SurvivorshipBreast Cancer

Cancer Took My Breasts and Gave Me Self-Acceptance

Bethany Sell takes us through her thought process after learning she would have to lose her breasts to cancer, as she grapples with wishing to look “normal” but learning to embrace her new look.
April 2021 Vol 7 No 2
Bethany Sell
Cedar Lake, Indiana

As a woman, it was a lot to process when I found out I was losing my breasts to cancer. Besides the shock of having to undergo major surgery, I was overwhelmed by the amount of decision-making ahead.

Looking “Normal”

The first thing I had to decide was whether I wanted to reconstruct the shape of the breasts after they removed the cancer. It was a decision I did not take lightly, because I knew it would impact how I felt as a woman, but at the same time, I hated the idea of multiple surgeries, complications, and risks involved just so that I could look more “normal” again.

While trying to figure out what I wanted to do, I came across a picture of a beautiful survivor who had decided to go “flat,” and there was something about her photo that emanated resilience, power, and bravery.

Accept Yourself

I also discovered online groups of women who boldly shared their stories of going flat after mastectomy, and I was amazed at their fearlessness in the face of this life-altering change. Seeing them proudly accept their new bodies gave me so much hope—I wanted to own my scars with as much confidence as them.

I decided then and there that if I went flat, the only choice left was to fully accept myself, exactly as I am, without wanting to change a single thing. I would go forward with my decision boldly, without shame, rocking that fearless confidence I saw in those women who had inspired me to go flat.

Be Who You Are

Now, as a woman living outside the “normal” standards of beauty, I want to empower people to be who you are. To take your biggest insecurity and fully embrace it as a beautiful part of you that makes you unique.

I openly share my scars and my story, to help others feel that they can go through life-changing difficulties and come out the other side more confident and resilient than ever.

I hope to inspire others to own their journey and find their inner resilience and power.

Share this:

Recommended For You
Breast CancerCONQUER CamFamily MembersPatient Stories
CONQUER Cam: A Spotlight on Sara Olsher
By Sara Olsher
Sara Olsher was diagnosed with breast cancer at 34 years old. Explaining her diagnosis to her 6-year-old daughter and parenting through her treatment proved to be difficult. To help families like hers, Sara founded Mighty + Bright, which provides resources for families going through hard times, and wrote and illustrated the children’s book, “Someone I Love Has Cancer.”
Stress ManagementSurvivorship
Mindset and Cancer: Reducing Stress, Promoting a Healthy Lifestyle
By Meg Cadoux Hirshberg
Meg Cadoux Hirshberg, co-founder of the Anticancer Lifestyle Program that promotes mindful living, describes different stress-reduction techniques, types of meditation, and other practical tools used for stress reduction.
The Birth of the Cancer Survivorship Movement
By Judy Pearson
Judy Pearson offers a compelling and inspiring historical perspective of the formation of the cancer survivorship movement in the United States, and what this means to cancer survivors today.
Kidney CancerSurvivorship
A Review of Kidney Cancer and Encouragement Toward Empowered Survivorship
By Carly Gerretsen, DNP, RN, FNP-C, RNFA
Carly Gerretsen, DNP, RN, FNP-C, RNFA, provides an overview of kidney cancer, explaining the various stages of a kidney cancer diagnosis, symptoms, treatment options, caregiver’s assistance, and stress management advice.
Last modified: April 26, 2021

Subscribe to CONQUER: the patient voice magazine

Receive timely cancer news & updates, patient stories, and more.

Race or Ethnicity
Profession or Role
Primary Interest