Welcome breast cancer sisters, family and friends. We hope to make this chapter of your life a little easier, treatment less difficult, help families cope, provide inspiration and guide you to a new place of strength and purpose.

How is Your Decollete?

“Judith” by Gustav Klimt

Did you know if you lie on your side, chest muscles and gravity can form creases in your décolleté while you sleep? Did you know women use Botox, dermabrasion and retinol to lessen the wrinkles in their décolleté? Or, how about décolleté harnesses that force your breasts to stay in place while you sleep, thereby keeping these unsightly vertical lines from forming in the first place? Do you even know what décolleté is? The International Federation of Associations of Anatomists calls it intermammary sulcus or intermammary cleft. Aren’t you glad they cleared that up? For those of you still in the dark, these are all terms for what most of us call cleavage.

It’s interesting to learn lots of women are concerned about wrinkled cleavage. Others are equally worried about scars left by their chemo port. To me, my chemo port scar is my “badge of courage” and wrinkled cleavage, a sign of aging, will be a gift I’ve been given because I’m still here. If we think about it, both are badges of courage, for if you’re old enough to have wrinkled décolleté, you’ve probably endured your fair share of heartache and grief.

Décolletage is a French word derived from décolleter which means “without a collar, or to reveal the neck.” Décolleté is the part of a woman’s body between her waist and her neck, but more often it refers to her cleavage. In the late Middle Ages, women’s clothing commonly revealed their cleavage. During the Renaissance, a woman’s bare legs and ankles were considered to be risqué, yet an open display of her décolleté was regarded as a sign of beauty, wealth and social position. I wonder what heiresses with small breasts and little cleavage used as status symbols? Poor things. They probably had to settle for diamonds.

Recently I spoke to a woman who’s breast reconstruction surgery left her cleavage more than an inch off-center. I’ve heard of implants that ripple, dimple and leak; reconstructed breasts that are too big, too small and too droopy, and in my case, an implant that dropped halfway between where it should have been and my navel, but I’d never heard of cleavage that was in the wrong place. When I asked her if she was going to do anything about it, she said, “Yes. I’m going to sue the son-of-a-(bad boob job).”

There’s no doubt a cancer diagnosis and the ensuing fear, treatment and the effect on family and friends, is one of the most traumatic things anyone can go through, but at what point do we let it go and get on with our lives? At what point do we say I’ve had enough chemo, radiation, breast cancer surgeries and reconstruction revisions? I don’t know what I would do if my cleavage wound up off-center, but I do know a lawsuit would bring even more trauma along with attorney fees not covered by insurance.

I believe women are the stronger sex, maybe not in pounds lifted, but in sheer grit and survivorship. We have survived giving birth in caves, covered wagons and third world unsanitary hovels; we’ve put up with sexual, educational and job discrimination, plus we’ve endured emotional and physical abuse because it was the only way to feed ourselves and our children. In some countries, women are bought and sold like goats; they’re victims of mass rape, clitoridectomies and are prevented from getting an education.

I hate aging just as much as the next woman, but surely living our lives so we remain cancer free is more important than Botox, lawsuits and repeated reconstruction surgeries in search of perfection. We weren’t perfect to begin with, so don’t let breast cancer focus our self-image onto our mammary glands instead of our strength, intelligence and determination. Getting older is not for the faint of heart. It takes guts and resilience to survive and bounce back from all the things life puts in our path.

Speaking of Botox, on my recent trip to New York, I learned some Hollywood celebrities get the bottom of their feet Botoxed before red carpet events so they aren’t seen hobbling before the cameras in their Jimmy Choos. Harnesses, Botox and more surgeries! Shouldn’t we be grateful to have two working feet and cancer free breasts?