As a prepubescent girl, nothing could have made me happier than having boobs.
I was a late bloomer, so I had to resort to stuffing my training bra while my friends shopped at Victoria’s Secret and talked to boys without feeling awkward.
I used to imagine what mine would look like when they decided to grow in. I remember trolling AOL chat rooms with my friends, responding to guys who would ask me for my “a/s/l” with “18/female/NY and I have huge boobs.” They’d then ask me for the size and I’d be oddly descriptive. “They’re double-Ds, though they sometimes feel even bigger."
Basically, I really wanted boobs and it was taking a damn long time for my body to catch up to my brain.
What I didn’t get at the time was breasts — large, small or non-existent — don’t exactly come with a lifetime warranty. As a human anatomy teacher explained to my class once, “sometimes a part of your body gets sick and then it dies, but that doesn’t mean you die along with it."
Angelina Jolie, actress, activist and all-around beautiful person, revealed in a March 2015 New York Times op-ed that both her ovaries were removed after she discovered she carried BRCA1, a gene that would make the carrier susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer. She also had a preventative double mastectomy in 2013, which would diminish her risk of developing breast cancer.
Breast cancer. The words have become so ingrained in our day-to-day life, it's almost like we're desensitized. Pink ribbons and Breast Cancer Awareness Month are never-ending reminders that every 2 minutes, a woman in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer, according to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
That statistic has become part of our reality. The need to screen is now more necessary than ever -- be it for cancer or for the gene that might cause it.
While surviving cancer leaves emotional scars on both the individuals and the families of survivors, the physical scars of those who have survived breast cancer can be momentous.
Today, more women are opting for mastectomies and lumpectomies, with many choosing to remove both breasts (even if one is healthy) instead of just removing the one unhealthy one or removing the lump. Women are also electing for mastectomies after testing positive for the BRCA1 gene, like Angelina Jolie.
Charlotte Wood, 26, a podiatrist from Timperley, Greater Manchester, England had her breasts removed to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer. She discovered she carried the BRCA1 gene at 25 and opted to have a preventive double mastectomy at 26.
I have no regrets about my decision to have my breasts removed, despite the scars and everyday reminder. I now have a below population level risk chance of developing breast cancer. I have a much better chance of watching my children grow up, a chance my mum unfortunately did not get. I will not have to have mammograms when I am older as there is no need. The ticking time bombs have gone. I have two breasts that nobody would ever know have been through such a journey, a journey that has saved my life and I will be eternally grateful for. They may have a few scars but they are scars that show determination and courage. I feel lucky to have been armed with knowledge I have and to have been able to act on it. I feel empowered that I made a life changing choice that in no way diminishes my femininity and confidence. I feel life comes with many challenges. The ones that should not scare us are the ones we can take control of.
Charlotte’s story isn’t singular.