October has been designated as breast cancer awareness month. Many breast cancer survivors have come to know the month as the dreaded “Pinktober.” While pinking things up is meant to raise breast cancer awareness, it often sparks mixed feelings among those who’ve felt the effects of breast cancer. In conjunction with breast cancer awareness month, a campaign called “National No Bra Day,” began in 2011. According to a news article, published by ABC7, “People are encouraged to ditch their lingerie to raise awareness about the disease, raise money for research, and to support survivors.” The social media campaign purports freeing the breasts as a fun way to bring awareness to the need for annual mammograms and testing to prevent breast cancer. But does it really? As a breast cancer survivor, I’d like to give you my perspective.
When I was a young girl, I couldn’t wait to get my first bra. At the first sign of breast buds, my mother purchased a training bra for me. That lacy little slip of fabric made me feel feminine. As I developed, I graduated from a training bra into a real bra with cups. My breasts were prized possessions. They were not only ornamental, but functional. At 19, when I had my first child, my breasts provided nourishment. At the age of 40, I had my first mammogram, a necessary preventative test. At 56, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had both breasts removed. Since I opted for no reconstruction, I was forced to wear a bra containing two silicone prostheses. These man-made breast forms gave me the semblance of womanhood. Without them, my chest looked pre-pubescently flat. Some days I choose to wear my prostheses and some days I don’t. When I need to “look normal” in public, I wear a bra and prostheses. When I am home or around loved ones, I go without these items. Prostheses are heavy and uncomfortable but in order to “fit in” I need to wear them. And that’s why National No Bra day bothers me.
I don’t understand how taking off your bra for a day does anything to raise awareness for breast cancer. The only thing I think it really does is give men something to ogle over and give women something to giggle about. For those of us who’ve experienced major surgery to remove our breasts, bras have become a necessary evil. It’s difficult to wear prostheses without a bra and socially unacceptable to be a flat chested woman. Where does that leave us? I don’t want to seem overly sensitive to a fun filled social media holiday, but I just don’t get it. What’s the point in going bra-less? And how are funds raised when you remove your lingerie?
So please excuse me if I don’t participate in this year’s festivities. I find it offensive that men and women flippantly consider such a silly way of raising awareness for breast cancer. If people really wanted to gain understanding and awareness, I propose we declare a National Bare Chest Day where men and women who’ve been through breast cancer could share their battle wounds by making their scars visible for all to see. Perhaps then more people would take breast cancer seriously and the National No Bra Day would become a thing of the past.
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