Going Flat
In our new portrait series, we capture the beauty of the New Cancer Community.

Written and Photographed by Sarah Bell

According to data from the 2014 American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program, 46 percent of people undergoing a mastectomy for invasive breast cancer opted out of reconstruction surgery. This choice is referred to as “going flat” or “living flat.” Post-treatment stigma may make many women desire implants, but going flat is a valid option and lessens the chances of further complications down the road. “Aesthetic flat closure,” is the post-mastectomy reconstruction of the chest wall. The women photo graphed for this project explained how it has been a challenge to learn to make peace and love their new bodies. For some, posing for this project has been part of that process.

LAURA ZENKER was diagnosed in 2018, and though she lives with pain, she is grateful to be alive. “Your breasts don’t make you feminine,” she says. “I am a woman, I will always be a woman.”

After her diagnosis and surgery, KATHY CONWAY started Complete Shaping for a more comfortable way to wear lightweight prosthetics after going flat.

I am only a couple years out from treatment so I am still making peace with my body,” admits RHONDA CAUDILL, who was diagnosed in 2017. “I need to do more to regain my self-esteem and feel free to live in my body again, as is.”

GINGER EUBANK was diagnosed in 2015 and is halfway through a tattoo chest piece she is getting to honor her scars.

KELLY CRAMER discovered she had breast cancer when breastfeeding her baby in 2016. “I want women to stick up for themselves more,” she says. “It is a matter of life and death.”

Diagnosed in 2018, AMANDA BARRETT wants to normalize living flat. Her doctor, Dr. Karen Tisinai at Union Hospital, only performs mastectomies, no reconstructions


Coping Strategies & Techniques

Helping All of Us

Malecare provides support services for people with prostate cancer, but their programs for underserved communities are what make this nonprofit stand out from the rest.

Read More »
(Y)our Stories

Saying Yes to Life

Bridal shop owner Lori Allen had it all, including two successful TV shows, a strong marriage and loving children. But it took a breast cancer diagnosis for her to finally care for the most important thing of all—herself.

Read More »
greek mesothelioma
Guidance From Experts & Survivors

A Hidden Burden

Mesothelioma lawyer Nicholas Vogelzang explores the ramifications the disease can have on unsuspecting populations around the globe.

Read More »
Dr Diane Reidy-Lagunes
(Y)our Stories

Tuning In to Hope

Dr. Diane Reidy-Lagunes of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center combines her training as an oncologist and her passion for helping others by hosting the informative and inspirational “Cancer Straight Talk” podcast.

Read More »