Being bodies - Sophie, body confidence and her double mastectomy

"The newer me is strong, resilient and fierce" written over a picture of Sophie at Table Mountain in South Africa.

Our new series “Being bodies” aims to explore our relationships with our bodies, from head to toe and everything in between. We recently featured Sophie’s story, where she talked about her experience being diagnosed with the BRCA2 gene mutation at 24 years old. Today, she’s here to talk about how having a double mastectomy changed how she felt about her body, for the better.

A bit about me... I’m Sophie, 28 years old, queer and a BRCA2 gene carrier. Many of my family members have been affected by breast cancer. At 24, I decided to get genetically tested for the gene after my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. After that test came back positive for BRCA2, I decided to have a preventative double mastectomy with reconstruction.

I have always had a positive relationship with my body. Like everyone, I’ve had those moments when I’ve wished that my waist was slimmer, or my stomach was flatter. But when I think about it, I’ve always loved me – whatever that looked like. I had a more complex relationship with my boobs. I had even contemplated cosmetic surgery in my late teens to make them look more ‘perfect’…whatever that means! It was just at the point that I had learned to love all of my body, including my boobs, when they were taken away.

When I had my reconstruction, I woke up with these huge new implants that felt stuck onto my chest. I went through a grieving process for my old boobs that I had just started loving. For about two months post-surgery, I’d call my new chest ‘the’ boobs, rather than ‘my’ boobs.

“I went through a grieving process for my old boobs that I had just started loving. For about two months post-surgery, I’d call my new chest ‘the’ boobs, rather than ‘my’ boobs.”

A selfie of Sophie in a pink top, after her diagnosis and surgeryI then realised that these new implants are STILL my chest, a symbol of my ability to choose a positive and healthy future for myself. I feel lucky that I am able to do that for myself. I am also lucky that – besides the scarring, they’re an incredible shape and they suit my shape and body. I am so comfortable in my skin again and I truly do love my new, and improved chest. I wear bikinis that I perhaps wouldn’t have before. I have modelled lingerie... something I’m not sure I’d have done before. My boobs have made me feel empowered and confident and have allowed me to explore that – which I love. 

After my reconstruction, I noticed the huge lack of representation of womxn that looked like me in mainstream media, magazines, clothing outlets, online shopping stores, lingerie brands…the list is endless.

This is something I find baffling. Statistics tell us that a huge number of women, men and non-binary people are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. A large amount of the population will have the very same scarring as me, and I think it should be celebrated rather than something we feel ashamed of. Our bodies are incredible and capable of so much healing. My scars show a time that I was stronger than I ever thought I could be; they remind me that I am strong, resilient and brave and I love that.

“My scars show a time that I was stronger than I ever thought I could be; they remind me that I am strong, resilient and brave and I love that.”

During my recovery, I had a conversation with a woman who said they felt like less of a woman, because she had lost her nipples after a mastectomy. This was a common feeling shared by the majority of women I had connected with. I understand how someone could feel this way - you have something literally connected to you for so long and then you wake up and its gone. But it hasn’t taken your womanhood with you.

Perhaps being part of the LGBT+ community made that easier for me. I understand that regardless of your outer presentation, gender is a spectrum and doesn’t always align with the parts you have. It is devastating that so many feel so uncomfortable with themselves post-surgery. I totally understand why, but I personally have never felt so connected, empowered and feminine.

I have worked with lingerie companies to encourage a more diverse representation of womxn and modelled some pieces. I love my body and fully embrace my scars, and I wanted to show that people that look like me are just as beautiful and sexy as we’ve ever been regardless of scarring. Through this journey of self-love – I have decided not to have additional surgery to have nipples… I don’t want them… this is my body, and its exactly the way it should be.

“I love my body and fully embrace my scars, and I wanted to show that people that look like me are just as beautiful and sexy as we’ve ever been regardless of scarring.”

My double mastectomy and reconstruction have allowed me to continue this journey of self – discovery. It has given me a deeper appreciation of my body and my mind. The newer me is strong, resilient and fierce and I have the scars to prove it. We must all champion our beautiful bodies and learn to love and accept ourselves. It’s not easy, and there’s an initial grieving process for the body that you’ve ‘lost’. But I hope that like me, you fall in love with your new one, and feel empowered, beautiful and sexy again… because we are.

We’d like to thank Sophie for sharing her story with us. If you can relate to Sophie’s story or if you’d like to share your own words of encouragement and support, why not share your experience in the comments below, or in one of our forums?

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