In response to a recent 60 Minutes episode featuring a young mum who had been recently diagnosed with breast cancer, it is shocking to our community of women who have faced mastectomy, that the reporter referred to this young women's breasts as "just boobs".
In any context a comment like this can be hurtful and to a woman faced with having her breast or breasts removed it is all the more insensitive.
The media also sensationalized this young woman's right to take control of her treatment and get a second opinion resulting in a more conservative approach to her surgery
Those of us who have sat across the big desk from a surgeon and faced the reality of being recommended a mastectomy know all too well the emotional rollercoaster that becomes a private hell while digesting such news and trying to make sound decisions. The whirling in your head while suddenly you start to question what's important to you and gradually understanding the gravity and the conflict of your situation. And there is no escape, not making a decision at this point is fundamentally a decision.
So trapped in this space, if a woman has the soundness of mind and the self confidence to slow this train down, then all power to her. Everyday in the breast cancer and Reclaim Your Curves community we see women struggling with their realities about how to manage in their unique way but the difference is that it's an environment of support and sensitivity.
Woman facing mastectomy as treatment for breast cancer or in prevention of the disease deserve your respect and sensitivity while they make their way. Instead of a response minimizing the importance of their breasts, offer your support for her decisions.
What women facing mastectomy don't need is a comment like "they're just boobs" from another woman who is not at risk of losing hers.
For extra tips about how to show support for women with breast cancer this article from 2014 by a wonderfully sessitive nurse is a great read.
"They’re just boobs. No, they’re not essential to survival, but breasts are part of our bodies and, for some women, they can be much more: a huge part of their femininity, their sexuality, even their identity. Losing one or both breasts can be devastating, frightening and both physically and emotionally painful. Mastectomy is a major, life-altering surgery: you lose all your breast tissue, all your mammary glands and all your nerves. Mastectomy can impact your sex life, your relationships with others (including children) and your day-to-day life (clothes don’t fit right anymore, for instance). Many women also lose some or all of their axillary lymph nodes during the surgery, which can lead to a chronic and painful condition known as lymphedema. Minimizing mastectomy by telling someone “they’re just boobs” means that along with breast cancer and its harsh treatment, the patient has to deal with the fact you think they’re shallow. They’re not. You’re being an insensitive clod. What to say instead? I know mastectomy is a very difficult decision. I support you."
Read the article here