CHALLENGE: Post your breast cancer tattoo on our Facebook page here (and tell us all about what inspired it!) — then tag us using either our Facebook name: @AdvocatesForBreastCancer or by using the hashtag: #ABCbreastcancertattoo
Today’s photograph from Tracey Derrick‘s body of work, 1 in 9, is a photograph of the plaster cast she made of her chest, post-mastectomy. Through the tender replication of her chest, she somehow manages to both powerfully AND gently obliterate the media’s ‘requirement’ for women to ‘build themselves back together’ into a state of ‘normal femininity’ —- and instead presents us with a portrait of herself simply as she is: pure, unencumbered, real and unutterably and beautifully herself: unique!
Whether we choose reconstruction, to wear breast prostheses or go breast-free, the power of choice lies in our hands: it is our choice, and our choice alone.
EXPRESSIVE ART WORKSHOPS by Shelley Klammer
“After breast cancer treatment this identity of ‘desirable object’ becomes confused because the ‘traditional’ nude, as an idealized object of male desire, clearly precludes any possibility of illness or ‘imperfection’ and denies the ‘unacceptable’ hidden truths within, for example, the scars, a single breast, lumpy breasts, false breasts; changes that women live with after treatment. Through the media, the ideal woman is ‘put together’ and defined by appearance.
Artist Jo Spence was especially concerned with the breast as an object of desire, as a device for nourishing babies, and finally in her case of breast cancer, as a possession to be placed in the hands of the medical institution. This is exemplified by her photo of her breast, marked with a pen “Property of Jo Spence?” where she appears to question her rights over her own body, using the breast as a metaphor for women’s struggle to become active subjects. Following her *lumpectomy, she documented the appearance of her scarred breast, thereby challenging traditional representations of that subject. In one image she documents the struggle between her everyday appearance (revealing her scars), and the glamorous representation of women – signified by the Hollywood-style sunglasses and the seductive pose and drape of her blouse off her shoulder. (1986:157)
*Lumpectomy is surgery in which only the tumor and some surrounding tissue is removed. It is a form of “breast-preservation” and technically is a partial mastectomy. Jo Spence had a mastectomy later on in her life when her breast cancer returned.” ~ Tracey Derrick
What are the implications of losing a breast or both breasts? Will it be painful? How long will I take to recover? When I get back to my normal day to day activities? Will I have scars? These are the questions that follow once a patient knows that they will need a mastectomy. People respond to the news of needing a mastectomy in many various ways. Some people want it as soon as possible, others delay as they are not sure that it is the right thing to do or they may be anxious or nervous about it. Everyone is different.
What are the implications of losing a breast or both breasts?
When you research a mastectomy it is very easy to become anxious. Whether about the operation, recovery or what you will look like after the surgery. Many people, organisations, doctors and surgeons will write about the topic but unfortunately what you read is not always accurate and can cause mixed emotions. The best way to understand the process is to listen to your options from your surgeon and to meet and talk with a person that has been through a similar experience or had a similar operation.
Will it be painful?
Very often there is more emotional than physical pain after a mastectomy. It is something new that one has to get used to. It takes time and everyone will go through their own recovery at their own rate. You may be happy, sad, teary or relieved. A whole wave of emotions may follow after having a mastectomy.
How long will I take to recover?
This will depend on the person, the type of operation and the circumstances that surround the patient. It takes a good few weeks to recover from a breast operation but again the emotional side may take longer than the physical side. Getting back to day to day activities will gradually increase and become easier with time. It is important to take time to recover and to not do too much too soon. If you rest in the beginning your recovery tends to be quicker. If you are very busy straight after your surgery and do not give yourself time to recover, the patient will tend to have a lot more aches and pains that may continue for a lot longer than usual.
Will I have scars? The answer is yes. If you have an operation, you will have a scar. Scars however, do not have to be associated with something bad. There are ways to minimise scars and each surgeon will have their own way of looking after wounds and scars. The emotional scars on the other hand may remain for quite some time. As we are all different, we will all heal in different ways. It is very important to ask for help if you need it. Whether speaking to a fellow patient, a psychologist, your GP or your medical team, it is important to communicate. It is a natural feeling to be anxious regarding a pending operation and even after the operation it remains important to communicate. Therefore speak to someone before your operation and have that person as a support during your operation and after your operation as you recover. Recovering mentally is a process that starts from the time that you are diagnosed.
Most importantly, try to stay positive! Surround yourself with positive, happy and supportive people that make you feel good. Do not be afraid to ask for help when you need it! A little bit of support goes a long way when needed.
Sr Lieske Wegelin