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Sisters, Not Twins

sister roses that are not identical

Anyone who has undergone a bilateral mastectomy surgery will most likely understand the meaning of “sisters, not twins”. 

I did not know this phrase, until another friend shared that she was diagnosed with breast cancer. If you have not read 4 Friends in Their 40s yet, click on the link. Here was #5. Taylor, like all of the others, surprisingly did not test positive for any genetic mutation like BRCA. It made me continue to wonder why so many younger women are developing breast cancer….

Taylor reached out in the spring of 2019 announcing her new breast cancer diagnosis and asking for surgery support. Because there seems to be such an increase in reoccurrences, doctors typically recommend a bilateral mastectomy, removing the tissue in both breasts, rather than just a lumpectomy, which requires the removal of the tumor and surrounding cells until margins are clear of cancer. 

When we came together to discuss surgical options, she shared how one doctor remarked, “they’ll look like sisters, but not twins”. Honestly, I was tickled pink over this reconstruction declaration and couldn’t stop giggling over it! Perhaps, it was because it was such a witty way to say “don’t expect plastic surgical miracles”! 

This comment sparked many questions:

  • What percentage of women have identical breasts?
  • Which mastectomy reconstruction is most likely to create twins?
  • How many women end up with identical breasts after surgery?
  • Are we obsessed with bodily symmetry?
  • How many women are truly happy with the way that her breasts look?
  • How does one find a comfortable, sassy bra without underwire to support them?!

Personally, my breasts are not twins and never were. Although they definitely look like sisters,  I was hoping that they would look more like twins after my DIEP Flap reconstruction surgery. The PA made it sounds like they would at least include some perkiness during surgery… but they didn’t. It’s not the end of the world, yet would have been a nice perk after that grueling healing process. 

Another unexpected observation is that my breasts are different in part, because each one was operated on by a different surgeon. Interesting, right? First, the Breast Surgeon removed all breast tissue and cells—that is the hope, at least. Next, the Plastic Surgeon cut the tissue in my abdomen dividing it into two parts: one to fill the left breast pocket and one to fill the right breast pocket. She worked on one side, while another Plastic Surgeon completed the other. I know this, because I could tell that they were quite different as they healed. For instance, part of my right breast scar, like a half moon, healed immediately. The other parts requiring years to look similar.

Initially, I dubbed that guy as the winning surgeon, until I realized that whatever fancy technique he utilized, attached my arm movements directly to the scar, causing it to sink in whenever I lift or move my arm. Not winning. 

Decreased percentages of developing breast cancer is the big win. Breasts sitting like sisters, I suppose, is my consolation prize. Have I accepted exactly the way my breasts rest? As time moves forward, most days, yes. They represent my journey through life and how the whole BRCA experience became the seed for my work Bloom with Bliss.

What is your expectation of how you think your breasts should look? How can you shift that perspective?

Btw, this is the original comparison quote:

“<Eye>Brows are supposed to be sisters, not twins.”