“I Wanted Smaller Breasts, But Not Like This.”

By Katie Golway

Yesterday my mother turned 61. It was her first birthday with breast cancer, and I hope it will be her last. My mother has always been adamant about physical health. She was fortunate enough to be diagnosed in the early stages of this disease.

My mother was saved by a mammography. I have found that people can sympathize while still putting off their own examinations. It is understandable that no one wants to consider the harsh reality that the same could happen to them, but no one is untouchable.

A common misconception is that biologically female bodies are the ones susceptible to breast cancer. In the Netflix show Archer, the titular character suffers through breast cancer as a cis male. He becomes the butt of the joke. There is a shame perpetuated by toxic masculinity that this diagnosis means weakness – as though breasts, womanhood itself, makes someone lesser. When women are encouraged to be ashamed of their bodies, it compromises health.

Every body has breast tissue. Every person must be encouraged to know their bodies. An at home examination takes only minutes. Apply pressure to the chest area with the tips of your fingers. It is important not to neglect the tissue underneath the breasts, as well as underneath the armpits where the lymph nodes are located. Be thorough.

To be candid, I did not make myself familiar with my breast shape until recently. They appear as if they are angry at each other and are slightly asymmetrical. I did not much care about them until the words of older people made them more prominent. Family members and mentors were constantly adjusting my clothing when I was young, as though a stray glance was my own fault. They insisted that I conceal what I could, even well into adulthood. It is strange to consider my mother losing her bodily autonomy to cancer when she never allowed me my own. She always had power. I wonder if my anger is still valid.

Once you have become in tune with your body, the next step is to seek empathy. Find a doctor with whom you can have a conversation. This body, your body, flourishes when it is respected. Accept nothing less.

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