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By Alanna Kennedy

Cancerblog

Brandy Worrall grapples with her body image as she prepares for reconstructive surgery

By Alanna Kennedy


Brandy WorrallWhen Brandy Worrall was diagnosed in July 2007 with stage III breast cancer, her children were 2 and 3. “It was difficult—they were too young to even know what it was,” she says. “They could only understand ‘Mama is sick.’ ”

To keep her children from becoming frightened as her body changed, Worrall, now 33, looked for creative ways to ease their fears. As her hair was falling out from chemotherapy, she let her kids cut her hair. “I tried to do things in a fun and positive way to help them feel involved,” she explains.

Worrall used the treatment and recovery processes to teach her children to develop positive body images. But when she was making decisions about her reconstructive surgery, Worrall faced some body-image issues of her own.


12 DAYS AND COUNTING
Friday, Jan. 30, 2009

It’s only 12 days until I get boobs, again. This isn’t like the first time I got boobs, when I was about 14 years old (late bloomer), praying to God every night … to give me boobs … so the junior high ridicule would stop. ...

For all that anxiety and work and concentration, all I ended up with were barely-B’s? Well, beggars can’t be choosers, so they say. But this time, I get some choice.

I met with my plastic surgeon a week and a bit ago. … She said that full B/small C cup would probably be the way to go. For some reason, I felt bashful and didn’t pipe up that perhaps I wanted to go up a size or so. ... I don’t know why I felt like I didn’t have a say in this; it wasn’t the way the doc was acting or anything. I think it was just some weird thing of mine. …

So I sheepishly sent the doc this e-mail from my iPhone:

  Hello Dr. __:
I was just in to see you this morning concerning my surgery scheduled for February 11th. You had talked about giving me saline implants to make me a full B/small C cup. I was giving this some more thought, and I was wondering if I could get more volume to make me a full/bigger C/small D? I just keep hearing my girlfriends say in my head, "Go for the gusto!"

… A few days later, I got this reply:

  Brandy, No problem. Dr. ___ has ordered you bigger implants.
Sincerely,
Ms. Assistant

So I’m like, great, big boobs! But a part of me was a little weirded out that the size of my boobs was just decided over e-mail, just like that. …

And here’s some other weirdness ... I thought of how Chloe and Mylo have gotten used to my nippleless chest, with the big scars and mottled tissue. I think it’s kind of cool how that’s their normative view of the female body, but I guess I’m just going to go back to being the stereotype in less than two weeks. As much as I enjoy the radical feminist notion that I had a chance to subvert the female body ideal, I pretty much have grown up with that ideal and desire to achieve it if I am able to. That admission makes me kind of sick, but I have to acknowledge that. But I’m still grateful in a way that I exposed my children to my body image issues rather than hid it from them, and that we were able to communicate about it. …


To read more of Worrall’s blog, Brandy’s Cancer Bash, please visit brandylienworrall.blogspot.com


To recommend a blog for CR’s Cancerblog column, send an e-mail to Kennedy@CRmagazine.org.

 

(photo credit: Brandy Worrall)