Read the story of Casey, breast cancer previvor
“In some ways I feel like having surgery has made me accept my body more. I have all these scars, the illusion of being able to be perfect has been shattered. So I can either accept that, or I can hide away. I would rather learn to accept it.”
My name is Casey, I am an artist, I do some writing, I like trying new recipes and I love fashion. I was born and raised in America and after travelling across the country in an RV with my husband and three kids all of last year, to figure out where we wanted to live, we are now settled near the beach in Florida. I am from a big family, and a lot of us are BRCA-positive; meaning that we have the BRCA gene mutation which heightens the risk of getting breast cancer and ovarian cancer. I lost my grandmother to colon cancer and my aunt to ovarian cancer, but it wasn’t until my younger sister Erin was diagnosed with breast cancer last year that we all got tested for BRCA. Watching her go through her fight with breast cancer was probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. Seeing someone I love so dearly fight tooth and nail to survive, and suffer so much on a physical, emotional and spiritual level, was kind of a wake-up call for me. When my test results turned out positive, I knew pretty early on that I wanted to do something preventative.
At first I thought that I would just get breast scans every six months, but I’m the kind of person that gets ‘scanxiety’ (the anxiety that you feel when testing and waiting for test results, it’s a thing!). I felt like I would basically just be waiting for them to find something. I’m 33 years old and I have young kids, I don’t want to live with that looming over me for the rest of my life. And so after having my uterus and ovaries removed in May, I had my preventative breast surgery end of June.
I decided not to have breast reconstruction, but to ‘go flat’. I didn’t like the idea of them cutting into my muscles to place implants, I didn’t like the idea of something inside of my body -especially something that my body could reject or that could ‘pop’- and honestly, I didn’t like the idea of having more surgery than needed. I didn’t want to take more risks than the risks that I am already facing. The best way I can explain it, is that it just felt like ‘me’ to go flat.
Having been part of the ‘flattie community’ on social media, I realize how much women have had to fight for ‘flat closure’. It was not a given for surgeons to do that, sometimes they would just leave extra skin without the consent of the patient because “You are going to want implants in the future”. I went into the appointment with my surgeon knowing what I wanted, ready to fight for it, but I did not have to. My surgeon was very understanding, she even told me “You know, if you do change your mind, this is not irreversible. You can still get implants if you want to”. It was a lot more accepted than I was expecting, so I am eternally grateful for the women that have gone before me and have fought for flat closure as an option.
The flattie closet
Before my surgery I was having a really hard time finding pictures of women who had gone flat in clothes. There were pictures of the scars, and there were pictures of the surgery, but I wanted to see what it looks like on a daily basis! I wanted to know how their clothes fit, if they wear a bra, what their options are. That was the reason that I started my Instagram account @theflattiecloset; I am putting out there what I wished I had seen before surgery.
I’ve always loved fashion, I remember fighting with my mom over what I could wear when I was four years old. This is just a way to share my love of clothes, to encourage myself to get dressed and try new things, and to help people out there who are considering going flat to see that there is a whole world of clothing still available to you. It’s been a good challenge for me to see what still fits from my closet before I lost my boobs, and to try new things like super deep V necks. And it’s been a great excuse to get some new clothes!
The flattie community is fun because the freedom that people have experienced, not having breasts, is really interesting. I have seen this echoed on my account a lot; women feeling so free to choose to wear a bra or not, if they want to but not because they have to. Their positivity has helped me embrace my new shape.
I feel very much myself, although it is definitely weird. I get out of the shower and I go to dry off under my boobs and there’s nothing there! I actually sent my sister a picture of me in a bikini top this morning, saying “I am flat as a pancake!”. Sometimes it catches me off guard. I am in early menopause now, I have no boobs and I’ve been doing it all through corona virus. It’s been crazy! Of course I have my bad days. I’m wearing lounge wear and no mascara all the time, or crying about something surgery related. There’s a confidence and a lightness but at the same time there is a grieving process. So I just try to allow myself to have those days where I am less than okay.
Yet in some ways I feel like having surgery has made me accept my body more. I have these scars from my breast surgery and hysterectomy, and together with a C-section scar from one of my kids I have like 9 scars all over my torso. It has helped me accept that I am not perfect, and the illusion of being able to be perfect has been shattered. I have these scars now, I am not going to look like anything except who I am. So I can either accept that, or I can hide away. I would rather learn to accept it.
What advice would I give to someone who is in a similar situation? One: trust your gut. You know what is best for you. You will have a lot of voices around you, whether that’s your family or your partner, even within the breast cancer community or your doctors that are well meaning. But in the end only you will know what the right decision is for you. There is a lot of information out there, so go into your surgeon’s appointment prepared and ask every question that you have. Take your time -it took me probably six months to take my decision and then the next three months to sit with it- and switch surgeons if you need to.
