"I have a distinct memory from when I was about 11 or 12 years old in a swimming pool locker room. A woman was changing into her swimsuit, and she was missing one of her breasts. I tried not to stare; I tried not to be shocked by the long scar and puckered skin. She made no effort to hide her nudity - locker room etiquette says you mind your own business, but I couldn’t look away. After the woman left, my friends and I said some probably horrible things and giggled in the way pre-teen girls do.
I’d never thought about breast cancer before. It had never occurred to me that someone would have to cut their breasts off. I was on the cusp of puberty, and I thought breasts were integral to womanhood and femininity. I flipped through women’s magazines and wished for the big, bouncy breasts I saw on all the models. They were beautiful, they were perfect.
"Women with mastectomies must become visible to each other.”
- Audre Lorde
I grew up, and never did get the big, beautiful breasts I saw in those old magazines, but I learned that my perky A-cups were perfect for me – and my partner. I saw myself through his eyes and I loved all my sharp angles and soft spaces. I had a baby and those edges softened further. I was round and beautiful and squishy. I saw my body as not something to cover and hide, but something unique and beautiful.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, my thoughts went back to that locker room and the woman with one breast. I don’t remember what her face looked like, I don’t remember if she was annoyed or embarrassed. I wondered what her thoughts were as she changed in the locker room that day with all the giggling girls. I would be that woman now. Would I hide away in the corner? Covering myself in shame, hunching over my deformed chest? Would I proudly display my scars and stare down anyone who dared say anything?
Much to the embarrassment and wonder of that 12-year-old girl I used to be, I decided to embrace my flatness. I decided to share my story publicly, and the most impactful thing I could think of was to go topless on the internet. My scars showed the reality of breast cancer. It is not pretty; it is not pink. It is an amputation.
Now 4 years later and still breastless, I’ve embraced my aerodynamic new shape. My images bring awareness to flat closure after mastectomy as an option, and spur conversations – which are not always the nicest. I’ve fought the censorship battle with Instagram and TikTok numerous times for “inappropriate content” even though both platforms explicitly allow post-mastectomy images. It has been disheartening, but the support and messages I receive regularly from the flat community fill my heart.
Being visible to other people who have or will have a mastectomy continues to be why I will always be up for a topless photo shoot. No one should feel alone or ashamed of their scars." - Ginny