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