NPOAS sat down with “Flat as a Pancake: My Story of Breast Deconstruction, How I Lost My Boobs And Found Myself” author Lisa Konstadt to learn more about her and her memoir.
“Lisa Konstadt was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 44 years old. She had to make decisions quickly. Would she have a mastectomy? Would she have reconstructive surgery? How would she make these decisions when she had spent a lifetime struggling with codependency and detached from her inner voice?”
Tell us why you decided to write a book about your experience.
Twelve years ago, I stood in Barnes and Noble searching for a book to give me more information about choosing to say “no” to reconstructive surgery. I couldn’t find a single book. I knew that if I couldn’t find a book, other women couldn’t either. I decided in that moment that I would have to write one. Later, as I encountered doctors trying to convince me that I should reconstruct, I knew with more conviction that the book had to be written to support the women who I knew must be facing a similar situation. Later still, when I started hearing other women’s stories on Facebook about being pressured into reconstructing out of fear, that was it for me! The book HAD to be written.
What was it like for you writing the book? Cathartic? Traumatic? Both?
I would say that writing the book was more cathartic than traumatic. I had all these strong feelings inside me that I wanted to convey: Feelings of anger at being told I was going to suffer mental health issues if I didn’t reconstruct, feelings of sadness about losing my breasts, feelings of exhaustion from the experience, feelings of anxiety about cancer. Writing about these feelings gave me an outlet and a way to express myself. I also had many questions: Why was I able to say “no”? Why was I able to face the fear? How was I certain that I would be okay living without breasts? These questions required that I dig deeply into my past to discover how my experiences had led me to my current experience. Using my cancer experiences as a road map I retraced my past experiences from childhood – present and this was highly cathartic to say the least.
What do you hope people take away from reading your book?
I hope that people who read my book can relate to some part of it, whether they have had cancer or not. My themes are universal I think, themes of body image, co-dependency, finding and listening to your inner voice. I hope that I can let women know that happiness comes from within and that they need to listen to their gut in the face of people who may challenge their decisions. I am not advocating for any one decision. I am advocating for women to listen to their inner voice and make their decisions based on that. We are working hard to change the way doctors talk to women about reconstructive options and progress is being made. However, there are always going to be those doctors who tell women that they will feel less than without breasts. I hope my book can help women know that no other person gets to dictate how you will feel. Only you are able to decide that. I also hope that my words are words women can come back to again and again when they feel they need encouragement and support in remembering how badass they are.
Can you share your favorite part of the book with us?
That is a difficult question! There are so many parts I love for different reasons. If I had to pick, I would say the final Dear Reader letter is one part I like to read again and again. This is the final shot of strength! The final push to believe in yourself. I find it inspirational to read because it includes my list of the things that make me feel “whole”. Reading this list reminds me that I am more than this body and that my sense of wholeness comes from experiences outside myself which in turn create feelings of bliss inside. I also like this part because it reminds me that each experience I have had in my life, good or bad, happy or sad, connects with another experience and another and another. This helps me feel a thread of connection between everything and provides me with a framework to view the difficult times.
Any parting thoughts?
Yes! Pay attention to that little gnawing feeling in your gut. It’s trying to tell you something. Try to hear it. Don’t keep pushing it down and ignoring it. You are here to live authentically and be you. There is no other you in the entire world. Breasts or not, you are still you. Find peaceful moments every day. Pay attention to the feelings of bliss and happiness that arise when you are doing certain things and know that this is your list of what makes you feel whole. Also, no one can tell you how you will feel if you decide against reconstruction, no one knows. You won’t even know 100 percent because you can’t. You will have to decide ahead of time that you will be okay and you will have to jump into the unknown and the fear and embrace the possibility of strong emotions knowing that they will pass eventually if you focus on what truly makes you, you. Peace and happiness to you all.