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BEACON Senior News

Flatties on the Flat top

Oct 03, 2022 02:56PM ● By Lisa Lowdermilk

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is overwhelming. In addition to the initial shock that accompanies any cancer diagnosis, breast cancer patients face an additional burden: deciding whether to pursue reconstruction. 

For many patients, the choice to undergo reconstruction seems easy enough at first glance. Doctors offer reconstruction in part to cover up the scarring associated with mastectomies, and that is still the route most patients take.

But the reality of reconstruction is far more complicated than many doctors would have us believe. In addition to a variety of health risks associated with reconstruction, including lymphatic cancers and autoimmune disorders, chronic pain is an all too common side effect. To avoid these complications, 25 percent of breast cancer survivors opt to forgo reconstruction. 

Flatties gather in a spirit of joy and camaraderie, thriving and surviving after breast cancer. This month, they will rally in Cedaredge, Colorado on the world's largest flat top mountain—Grand Mesa.

 

FLAT OUT LOVE

There is support for these women, who affectionately call themselves “flatties,” to feel comfortable in their own skin. 

Flat Out Love is a community of flatties on Facebook with the mission to ensure all flatties feel beautiful and whole again. 

Members hail from all over the world, including Australia, Africa, Canada and Mexico. The common thread tying them together is a sense of camaraderie, with gratitude for everything life has to offer. 

“I wouldn’t give my cancer back for anything,” said Lissa Sears, 48, of Indianapolis. “My life has changed so much for the better.”

Sears, who has multiple sclerosis, opted to go flat because of the health risks associated with reconstruction. Before her breast cancer diagnosis, she worked in window sales. Now she’s a stand-up comic and works as an actress.

“Everyone knows the saying, ‘You only live once,’ but the truth is, you only die once. You live every day. Take all the chances and live to the fullest!” said Sears.

Nancy Brisk of Colorado Springs shares Sears’ sense of gratitude following her decision to go flat. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2009, she underwent a double mastectomy with implants in January 2010. Eight surgeries later, she opted to have them removed in August 2020, citing excruciating pain and decreased quality of life. 

“I was in pain 24/7 for three years,” Brisk, 65, said. “I couldn’t even bend down to clean, it was so painful.” 

Despite all she’s been through, Brisk insisted it could have been much worse. Some patients suffer post-mastectomy injuries that can only be described as mutilation. The open-minded members of Flat Out Love understand the merits of reconstruction and why a woman would make that choice, even if they didn’t. 

“I’m not against implants or prosthetics. My problem is that doctors don’t always give patients the option to go flat,” said Sears. “Doctors—both male and female—push reconstruction so much because it’s their idea of what a woman should be.” 

Brisk agreed with Sears, advising patients to do their own research. 

“There are a lot of really tough decisions you may have a knee-jerk reaction to,” Brisk said. “Take a step back. I didn’t really do that and think, ‘Why do I want these fake things on my chest?’” 

Gratitude for friendships, health and a new lease on life characterizes gatherings of flatties, an affectionate term for women who opt to forgo reconstruction after a mastectomy.

RETREAT & RALLY

For International Flat Day on October 7, Sears and Brisk are helping organize the biggest get-together for flatties on the biggest flat top mountain in the world. 

The Grace Project, an empowering photographic project that captures the courage, beauty and grace of those who have had mastectomy surgery as a result of breast cancer, will be present during the retreat on the Grand Mesa in Cedaredge on October 6-9. 

Attendees will be treated to a variety of fun activities, but most importantly, attendees can connect in person with other flatties from around the world in joyful gratitude for the new lease on life they’ve been given and all the possibilities that await them. 

Flat Out Love on Facebook

Only flatties are permitted to join the group to ensure all members feel safe expressing themselves. 



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