The “After” of Breast Cancer: Chick with the silicone chest
by Holly Varni
February 25, 2014

personal growth

This year has been one of growth for me. Not that I was stagnant in a pubescent stage or anything, but there are times in life where difficult circumstances propel you forward a few steps on the evolution of who you are as a person.

One of those growth enhancing happenings was that my chest was hollowed out as cancer was cut away and the cavities were filled with balloons of silicone gel. That’s right, reading in between the lines that means I got breast cancer, had a double mastectomy and got fake boobies.

When I first explained that I was going to get a set of new “girls” so that I would look the same when wearing clothes, my three boys thought it sounded great. They had been educated on how soldiers had lost limbs in war and had gotten new robotic legs and arms as a replacement. They thought it was awesome that there were robotic breasts. Something like medieval armor that I could take on and off and have beside my bed at night. When I explained the reality of what they were going to be like, to say that they were disappointed is an understatement. I definitely lost the cool factor.

Sorry, no bionic parts. No tricks. No Paralympics in my future.

Beyond the initial sympathies that cancer had chosen my young (well, sort of) and quite healthy body to grow, something happened after the surgery…

My added on body parts became intriguing to others, a source of great interest.

When asking how I am, nearly every person stares at the falsies while inquiring. I could understand if it was indeed a novelty, but with the amount of women that go through this not for reconstruction but enhancement, I have to admit, it took me back.

My first hunch that things weren’t quite ever going to be the same was when I was at church and two white haired ladies approached, one leaning over so that she was only inches from my chest and staring through her bifocals declared, “Now, don’t those look natural! They fit your body so well. I like the size.” Then turning to her friend, whose name I don’t know, asked, “Don’t you think they look good?” Not sure how to respond, I smiled. Maybe I should have gone with, “Thanks for checking out my rack…um…ten feet from where we take communion.” My boys, red in face, had turned their bodies and were searching for an escape route.

What I soon learned, was that this was not unusual. Wherever I go, people are fascinated and fixated. Thinking I’m a bit paranoid? Me too. So, I did a test. I had whoever was with me, watch where the person’s eyes went in their greeting. The results? In my husband’s words, “We have to move to another state.”

Now enter in my personality. Instead of hiding under big sweatshirts, I took it to the other extreme. When asked how I feel by acquaintances, I now respond, “Great! Want to feel them? They don’t do anything special but squeeze away. It’s ok, my chest it completely dead, I don’t feel a thing.”

You’d be surprised on how many women took me up on my offer! It was then that I realized that their curiosity could be turned into some educational public service opportunity. Once I opened the flood gates, the questions came pouring through. “You really can’t feel them?” “Are they heavy?” “Won’t they leak?” “Will they be as perky when you’re eighty?”

With all the talk of breast cancer, there is little conversation going on about the “after.” Lurking in the back of everyone’s mind is, “if it happened to her, it could happen to me.” Any woman that endures the misery of mammograms, is aware of the statistics and that everyone is at risk.

There’s a woman who works at my boy’s school, who instinctively always crosses her arms over her chest when she sees me, as if she could catch what I had and have the same thing happen to her. It’s such a quick reaction, I don’t even think she’s aware of it.

One day, I walked up to her and asked, “Why do you cringe every time I walk by?” She quickly blurted out, “I like my breasts. I don’t want to lose them. I don’t want to be you.” Stepping closer, I responded softly, “It’s not that bad. I got rid of the cancer. These give me two humps so I can wear whatever clothes I want. That was the whole point. Go on… give them a poke.”

Her eyes got as big as saucers, and you know what? She did poke them and then laughed hysterically. Now every time she sees me, she smiles and giggles.

In opening up about my experience and joking about choosing silicone over saline, I hope to take away some of that fear.

Yes, the scars are pretty significant, something I’m reminded about every time I step out of the shower. But I lived through it and that’s what counts. If given the choice again, I would make the identical decision. No regrets. I’m moving ahead proudly with my plastic parts. Robotic or not, I’m thankful.

Chances are that one of the many people that have poked and prodded at my falsies will indeed have to deal with breast cancer someday. I like to think that I brought some preparation and humor to something so life altering.

Am I crazy and inappropriate for making fun of my falsies? My answer is that I think it’s crazy that an entire generation of young moms are going through this.