Known to some under such aliases as tatas, boobs, melons, orbs, tits, and one of my favorites: the girls. As a young prepubescent girl who loved to do any kind of boy thing, the whole development issue was one I tried desperately to avoid. This was rather difficult in my house, though. My older brother (who is also intellectually handicapped), made it perfectly clear to all concerned at dinner one night, saying to my mother and everyone else within hearing distance, “Mom, Martha’s growing breasts.” Yes, this was when I seriously considered running away from home for good.
Now, it seemed to me that after this hideous incident, everyone on the planet must be staring at the ever-increasing size of my developing chest. Hence, the need to cover up said body. I wore every kind of plaid there was in the late ’70s to make sure nobody had an inkling of what might be underneath. Shy was not even the word I would use to describe how I felt about my body. I didn’t want anyone looking at me – ever. What was a girl to do? So I wore clothes that covered up my long legs, my curves and my breasts.
Oh, how I wish I had that body now – fit, lean and tall! Yes, when I look back on it, I realize just how insane my behavior was. As I aged, my breasts and I became somewhat more comfortable with each other. Let’s just say, I began to appreciate their value. I wouldn’t say I flaunted them, but when I needed to use the girls, they were there. We had, as they say in some circles, ‘an understanding.’
But by the time I was in my mid-thirties, my breasts had once again become a burden to me. They had expanded several sizes, along with the rest of me. I was no longer the young, thin curvaceous chick. It seemed my body was going through yet another drastic change. Having had two children by this time, I realized something had to be done with all the weight I carried in front of me. My breasts had to go! Not entirely, but certainly a good portion would have to say “ta ta.” This decision did not occur overnight; it was one that I took very seriously. I knew it would break my husband’s heart. He, too, had become fond of my breasts and had a certain rapport with them, yet he knew all too well what my issue was with them. For my own health, I had to at least look at what it would mean to have a breast reduction.
At forty I decided it was time! I wasn’t going to have any more children and I had drummed up enough courage to go through with the surgery. It wasn’t easy and was downright scary. It was day surgery, but it seemed to me at the time that the recovery was endless. But I survived and haven’t regretted the decision once, although I think sometimes my husband still gets a little misty-eyed about ‘the old set of girls’! Frankly, another reason for having the reduction was that one of my doctors suggested it would be much easier for them to detect any kind of breast cancer. When there is a lot of mass, it’s a lot more difficult for the mammogram to detect anything suspicious.
In my mid-forties, several years after my reduction, I discovered a lump in my right breast. Elective surgery is one thing. You weigh the pros and cons; your decision is your decision and you live with the outcome. When your body decides to rebel against you? Well, that’s a whole other story.
The lump was easy to detect. It felt ugly, and I was panic-stricken at what it meant. The first thing, of course, was to call the doctor. An appointment was set up and my husband and I went to see him. A mammogram was done as well as a biopsy. None of it was pretty. It was a hundred times more frightening than breast reduction surgery. This was just the beginning of the journey.
As it turned out, the doctors who consulted on my case all agreed that the lump needed to be removed. They wanted to make sure it wasn’t cancerous. A date was set for surgery and once again the girls and I were the recipients of our surgeon’s expertise. This surgery was hardly as brutal as the reduction, but the implications after surgery were far more anxiety-provoking. Again, I had to summon every ounce of courage and hope I could in order to get through the long wait for the results of the biopsy. Although the doctor assured me right after the surgery that he didn’t think it was cancerous, you want that in writing. The wait was excruciating.
Everything turned out well, and the girls and I have become like old buddies again. I watch over them and make sure I don’t feel any other signs of lumps or bumps or anything out of the ordinary. We are content, it seems, with the outcome of each of our surgeries, and I hope and pray that there will be none in the future.
For me, and for my breasts, the journey so far has taken us down several roads, and we (the girls and I) have discovered just how fragile and sacred life and our bodies really are. I was one who was blessed with a positive outcome and did not have to fight the battle to maintain the health of my breasts. So many women have, though, including some friends of mine. Their courage, determination and hope inspire us all and give us pause to celebrate their warrior spirits in the face of this devastating and horrendous disease.
My breasts (or whatever you want to call them!) are growing old gracefully. Our journey, I pray, will not be over for years to come. I cherish and am grateful for my good health right now, and I understand that aging is a time-warranted event. I still really, really wish I could have that young, thin, curvaceous body back. Just so I could really appreciate it!
Photos courtesy of Martha Farley – all rights reserved