Friday, August 13, 2004

A Double Take at the Taboo

I have breast implants. This was not really information that I envisioned myself discussing in this forum –though I am quite open about it in my ‘real life’. I only release this for discussion at this point because I hope that it will educate people to think before they speak –or judge…

It was 1992 and a typical Thursday night of good friends, junk food and 90210. In this particular episode Brenda, Kelly and Donna were all having a ‘sleep over’ and were reading material about self breast exams (because that’s what us girls do at sleep-overs…not!). They all began to examine their breasts (which I am sure was more for the pleasure of the adolescent boy viewers than the education of the female viewers). My friends and I followed suit –mocking the silliness of the unrealistic scenario. As I jokingly ran my hand under my right breast I found a sizable lump. As each of my friends verified its existence the laughing faded away...

Thee short days later I was being wheeled into an Operating Room of a Philadelphia hospital, at the tender age of 21, with the possibility of cancer tangible in the air. It was supposed to be a quick surgery –two hours at the most, so when I woke up almost seven hours later I began to worry. They eventually shipped me off and told me the doctor would call…oh yeah, and the biopsy would take TWO WEEKS!

I endured the two weeks and was finally called to go into his office --to have the bandages and sutures removed and to hear the verdict.

Benign. BENIGN!

As the bandages began to come off, I thought I would die on the spot…my breast was virtually non-existent....gone!

“Yes, well we had to take much of the breast tissue as the growth must be encapsulated.”


Fast forward nine years and two kids later…

In 2002 I finally decided to have reconstructive surgery. I had looked into it many times before, but all the pictures I saw showed women with bigger breasts that were still lopsided –I didn’t care about bigger, I wanted even. I also wanted to make sure that I would be able to breast-feed when I eventually had children (which I did for 16 months each).

A breakthrough from Monitor saved my life (well, maybe not my life but definitely my self image) New implants complete with valves that remain out of your body after the surgery. When the swelling goes down, they stay in as long as adjustments are necessary to provide the best chance at symmetrical breasts.

I was so torn over whether to go through with it. I had two small children and I kept envisioning my funeral if I died under anesthesia:

“I can’t believe she was so vain.”

“I know and with those precious boys left with no mother so she could have boobs.”

My husband intervened and said that it was ridiculous that I was only 30 years old and so miserable and insecure about my body.

“You should not want to cry every time that you look in the mirror!” (I'm sure it didn’t hurt that he has always been an implant man).

Anyway, I went to a great surgeon –not a stripper 'Sal Calabro' doctor that makes each breast identical to a submarine torpedo. I don't mind mirrors anymore --and it was wonderful to throw away the padded bras that hid my secret for so long.

Lately I have been hearing a lot of talk (mostly on the right –but also from feminist groups) about the evils of plastic surgery and what a terrible indictment it is on our society. I hear people’s conversations about the vanity that must be involved with anyone that could do this to their body (I actually laugh to myself when this happens in front of me- like today with two checkers at the grocery store which inspired this post). I have heard church leaders denounce it and talk show hosts disdain it…

We are all taught that we shouldn’t judge people on their looks or their clothes, job or wealth… but plastic surgery –especially breast implants is fair game –judge away! This procedure has been a God-send to many cancer patients and has helped to restore their self-confidence and their femininity. So the moral of this story is the next time you want to talk about the vain girl that paid $7,500 for big boobs –stop yourself and think about the reasons that she may have done it.


justrose said...

You know me -- it's all about the risk of anaesthesia! And S says that anaesthesia is low risk in healthy individuals. Beyond that, I think it's a wonderful thing that people can have these reconstructive procedures. Imagine what that might have done for my mother's self-esteem. I don't agree with anything taken to the extreme -- a la "the gloved one" -- but I told you then, and I told you now, I admire your courage. And the results are great! If I had more chops, and a bank account with actual money in it, I might go under the knife a time or two myself.

91ghost said...

Thank you for this gutsy post.

p.s. Last night I was listening to Michael Savage. He said he counted the word "gay" 400 times in yesterday's New York Tiimes.

p.p.s. In all seriousness, have you considered trying to start a talk show--maybe you could start out local, on the public access channell or something like that--perhaps you and TWD could have a sort of debate show, like Hannity and Colmes. It might just catch on--a blonde female Repbulican vs. an ex-drill Sergeant democrat.

redleg said...

91 Ghost-- that gives me ex drill sergeant democrat. No offense TWD.

Ala71-- echo what 91 says...a very gutsy post. Don't back down.

this we'll defend said...

It shouldn't give you shivers. I was a "sensitive" drill sergeant, and felt hugs accomplished more than unkind words.


riceburner147 said...

I would go much further than Ala71. My mother had implant surgery in 1976 for only aethestic reasons. If anyone has a problem with PS for whatever reason (how much more when cancer or an imperfection is present) well, you mind your knitting and I will mind mine.

ps always wanted to say that knitting thing.

leftyjones said...

Good post, Ala71, and a good reminder to people that they could start by minding their own damn business and end with being a little less judgemental over the decisions others make. Especially without knowing the facts.
As far as I'm concerned, it's always a good thing to hear that someone has overcome insecurity and feels better about their body.
Now if we could only do something about your brain......:)

exfbonnie said...

I cant believe I didnt get here earlier, I'm a couple days late. Good for you, what courage you have to be able to share something of this nature! Something interesting you bring up, is people are always prejudging. Its very unfortunate, but people are always judging people, and it always begins on the most physical level. This is a part of human nature in its most biolgical element.

Sense of self and good self image beings with the feeling of normalcy, in the respect of what is accepted to be normal. Or that once you (in general) are accepted, from there its easy to be your own person with your own quirks and uniqueness. But it comes from good self esteem. If this is what makes you feel better about yourself, then that is what is good for you.

And in this, it is sad to see how human beings can treat one another. So many people with various physical disabilities, physical deformaties, etc. and even mental illnesses are treated less than human, because they aren't the "norm".

I just love this post because it brings up so many aspects of human nature, for onesself and others. You are a beautiful person, ALa71 Thnak you for sharing!

~Jen~ said...

You know how you get a picture in your head for an individual after you read their blog for a long time? I always picture you in my head as a brave and fearless heavily weaponed Amazon warrior (even though I know you are 5 foot nothing). I was right (insert political pun here)!!!!!

Thank you for sharing this with us.

scarlotta62 said...

ALa - this is a great post. People should not be so quick to judge. My mother-in-law had to have both of her breasts removed, along with the lymph nodes under each arm, because of cancer. She had reconstructive surgery as well. Not a darn thing wrong with that!

ALa said...

Thanks scarlotta! I was amazed at the doctor's office looking through the 'before and after' books how many women were very mis-shapen before...I personally have no poblem with plastic surgery even if your fine and just not happy (unless of course, like justrose said, you become obsessed and start wearing one white glove). I was just sreally surprised at how many women (and a lot of them young) 'have' to have this surgery.