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Too Young to be Breast Less

Too young to be breast less: Photo by David Cohen on Unsplash

Photo by David Cohen on Unsplash

This is a re-post of a raw, open and honest article written by Jennifer Van Dusen on April 26, 2017 on her Young and Breastless blog...

Today is the day I have to start accepting that I will no longer live my life with breasts. It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be. But at least I now I have something meaningful to blog about.

There is obviously a story behind all this, I’ll keep it as simple as I can. In December 2015 I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 37. On February 2, 2016 I had a double mastectomy – left breast cancer, right breast prophylactic – with skin sparing expanders placed. On February 6, 2017 I had surgery to swap out the expanders and replace them with silicone implants. By February 10th something was wrong and on February 24th I went into surgery because I had necrotized tissue and a staph infection. I was losing my left breast, again.

So there it is, I should be a pro at having my body cut into. Watching it change by no request of my own. I have felt empowered by some of these surgeries, like I got you cancer, you want to attack my breasts, watch how I fight back! And with the infection, I was so drained and tired and feeling so much pain I was like, get this thing out of me.

Now it’s back to reality. Time to deal with the battle ground. Left on my chest is a deep cancerous valley and a beautiful, round, voluptuous hill. In the real world you can fill a valley with all the dirt and rock you want and make a matching hill. In my world I’m left with a very tired body, damaged radiated tissue and 4 options that all suck.

At my first meeting with my plastic surgeon to confirm that the staph infection was gone and to arrange to get the pesky PICC line removed, we quickly discussed my options to deal with what has become of my body:

  1. leave everything as is
  2. Lattisimus Dorsi Flap surgery (moving muscle, fat and tissue from my shoulder to build a boob)
  3. Transverse Rectus Abdominis surgery (muscle in your lower abdomen between your waist and your pubic bone)
  4. removing the right implant (going “flat”)

I’ll quickly explain why I don’t like any of these options.

  1. um…. do I need to explain? I can’t stand to be ‘uneven’ and it’s not me to wear a prosthetic.
  2. I can’t stomach the thought of cutting up a perfectly healthy part of my body – that will never really recover, the muscle will not grow back – to build a boob.
  3. Same as above. And on top of it, this isn’t a surgery my doctor performs so it means developing another relationship with another doctor after a year and a half of many doctors.
  4. only option left

Life has generally taught me you don’t like your options? Find another.

I’ve made a start, reached out to some contacts I have at local hospitals. I’ve started this blog. I’m going to meet my surgeon to discuss options this afternoon (this is where I have to tell you I crossed my fingers when I woke up and will keep them this way till I see him) and make a plan. And I’m working on acceptance.

I’ll let you know how it works out.

Jennifer Van Dusen

Jennifer Van Dusen is a 30-something breast cancer champion who loves her husband, fur-kids, shopping, reading, and public speaking. She started blogging as a way to navigate her way through reconstruction and the long-term effects of surviving cancer. Having cancer has taught her to live each day to the fullest, to appreciate the moment, and do what she can to help others and her community.   

Please check out her blog:






  • Colleen

    Marilyn, yes Jennifer is a strong, beautiful, and amazingly resilient young woman. My new pant is named in her honour, the “Jenn” pant. You will see more of her as she was one of the models at our photoshoot on Friday. And you will hear more of her story in upcoming blog posts.

  • Marilyn Cook

    Very emotional newsletter, but it definitely sounds like Jennifer is a strong young woman who is moving forward with a plan. I look forward to following her story.

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