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A Goodbye Letter to my Breasts

by Marloe Esch RN, BSN, OCNSurvivorDecember 16, 2019View more posts from Marloe Esch RN, BSN, OCN

Dearest Breasts,

Well girls, what can I say?

I guess I owe you an apology.  I’m sorry it took me so damn long to love you for what you were.

Remember when I was little, and I ran around with balled up napkins and water balloons under my shirt?  And then, in middle school, I got so impatient for your arrival that I improvised for a few years.  Oh, how I waited, and waited, and waited for you guys to make your appearance!  But even when you finally came around, I was always sort of holding out hope for just a little more of you…

My proud feminist heart now aches for that girl – the one who fell prey to all those bullsh*t messages about what beauty is supposed to be, those stupid unattainable expectations that made me feel like you weren’t enough.  I realize now, of course, that you were perfect for me.  I never meant to make you feel inadequate.  I guess I just didn’t understand yet that cleavage isn’t the defining characteristic of what it means to be pretty, or loveable, or even sexy.  And anyways, if I hadn’t come to that conclusion at this point in my life, I think this whole cutting-off-my-boobs-for-cancer business would probably be the defining moment of recognition that there’s a lot more to being a strong, fierce, beautiful woman than a couple of mammary glands.

Although, I suppose, even if you don’t define me, you are still a part of me.  And there will probably be times in the future where I’ll really wish you were still, you know, hanging around.  Like, for example, if I ever end up growing some Esch kiddos that are gonna need to get fed.  I mean, isn’t that what you were made to do?  Breastfeeding seems totally amazing!  I sort of always pictured myself absolutely loving to breastfeed.  All that oxytocin and baby bonding, blah blah blah.  Seriously though, couldn’t you have waited to develop cancer until after you at least did the job you were meant to do for the continuation of our species?  You suck.

I’m sorry you’ll never have a chance to sag.  I’d like to think of saggy boobs as a sign of a good, long, well-lived life.  Reminds me of an elderly woman I was helping get dressed at work a while back, who systematically picked each breast up off her abdomen and placed it in the corresponding bra cup.  She had a rose tattoo on one, and it had stretched over the years with the sag of her breasts.  She told me matter-of-factly that “it might be a long-stem rose now, but it wasn’t when I got it!” and then laughed at her own joke.  She and that rose have probably had a lot of good times together.  It’s sort of depressing that I’ll never get the chance to grow a long stem rose with you.  Maybe you also would have grown some nipple hairs in your old age?  Now we’ll never know.

Don’t forget that I tried to save you by choosing a lumpectomy and radiation.  I really wish that would have been the end of it.  But after testing the tumor, they said chemotherapy was necessary if I wanted to be sure all microscopic cancer cells were executed.  And then halfway through chemo?  They said I should really consider getting rid of you if I didn’t want to get another breast cancer and go through all of this all over again.  Apparently, if I keep you around, it isn’t so much a matter of if I’ll get diagnosed again, but when.  And next time it might be in my lymph nodes, or liver, or lungs, or bone, or brain.   If I let you do that, what kind wife, daughter, sister, oncology nurse would I be?  A stupid one, that’s what.   I love you, but not enough to risk it.

So, I guess this is good-bye.  If you hadn’t tried to kill me, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.  I mean, I get that it’s not all your fault – we can blame the gene mutation I inherited, I suppose.  I guess we didn’t really have a chance.  Well, it’s been fun, and we’ve had some good times.  (Remember all those free drinks we got in college?  Those were the days!) You taught me a lot, but it’s over.  We’re through.  I’m moving on without you.  I hope you understand.

And just so you know – I will never, ever, love my new boobs as much as I loved you.

Very sincerely yours,



All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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