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Episode 22: Insights About Body Image from a Flat-Chested Cancer Survivor

Transcript:
[00:00:01] I want to share a little secret with you today, and that is that I am a flat as a pancake. If you're watching this on YouTube, you can probably see what I mean here. But if you are listening to the podcast, you will have to imagine what I'm showing on video, which is basically this: I had breast cancer and because of that, I have no breasts.

[00:00:30] My reconstruction was a horrible process for me. It was actually the most painful part of having breast cancer. I ended up having my breast implants removed because I hated the way that they felt. And what is left behind is not attractive in the least. I have scars everywhere. I have them on my chest, them on my neck. I have tattoos on my body, because of radiation.

[00:01:01] I have gained weight from chemo and I looked completely different before cancer. Even my arms are different, like this arm. I had a blood clot in it because of one of the drugs I was taking to prevent the cancer from coming back. And this arm is still more full than the other arm. So I . . . I just don't look the same.

[00:01:29] Before cancer, I was an hourglass shape, which I'm obviously not anymore as I don't breasts. My hair was long and thick and curly and I had a great set of eyebrows. Post treatment, I obviously no longer have that hourglass shape. My hair is much thinner than it used to be and my eyebrows literally never grew back. What you are seeing on video and in my pictures is micro blading and my filling in with eyebrow pencil.

[00:02:05] And yet.

[00:02:09] I now feel so much better about myself than I ever did, and I'm not sure if that's because I no longer am looking for outside validation in the form of, you know, men offering to help me with things or maybe it's because I'm no longer going outside. But I don't think that's it, because this was happening pre-pandemic.

[00:02:36] If I was looking for outside validation according to what our society deems attractive, I am certainly not going to get that validation. And I'm really glad that I don't seem to need it anymore. I don't usually go out in public making it really obvious that I'm flat or even I guess I wouldn't even say I'm flat . . . because there's there's flat and then there's concave, which is what is happening to me, especially on the side that I received radiation on. For a long time after I have those implants removed, I wore really lightweight prosthetics, which, if that's your jam, all the power to you, and I highly recommend checking out Handful. They're basically sports bras with really, really lightweight prosthetics in them. And so they were really comfortable to wear.

[00:03:35] But I basically woke up one day and realized that one of my big goals in life is to show up and be authentic and unapologetically me. And if I was going to do that. . . I was kind of apologizing for my body by wearing those prosthetics. I was hiding it and for who? I don't even know. Because I knew what was there, and by hiding it in front of other people, it was making it so that what happened to me was not obvious. And I was doing that basically to make other people more comfortable, because honest to God . . if you're trying to have a conversation with someone and they have just like a really obvious scar, I know from personal experience. You want to ask what happened! And if someone is showing that scar, you don't know whether it's because they're comfortable discussing it or because they can't hide that scar.

[00:04:37] For me, I want to be able to talk about what happened to me, to raise awareness to other people that it can happen to young people because I was 34 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I did not have a lump. And I also didn't need the reconstruction that is known in the industry as being standard. I didn't need it. I think a lot of people say that the reconstruction is there to try and replace some of what you lost to cancer. But at the end of the day, no one can replace what I lost. Women with reconstruction often do not have real nipples. They don't have sensation of any kind on their chest. And at the end of the day, if you don't have sensation and you can't feel anything . . . Like for me, I was like, what's even the point?

[00:05:34] I don't need that and I can't get it back. So the reconstruction felt like a really like trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, as my mom would say. It was like, we're going to give you something that is incredibly painful to go through — I went through five surgeries — and still ended up looking . . . I am scarred. I'm scarred for life.

[00:06:00] And going through all of that reconstruction was incredibly painful and just seemed to go on and on and on all to get something that wasn't attractive. And what was the point for me? For me, I don't need that to feel whole.

[00:06:17] At the end of the day, we are souls in meat sacks. Who I am has nothing to do with what my body looks like. And maybe I had to go through losing everything to really feel that. I'm going to say it again, because I think this is really important. Who I am has nothing to do with what I look like. I was the same person when I had no hair. I was the same person when I had breasts. I was the same person before I had radiation as after I had radiation. I've always been the same person, just constantly evolving into something better. And all I am is who I am inside. And this body carries me around.

[00:07:10] And. Our bodies are . . .we're preoccupied with them. Because they're what other people see, we're very obsessed with presenting ourselves like we're our own brand. Like these stripes I have painted on the wall of my office that represent Mighty and Bright, the way, that I dress, the way that I look, represents ME. But it isn't who I am.

[00:07:40] So separating those two things and really realizing that what is most important is the energy that we give off to people, that is what other people find attractive. My friends don't love me any less because I'm flat now. My partner doesn't love me any less because I'm flat now. My energy that I give off is the same happy, you know, optimistic energy that I gave off before.

[00:08:09] In fact, I think I've become even more of myself because of what I've been through. And that is what's important. You can weigh three hundred pounds and if you are happy, that is what matters.

[00:08:24] Now to me, there is a big difference between being obsessed with diet culture and, you know, fake boobs and all of these things that we women do in order to make ourselves look more presentable because we feel bad about ourselves and the opposite, which is doing those things because they make us feel good, they make our energy better. They make us feel confident, like we can go out into the world and conquer it, like those are two —those are the same thing with two completely different outcomes.

[00:09:02] If you are a woman who had breast cancer and you feel more confident having implants, all the power to you. If you didn't have breast cancer and you want implants, all the power to you. If that makes you feel good and empowered, and that is something a decision you are making for yourself, that is what you should do. When we make those decisions because we feel bad about ourselves and we think we're going to get closer to perfect somehow by having the implants or by having the fake eyelashes. . . that's when it becomes a problem. Because doing that, doing the reconstruction, doing the fake eyelashes, those things do not make us who we are. If we feel bad about ourselves, our energy isn't going to change just because we now have implants or, you know, fake eyelashes.

[00:09:56] We have to fix those things inside of ourselves, because this body — just a meat sack. It is just a meat sack for what is inside. And we have to work on what's inside in order to really show up and be the goddesses or gods that we that we're meant to be here. So that is what I wanted to share with you today, and I hope it resonates. Have a wonderful day.

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher

Sara Olsher is the Founder + CEO of Mighty + Bright. She's a young cancer survivor, mom, and former single mom.

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