Flat and proud: Amie responds to stares at her post-mastectomy chest


This guest post comes courtesy of Amie Milo.

I found myself feeling very self-conscious this morning after several other shoppers at the grocery store gawked at my chest. [They] registered looks ranging from confusion to disgust. It would have been great if any of those strangers had returned my smile/eye contact, but apparently none of them have decent manners. One shopper looked at my chest, ignored my smile and spun around to immediately talk to her friend about someone they know who has to have a mastectomy and how she hoped that she would chose reconstruction.

Nice, eh?

I have never had trouble standing up for myself, but in that moment I had no words. I talked to [my husband] about it when I got home, and realized that, not even for a second, would [Max Max: Fury Road protagonist] Furiosa feel wounded by the ignorance of a stranger. If someone gawked at her amputated arm, it would not get to her. My inner Furiosa is proud of these battle scars and this deformed chest. I will not feel bad about not having two round shapes under my shirt… and I will say that to the next thoughtless person that has something dumb to say about it.

There is this huge misconception/lie that is sold to breast cancer patients by surgeons that states that the vast majority of mastectomy patients opt for reconstruction, and then they say something about how implants or other reconstructive options are the ticket to feeling “normal” again. I have encountered many women who chose to remain flat, and their stories tend to be similar. [There is] lots of pressure from surgeons to choose reconstruction in order to continue to “feel like a woman” after the mastectomy. Because, obviously, breasts are the thing that make us “feel like a woman,” right?

It floors me, the arrogance in that kind of language. These brilliant surgeons have our lives in their hands. We are terrified and broken, and we are bombarded by a society whose beauty standards are based on body parts. Those two round shapes under your shirt determine how “woman” you really are. I mean, that’s the gross bullshit that we are fed every day.

So you have a life-threatening disease and you will also be considered less beautiful and sub-female because a few inches of tissue were removed from your torso in order to save your life. That was definitely the attitude that I encountered at the grocery store. That shopper had an opinion about my body and it wasn’t positive. She really hoped that her friend wouldn’t turn out looking like me, and she didn’t care that I’m a person that could hear her talking only a few feet away. I got the gist after the gawking and the loud whisper talking. The thing is, that scene hurt my feelings but big deal. I’m not mad at dummies who are oblivious. The things that upsets me the most is that it got to me at all! I am alive! What do I care about a stranger’s opinion of me? At all? Period?

I don’t!

So, back to actually living life and continuing to find new acceptance for this scarred up body that is still here and able. I just want every flat woman out there to own it without apology, firmly rooted in what it means to be a woman for her.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.