None of us would ever know how we’d deal with a high risk of breast cancer, but this one is new to us: a woman from Leicestershire commemorated her double mastectomy and subsequent breast replacement treatment by throwing not one but two parties.
Sally Chapman, a teacher from Hinckley, was diagnosed as a carrier of BRCA back in 2012 – and after going through the family history and discovering that eleven of her grandmother’s siblings had died of cancer, decided to undergo a double mastectomy in 2015. But before doing so, she threw a ‘Goodbye Bad Boobs’ party, with a cake shaped like a pair of breasts, playing pin-the-tassels-on-the-boob, and even hanging a breast-shaped piñata from the ceiling.
‘You’re only as young as you are today’
Beneath the bravado, there was an understandable undertow of trepidation. Sally admitted she didn’t know what to expect. “Because I was young I thought I would have ages to consider my options and didn’t want to worry about it but having BRCA is very serious. I was told by someone going through preventative surgery that ‘You’re only as young as you are today’ which after a time helped me realise I needed to take action.”
And when she finished having breast reconstruction surgery – which included having new nipples constructed from the fat beneath the scar tissue in her breasts – she threw another party to welcome in her new look.
Party politics of a mastectomy
Although throwing a party for a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery isn’t for everyone, we applaud Sally’s decision to do her own thing in order to commemorate a hugely important phase of her life, and to be completely open about her issues. And it’s a reminder that we have come a very long way as a society when it comes to dealing with breast cancer.
There’s nothing new about breast cancer: the first recorded diagnosis goes all the way back to ancient Egypt, but for much of history the ailment was stigmatised to the point where women would rather suffer (and decline) in silence than do anything about it – and even when they did, the theories of the cause ranged from too much (or too little) bile or phlegm, the result of a physical injury, too little (or too much) sexual activity, or even divine punishment.
It wasn’t until the improvement in sanitation (and the corresponding boost in life expectancy) in the 19th Century that breast cancer was taken seriously, but it took the creation of National Breast Cancer Awareness month in the USA in 1985 – and the rise of the Pink Ribbon throughout the globe in the Nineties – to remove the stigma of breast cancer.
Sally is now the CEO of her own trust, which is aiming to raise awareness about the BRCA gene and help women to take control of their health and make informed decisions about their bodies, and is involved in a Leicestershire campaign to help pay the costs of genetic testing for adopted women who have no knowledge of their ancestors’ medical histories. If you’re in the area and you’re concerned about the BRCA gene, get in touch with them.