adriene hughes at the age of 24 wearing dolphin shorts

Archive of a Breast Cancer Survivor

survivor book

Female Identity

My physical therapist asked me yesterday how I felt about losing my breast. Without thinking I answered him, “It’s not an issue, it’s just a lump of fat,” He told me his mother almost had her breast removed and she had a difficult time with the thought of losing hers. This morning after bathing I looked at myself in the mirror and thought of his question once more. I looked at my nipple-less reconstructed lump that mimics a breast thought it odd-looking with its scars and patched center. My good breast, swooping down and moving in the soft manner breasts do had such a good way of shifting with my body, and then I realized that is how a breast is meant to be. I have never attached any emotional association to my breast and it’s never been a problem. I did not grieve for my lost breast. It does not define my female character, the person I am. And why should it? Why should such an object be the defining factor in my relation-ship with my female self? A male friend told me this weekend if he ever had to lose a testicle he would be devastated as it was his manhood and he would feel a loss. I know every person has a different relationship to his or her identity but should a lump of fat or a testicle change the thought of yourself as self? Should the thought of one’s disease outweigh the external losses such as flesh? As I move into my second round of chemo this week my thoughts are centered and balanced on simply being able to eat, and having a day where everything is good, and the sunshine actually make its way to my face. I feel thankful for the things I have today: an appetite, eight hours of sleep, and the ability to walk without too much distress. Life is good, and so is my fake breast sitting round and high without the mark of a nipple. Life is really good because the essence of my self doesn’t need to be based on the notion of a female identity, but rather my identity as an individual, clear and subdued, like the endless horizon of the desert floor rising silently from dusk into night.

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