“Tina’s Blow” is written by Tina Martel, Alembika Guest Author and a breast cancer survivor, living life flat and promoting body positivity through fashion.

I am flat. I am completely without breasts. I am the woman you see at the grocery checkout, the coffee shop or the bank. I am your teacher, your doctor, your investment banker or your pastor. We walk silently among you everyday. You probably don’t notice. Or you might think to yourself that it is a bit odd, but mostly, you don’t notice. Unless you are, like me, one of them. And even then, it is not like we have a secret “flattie” handshake.

I am a two time breast cancer survivor who made the decision to have a double mastectomy. (DMX). What makes me unique, is not that I am 1 in 8 women who will have breast cancer, and not that I chose to have a mastectomy or even that I made the decision not to have reconstruction. It is that I refuse to be quiet about it. I am claiming my body, my self worth and saying I am no less a woman.

How did I make this decision and why do so many women choose flat? I have seen statistics that put the number as high as 40%, depending on location. And yet, even with numbers that high, the images we see are happy, shiny women with their brand new flawless breasts. After all, cancer is the perfect opportunity to get new ones. Better ones. Safe ones. Ones that don’t try to kill you. Except when they do.

My choices after making the decision to have the DMX were pretty limited. I could recreate new ones with the excess body fat that I possessed. The plastic surgeon, on seeing me for the first time, said “I might be able to make one?” Never really knowing when to stay quiet I chirped up “Do I pick my favourite one?” She simply stared at me blankly. It didn’t get any better when I enthusiastically added “Ooh, could I have one in the middle”? She started to slide towards the door, ending my appointment. 

My next stop was the oncology breast surgeon who said “Your only choice will be implants.” Now it’s my turn to look blank. Are they safe? Of course he reassured me. Perfectly. Except that I have already been on the internet and I belong to multiple social media groups of women who have been harmed by reconstructions and implants. The damage done to many of them; unskilled surgeons, surgeons who deliberately make a contrary decision in surgery of leaving extra skin for when you change your mind, (because we don’t really know what we want) multiple incidents of Breast Implant Illness, multiple surgeries in the search for perfection and even cancer caused by the implants is something I don’t wish to put myself through. I have come in with my file of images courtesy of these sites because I want what is called an aesthetic flat closure (AFC). The cancer and breast tissue is removed, followed by a neat flat incision. He looked confused. “You won’t be happy without breasts. Women aren’t”. Did you just mansplain to me how I feel about my body?

We live in a breast obsessed society. Where such surgeries are routinely done at almost any age past 16. Because we need enhancement. We are never enough. At breast cancer walks the t-shirts scream save the tatas or save second base. Where are the ones that say save the woman? We have been reduced to saving a part of us that has a biological function but is far more praised for its sexual nature. If I have them removed I am flying in the face of everything that society is telling me. They define my essence. Except they don’t. 

This is where I, and other flat advocates, come in. We are sharing information about the process, images of good and bad results, even a list of surgeons who have given us good outcomes. We share our images publicly, sometimes to great acclaim and sometimes to derision. It doesn’t matter. Women need to understand. Society needs to understand. Being a woman is not one part. It is a whole. A beautiful package. We are not less without.

You can follow Tina on Instagram @not_in_the_pink_ or order her book, Not in the Pink.

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  1. Beautifully said. I come from a family of breast cancer and breast cancer survirors. My grand mother, only auntie, her only daughter ( unfortunately she chose to not be treated and left us too soon), My mumm later in life and again just last week at 90! As a Radiologic Technologist who images breasts for a large portion of my career, I am so very encouraged and even proud when I hear stories, written personalities that capture what real life is about. Early detection saves lives. 30 years ago over a third of my patients imagged were missing one breast due to cancer. Today very, very few. We cannot make decisions for our patients but living without breasts is more than survival, it is life. Trying to make do and fix the appearance when you have only one breast is a full time job. Bravo Darling Sister for going natural, AND sharing your beautiful self and testimony. May this new year bring more days to your life and LIFE to your days. Thanks for your genuine life. GayleJideofor R.T.(R)(M) USA

  2. As a breast cancer survivor twice, I had a double mastectomy the hard way – one breast at a time! Living with one breast was a constant battle of keeping up appearances. I hated it. I called it “flat and flappy”. Then the other shoe dropped 14 years later and I got breast cancer in my remaining breast. What I remember most was the kindness of the radiologist sitting with me after my tests and after the clinic was quiet and everyone had gone home except him, me, and my poor husband waiting in the lobby. “I just want my breast gone,” I said. “I don’t want breasts anymore.” “We can do that,” he replied. “Life can be good.” And I haven’t looked back. Life is good as a flattie!

    1. This was my best path forward. I’m glad you are doing well! And I love your husband’s response. “We can do that!”

  3. Thank you, Tina, for bringing light to this group of sisters who are all around us and yet unknown and unseen by most. My single mastectomy was just six months ago and before that, even though I had breast cancer once previously, I was oblivious to the concept of going flat. It is beautiful spirits like you who are pioneering a shift in mindset for both cancer survivors and the medical community. By putting yourself out there in words and images, you machete down a path of obstacles that others, like me, can follow and help to trample with you. You are appreciated and esteemed.

    1. Thank you so much for all of that. I wish you the best!

  4. It is because of women like you who bravely and boldly share your stories that I had the courage to go flat. When I was diagnosed in May I knew I wanted a double mastectomy because I needed to know I did everything I could this time around. However the idea of flat was terrifying. My husband came around to the idea before me saying “if the goal is to get rid of everything why would you put something in that could cause issues later on”. I knew he was right but I wasn’t happy about it. Part of my issue was I had no concept of what flat meant. I couldn’t even visualize life without breasts. It is those like you who shared stories and photos who helped me understand what flat life was. My surgery was in June and I knew I made the only right choice for me. Thank you for helping normalize flat.

    1. Thank you Michelle! This is not an easy place we find ourselves in. We need to be better at educating women to make informed choices.

  5. Dear Tina,
    BRAVA! You are inspiring and a beautiful human being. Your decision is your own; brave and positive. . . and by the way, you look amazing in Alembika polkadots!
    Still dancing,

    1. Love the polka dots!!!

  6. Tina, you are an inspiration! I began my breast cancer “adventure” in May 2023. I told the doctors that it was not on my To Do list! It was caught early on a routine mammogram screening and it was small. I felt very lucky. Two surgeries and 16 radiation treatments later I am on my road to recovery. I know women who won’t talk about it and don’t tell anybody about their breast cancer. I feel just the opposite. I tell both women and men so that they know that they, or the women in their lives , must get screened. Once I knew I had it, I attacked and did what had to be done to move forward. We all have so much to live for. If I had been told that a mastectomy was necessary I would have done that too!

    1. We do what we have to in order to make it through. It’s not easy. We need a cure….

  7. Jean @idiosyncraticfashionistas

    Tina, you are a true warrior and your weapon is information. Investigating the topic, learning the risks gives you a foundation for questioning your healthcare team and choosing your options wisely. Brava!

    1. My oncologist told me his patients who take an active role in learning what their options can be do much better that those who don’t. For me I had to investigate everything. I did not have control over much but this I could do.

  8. […] Tina’s other blog “Tina’s Blow” and our spotlight “Meet Tina […]

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