Making Peace with My Body After My Mastectomy


I just stumbled upon this poem, which I wrote about a year after I had my mastectomy. Part of the struggle of having breast cancer is accepting the damage done to our breasts, which mean so much to us as women, lovers and mothers. Now four years later, although I can’t forget the price cancer made me pay, I am grateful to be in a better place of acceptance.

                Body Image

Who doesn’t remember at age thirteen

developing breasts that emerge.

The joy of tight sweaters suddenly

evidencing womanhood on the verge.


Then again, with pregnancy’s swell,

they grow bigger and fuller still.

With breastfeeding’s love and joy,

my child is nourished and filled.


As years progress, they sag a bit lower,

the result of time’s relentless sum.

Gravity’s effect on body and ego,

accepted with grace and aplomb.


Then why suddenly does it hit,

so much so that I can’t accept,

That stereotactic puncture under my breast,

the first damage done while I wept.


And then the second surgical biopsy cut

circling my nipple, angry and black.

The precursor of change to come and

normalcy I can never take back.


To face a mastectomy is to face cancer

and whatever it now creates.

A physical reminder of life’s necessity

to do whatever survival dictates.


The mutation is horrific – bigger than the readiness

you thought there for your protection.

Your fear is misunderstood, they think what you seek

is plastic surgery rendered perfection.


I want what I had – which was far from perfect,

but perfectly me honed by time.

The body which changed and matured, slowly

forming an aggregate solely mine.


But slowly metamorphosis becomes familiar and

soon after its reflected effects.

The constancy of change begets acceptance

and opposition to what is relents.


I am an assemblage of particulars, a creation of time

unrelenting, a most fascinating study.

It’s all part of me and my journey and now

it’s time to make peace with my body.


Survival > Existence,


Image courtesy of nrkbeta

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Claudia Schmidt's picture

Beautifully said. I believe

Beautifully said. I believe that acceptance of my newly created breasts will be a lifelong process for me. Your point about not wanting plastic surgery created perfection, you just want your “real” breasts back again is exactly what I tried over and over to explain to my plastic surgeon.


Debbie's picture

Accepting & Working Through the Process Takes Time

Hi Claudia:

I had such a hard time relating to my plastic surgeon. I understand now where he was coming from, but back then I just felt so alone in the process. To this day, everyone tells me that he did exceptional work and I can finally appreciate that fact. It’s just a hard process that takes lots of time to work through.

Survival > Existence,



Lois Hjelmstad's picture


This poem hit all the highpoints of our lives with/then without our breasts. Thank you for writing and sharing it. I have written about this subject, too.

Debbie's picture

Thank You for Sharing Your Poetry Too


Thank you for sharing your poetry too. It’s so important that we speak up and share our experiences with other survivors. No one should experience the pain of breast cancer alone.

Survival > Existence,


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