You cannot deny a person who feels passionately. When Kimberly Bowels was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016 she asked her surgeon to give her a clean and flat result so she could avoid complications, additional surgeries and get back to life with her young children. The surgeon acted against her wishes and left extra skin after her double mastectomy, “just in case you change your mind,” he said.
When surgeons pressure women into reconstruction, or worse, intentionally go against their wishes to be made flat, they are called “Flat Deniers”. Kim protested in front of the hospital topless, so everyone could see what had happened to her. She went on to start a non-profit organization called Not Putting on a Shirt to educate the medical community, empower women, and shift our culture that largely excludes Flat Closure as an option for women.
Last summer I began having complications with my breast implants, which had been in for 5 years after my 2014 breast cancer diagnosis and double mastectomy. A tight scar capsule had formed (capsular contracture) on the right side, and it was making a crease in the implant, which was now poking me in the pectoral muscle. The pain was keeping me up at night and preventing me from doing the things I enjoy.
When I returned to see my plastic surgeon, his suggestion was that I just use my left arm. When I asked him if he could remove my implants and make me flat he became defensive, waiving his hands towards my chest as he turned to my husband saying, “How would you feel if someone ripped up one of your songs?!” He even insisted on a follow up appointment so he could press further. “How will you look in a dress or a swimsuit?”
I was 100% certain that I did NOT want another set of implants, as he suggested. In October, 2019 I explanted at the hands of a new (female) plastic surgeon, who listened to me and honored my wishes for flat closure reconstruction. 3 months later, I am so much more comfortable in my body. I feel 100% me and FREE! I can pull people in close for hugs and actual feel them without these hard, fake silicone implants in the way. I have noticed my overall health improve too, but I’ll save that for another time.
In this journey to flatness I met Kim and other amazing Flat warrior advocates in Facebook groups like, Fierce, Flat, Forward; Fabulously Flat; Fantastic Flat Fashions; and other organizations like Flat Closure Now. Kimberly asked me to write a piece as a guest blogger for Not Putting on a Shirt, to share why we are this pivotal moment in expanding the outcomes for women facing mastectomies.
At the Intersection of My Flat Chest and an Antiquated System of Care
“Women everywhere are calling for the standard of surgical breast cancer options to shift and include flat closure. We’re finally positioned culturally and historically to demand autonomy over our health care choices, and how we express our ideas of what is truly healthy and beautiful for ourselves.
Breast cancer has become ground zero, where the intersection of popular culture—music, media and fashion, meets medical device manufacturing, the health and beauty industry, the world of plastics, and what women want for themselves in terms of comfort, health and functionality. We are taking ownership in self-determination, both in our surgical outcomes and self-image, redefining the currency of what makes a woman beautiful.”
Read the whole guest post on the Not Putting on a Shirt Blog.
Melissa Eppard is a certified Life Coach, writer, and breast cancer thriver, explant warrior and flat activist. She uses her personal and professional experiences to help women get their sexy back after cancer so they can move forward with less fear, make peace with their bodies and reclaim the fullness of life.