And two: tap into a support system. Having people like my sister, who had been through it as well, has been invaluable for me. She chose to have a reconstruction, and even though we have made different choices it has been really helpful to go through these body-changes together. Make sure that there is someone that you can be honest with about it, because it will be a roller coaster. You will feel a new sense of freedom and a sense of relief that comes with the surgery, but you will also feel loss and mourning and grief. My family has been very supportive, and my husband as well. There has definitely been a mourning period on the sexual side of it too, but we’ve been working through it together.
To those supporting someone with breast cancer or BRCA I would say: do not push your opinion on people. Some people came to me like “Wow, that’s a big decision”, “Are you sure you want to do that?”. They didn’t understand that I had been thinking about it for almost a year, I knew what I wanted to do and I was confident enough to make my decision. If you have someone in your life going through this process, trust that they are going to make the right decision and just be there for them to support as they walk through it.
fall|winter 20 preview
In January, I presented my newest FW20 collection during a show full of dance and entertainment in Rotterdam. All my work as a feminist designer is inspired by muses, powerful female icons from past and present. And for FW20, my muse will be crime writer Agatha Christie. A few months from now, you will get to discover the collections, and see how they tell stories like Agatha’s thrilling books do..
Running for your life
Dr. Bram Bakker is a psychiatrist, a writer, a runner and a provocateur. With his many bestselling books and columns – and yes, even his own theatre show – he urges us to think outside the box when it comes to our mental health. Not crazy about popping pills? Bram shared some interesting alternatives with me, from throwing out our phones to running ‘till we puke’.
Peas & peppers instead of pills
General practitioner Tamara de Weijer believes that we would feel a lot better if we hit the produce stand before we visited the pharmacy. “On a massive scale, we have been putting the wrong kind of fuel in our bodies.”
Singles Day – You’ve Got this!
All the single ladies, listen up! With single women rapidly becoming the majority, it is high time to stop feeling singled out. This Singles Day, let’s celebrate our freedom and independence by sharing all those solo milestones that make us go: ‘You’ve got this!’.
Marlies|dekkers heeft een grote variëteit aan lingerie wat gedragen kan worden door iedereen en voldoet aan iedere vrouw haar behoefte. Naast het aanbieden van producten op onze webshop, houden we een blog bij in de categorie ‘Maison Marlies’ waar over verschillende onderwerpen geschreven wordt zoals; Waarom 50 worden fantastisch is, een 5-stappenplan voor het kopen van lingerie voor jouw vriendin, vrouw of partner , hoe je lingerie als deel van je outfit maakt en andere leuke onderwerpen.
In Maison Marlies blog kun je van alles lezen over het leven achter en rondom het bedrijf. Of je nu wilt weten waar ze haar inspiratie vandaan haalt voor het ontwerpen van een nieuwe collectie, of dat je interesse hebt in haar levensstijl, gezonde recepten, of haar smaak in bijzondere kunst, je kunt het vinden in de blog. Deze zakenvrouw krijgt het voor elkaar om met een knipoog te schrijven over haar zakenreizen, shop avonturen, haar collega’s, vrienden en familie en zelfs over haar vakanties waar ze even helemaal tot rust komt. Wanneer je even niet meer weet hoe je jou goede bh maat kunt vinden, biedt Maison Marlies een aantal richtlijnen zodat je je boezem kunt schudden zonder dat je borsten eruit floepen. Comfort voor je buste is een combinatie van de juiste maat en de juiste kwaliteit. Je wilt toch geen onhandig ondergoed, terwijl dit eigenlijk heel makkelijk voorkomen kan worden door het dragen van hoge kwaliteit lingerie?! En wanneer je voorgevel goed op z’n plaats gehouden wordt kun je eindelijk volledig je vrouwelijkheid vieren. De blog geeft advies over het mixen en matchen van lingerie, over het stimuleren en inspireren van je eigen stijlgevoel en houdt je op de hoogte van de laatste trends.
blij met marlies|dekkers lingerie
Haar celebrity vrienden zijn ook erg blij met de perfecte pasvorm van de bh's van marlies|dekkers. Deze vriendinnen laten met trots hun sexy lingerie van marlies|dekkers zien in fotoshoots voor tijdschriften, en tijdens optredens, tv-shows of zelfs in films. Maison Marlies wijdt een speciaal gedeelte van de blog aan gerelateerde nieuwtjes en ontwikkelingen zodat je altijd op de hoogte blijft van de laatste ontwikkelingen rondom de speciale missie die de visie van Marlies’ ademt voor de toekomst.