive self-education and countless hours of research, I entertained the same notion you might be thinking right now: "Free boob job." But let me tell you, girlfriend, it's far from free. It comes at a cost, often sans nipples, and frequently requires multiple surgeries. Some women even endure up to 15 surgeries, complications, and eventually decide to go flat after all that. It's complete breast reconstruction, with all the usual surgery risks.
There are countless options out there, but none of them remotely piqued my interest. I just wanted to get back to living, to holding my kids, and to play in this body that carries my soul through this world. And then, I found Dr. Baliski in Kelowna, BC, whose skill and passion radiated through his work. Getting myself into his office was no easy feat since it was out of province. I’m glad I advocated for myself, and made a good case for cross province patient care. Dr. Baliski not only understood my desired outcome he supported it: "All the cancer gone, and aesthetic flat closure," and we were both wildly optimistic, both fighting for the same team with the same team capital- Me. With great conviction, I turned down radiation with a firm "No thank you" after Dr. Baliski and his team agreed to take only four lymph nodes, as I had requested. There was no evidence of cancer in those four nodes, so radiation didn't seem necessary or wanted. Dealing with the radiologist was a less-than-pleasant experience, but with my surgeon's skill and the trust I had in his work, I pushed forward, confident that my quality of life would be better without radiation.
I chose to remove both breasts for several reasons, with symmetry being a primary one. The truth is, it's my choice, from start to finish. How you decide to treat cancer, or not treat it, how you choose to reconstruct, or not - is entirely up to you.
Over the past five years, my journey through survivorship has taken many forms. It's included plenty of physiotherapy, massages, osteopathic sessions, lymphatic drainage massages, talk therapy, somatic therapy, EFT tapping, a treasure trove of supplements, mindful eating, and a daily commitment to exercise. It's also involved significant and at times heart breaking changes in my life, from relationships ending to new enriching ones being formed. I am steadfast in my commitment to living life to the fullest, which means greeting each day with curiosity, saying yes to adventure as often as I can, and celebrating the magic that life has to offer.
People often wonder how I've become so confident with my flat chest. I won't sugarcoat it; it takes discomfort, facing your fears, and embracing all the experiences of this human experience. I didn't go topless at the beach during my first two summers, but now I don't even think twice about it. I love it! Plus, bikinis are half the price, and there are no tan lines to worry about.
Looking ahead to the next five years of survivorship, it's all about expansion for me.
How far I can soar, and how can I spread my message of hope, inspiration, and adventure along the way.
It’s an exciting journey, and I can't wait to see where it takes me.