Jodi Jaecks: Proud Flattopper

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For our first blog post of 2016, we are honored to share the experience of Thrivor Jodi Jaecks, whose courage and leadership have inspired many women to stand tall when faced with a very difficult choice.

Four years and two months ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 45. I was not surprised, as I had found the lump during a self-breast exam. It was an anomaly, and so I felt instant alarm.

My surgeon told me that I had the choice of a less invasive lumpectomy, but I initially felt that my leaning would be toward the more empowered choice of a mastectomy. If choosing a mastectomy, I knew that I would strongly prefer a double mastectomy, as symmetry was very important to me. And if choosing a mastectomy, I would not entertain for a moment the possibility of reconstruction.

Mastectomy was an invasive surgery, and I could not fathom entering into the long, painful, risky process of reconstruction. I also took quite seriously my own temperament, knowing that I would worry about recurrence in general, especially when due for a lifetime of frequent mammograms.

I searched the internet for images of double mastectomy bodies, looking for something that would bolster my deliberation. I was horrified. The torsos presented looked maimed and disfigured, most with faces hidden.

The worn expression that a picture is worth a thousand words still holds weighty truth regarding the impact that an image can have upon us. The photos that empowered me and changed my perception showed a young woman full of life, vigor, joy. She was playing on a beach with her two children, basked in sunshine. She was bare-chested and without breasts, that is to say, she’d had a double mastectomy without reconstruction. Breastless, she exuded fitness, femininity and sexiness through and through. She beamed quiet, yet assured comfort and self-confidence in her body.

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The very instant I gazed upon her images, I was flooded with fortitude that I could do this. I could choose the double mastectomy that I wanted and live an active, happy life in that new body. The profundity of this influence cannot be overstated. Here was a beautiful example brilliantly illustrating something that I could only faintly imagine, because it was completely unfamiliar to me – foreign and unrepresented amongst my experiences in my forty-five years of living.

Forty-five years is nearly half a century, and those years were devoid of any example of what I needed right at that moment: my future, specifically, my future without breasts. I needed a powerful, immediate visual embodiment beyond the short-term duress that I was to endure. This woman was my beacon of what freedom could look like on the other side.
This discussion is both simple and quite complex, both for the individuals involved and for our society. In the years that have passed, the images that I saw online have been replaced with photos of individuals who are deliberately trying to bring to light – by baring their chests – the reality of women who thrive among us. We are, in truth, many. It might seem radical, but it is an important step in human awareness, a repudiation of shame, and a presentation of a new definition: Proud Flattopper™.

Jodi Jaecks has had many careers, but aspires to be a writer, poet and musician. She is currently embracing a moment of pause in life before leaping in new directions that she hopes can induce positive change on the human condition. Find her on Facebook atError! Hyperlink reference not valid..