Annita Ventouris, PhD

Gender & Sexuality

Breast Cancer Has Made Me Embrace My Femininity Even More

Cite This
Annita Ventouris, PhD, (2022, June 24). Breast Cancer Has Made Me Embrace My Femininity Even More. Psychreg on Gender & Sexuality.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

I never really loved my body, but never hated it either. I never went on restrictive diets (or stopped eating chocolate and cake) and always hated the gym; so, I didn’t have any reasons to complain about why I didn’t look like a Victoria’s Secrets Angel.

But my relationship with my breasts was a bit complicated: from trying to suppress their development into a full cup C in my teen years, by wearing double vests and adopting a bowing posture while walking, to showing them off in low cleavage outfits in my early twenties. My breasts were a symbol of my femininity – the one I tried to hide and the one I wanted the world to see. When I started working in academia, my breasts were quickly hidden under loose shirts and blouses. ‘You would look cute in tighter tops,’ a colleague said. But no, I didn’t want to be judged for putting my femininity on display.

When I was diagnosed with what my doctor called ‘the stupidest form of breast cancer’ (ductal carcinoma in situs) in my late thirties, I thought in a way that I deserved it. I felt my breasts were taking their revenge for not loving them or showing them off enough all these years. I got angry. My body was betraying me; so I hated it with every fibre of my being. The unfairness of it all made me feel lost and frustrated. I kept wondering if I will ever feel like a woman again or will I always have scarred breasts and ugly special bras on?

Nipple removal surgery was a nightmare. It was so invasive. I lost a part of myself and felt disfigured. I didn’t cry when I saw the stitches. I didn’t cry when I saw the scars, the radiation tattoos, the fake nipple or the implants. I didn’t cry when I had two failed nipple tattoo sessions, which were supposed to give me a confidence boost. But I cried when I saw my naked body in the mirror for the first time after the repeated breast surgeries. It was my own body, but somehow, I didn’t recognise it. I could not come to terms with what I had in front of me. I missed my breasts, I missed my body, I missed being me. I started wearing double vests again and avoided tops that could potentially reveal any of the scars. I grieved, for I thought my femininity was brutally taken away from me.

It was during the Covid quarantine that (after many meditation sessions) I decided I should not compare how I look now to what I used to look. My breasts were not the enemy – they were the part of my body that saved my life. Once I transformed the negative thoughts I had into more positive ones, I realised that I should be proud of those scars and radiation tattoos. They will always be there to remind me that I won this battle. My breasts are a symbol of femininity because femininity is an empowering notion, synonymous with strength, resilience and bravery. And I have demonstrated all of these throughout this journey.

So today, when I look at myself in the mirror, I appreciate what I see. I see a survivor who is happy with how she looks in low cleavage tops!

Annita Ventouris, PhD is a senior lecturer at the University of Hertfordshire. She holds a PhD in psychology from UCL.

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