I wasn’t prepared for how painful it would be for me to be the one to hear of a woman’s experience, while it was still so raw for her. While it breaks my heart, knowing this happens motivates me to do the work to try to keep it from continuing to happen. Here’s Shelly’s story, with photos at the bottom:
I am 5 Days post explant [removal of breast implants] and I am so upset that my surgeon left lots of extra skin. It looks like he just took out implants and that’s it. I was wanting to know if I can buy a shirt to support this cause.
I was a ten year survivor when the found LCIS [an abnormal cell growth that increases one’s risk of invasive cancer in the future] in my other breast. I had put up with a sh***y recon job for 10 years and just wore a prosthetic. I thought, ‘OK here is my chance to get everything fixed,’ and now this. I think I am going to go back to my breast surgeon eventually and see if she can fix it. She isn’t a PS– just a surgeon. In the meantime I will heal and let this Dr know that what he has done is unacceptable. I have already had two surgeries in six months so not ready for anything more just yet.
I asked Shelly if I could share her messages. She agreed, and also sent pictures, showing how her chest looks 5 days after surgery, which her surgeon was supposed to remove implants and leave her with a flat result:
6 days post explant:
I am back to work today feel fine except a little sore. Lol. I guess I would rather not show my face at this point but you can use my name.
I was surprised that she was back at work so soon:
I had surgery to explant last Tuesday; he took dressing and drains out Friday and said I could come back to work to day. I guess because I have a desk job.
When I asked her whether he knew she wanted a flat cosmetic outcome :
Yes he knew I was done with trying reconstruction and wanted to be flat. I even asked him to try and eliminate some of my under arm boob lol. So he said he would have to make the incision longer, and I said I didn’t care. He did do that, I believe. He told me to wear a sports bra 24/7 until I see him again so I guess he thinks the skin will tighten up. I am doing what he asked and will be expecting lots of answers when I go back. I wish I had just went back to my breast surgeon I believe she would of done it right, but I guess I thought I should use a plastic surgeon. That was my error. I don’t think they are experienced enough at doing the flat thing. I am in the flat and fabulous group they are wonderful ladies! I have cried off and on since dressing came off. It comes and goes. I feel grossed out when I look at it and disgusted. I guess what I am feeling feels like grief. I am sure it will pass eventually and I will be very mad. I am usually pretty good at speaking my mind. Lol
Our shirt printer is giving us a deal that we are passing along to you. If you order by the end of the day*, Friday, August 10, adult sizes Small-3X and Youth sizes XS-XL are $20 shipped or $15 for pickup at the walk. Shirts will come in the colors and fiber content the printer has available. So… if you want a particular color or fiber content (either 100% cotton or 50/50 cotton/polyester blend), let us know, and we will provide it if it becomes available. We cannot guarantee availability of your preference, and we won’t know what we are getting until we get it.
Registering for the walk? All registrations by the end of the day, Friday August 10 are $5 off. Those who have already registered will also receive this discount!
Use the same form to order t-shirts or register for the walk. Order/register online or print the form and send it to us with your payment. If you are only ordering t-shirts, only answer the questions that apply to t-shirt orders.
If you place your order by the end of the day* (11:59 PM) Friday, August 10, pay only:
$30 $25 per full registration
$20 $15 per lunch-only registration
$20 $15 per t-shirt to be picked up at event
$25 $20 per t-shirt to be delivered
$10 $5 to register for walk only (no lunch/no t-shirt)
$5 $0 Children under 3
*If you are sending your order by mail, please send us an email or Facebook message by the end of the day August 10 to let us know. We have to place our shirt order with the printer then, in order to get the discount we are passing along to you.
Show your support by sharing a photo of you wearing a Not Putting on a Shirt tee, on Facebook or Twitter, on our walk day, Saturday, September 8, 2018.
This is the story of how Kim Bowles, an introverted, but bold, scientist and mother of two toddlers, ended up protesting topless on a sidewalk in Cleveland. This is why you should walk with us on September 8, 2018. (Author: Amanda Newill)
While chemotherapy ravaged her body and she was waiting for her mastectomy, Kim researched her cosmetic options. Many women choose breast reconstruction, but Kim decided to forgo reconstruction and “go flat.” This would allow her to have a single surgery and would minimize recovery time, so she would not miss any more of her babies’ little years. During a long consultation with Dr. Steven Bernard, the plastic surgeon recommended by her breast surgeon, Kim shared pictures of her desired cosmetic result.
She remembers Dr. Bernard saying, “I will make you flat,” and he noted in her record that she wanted “a smooth, flat result.” She believed she was in good hands.
Kim tells of the day she had her mastectomies. “Can you picture this? I’m on the operating table—bald from chemotherapy, with the IV in my arm—and I heard him say, ‘I’ll just leave a little extra in case you change your mind.’ And I said, ‘No! Make it flat! I just want to keep my range of motion….’ And then I conked out….”
At first, everyone tried to reassure her that she had obtained the result that she wanted, which made her question her own eyes—and her mind. Does she look flat to you?
Kim knew it was too late for her. She would have to find a way to live with this result, which she felt was intolerable; or she would have to take more time away from her family (as well as take on more risk and more expense) to have further surgery.
Kim pleaded with Dr. Bernard’s hospital, Cleveland Clinic, to address her concerns, acknowledge what happened, and discipline Dr. Bernard. She reached out to the hospital ombudsman, CEO, chief experience officer, plastic surgery department head, and medical ethics department, and then the state medical board, the Society of Plastic Surgeons, and a malpractice attorney who told her, “The jury will just hear a woman complaining about a cosmetic result, when the doctor saved your life.” [Dr. Bernard, in fact, did not perform any of the lifesaving cancer removal; that was the breast surgeon, who did a fine job. Dr. Bernard’s only job was to make Kim’s chest smooth and flat. And, the core issue of her complaint is patient consent and her right to bodily autonomy, not aesthetics.]
When she couldn’t get results after making countless phone calls and sending myriad letters and emails, Kim protested topless—by herself!—at the CEO’s office at Cleveland Clinic. She took her shirt off again for an entire day on the sidewalk outside of the hospital. From those efforts grew her organization, Not Putting on a Shirt.
Kim’s determination to have her wrong righted—by acknowledgment, apology, and formal change in hospital procedures— continues to grow as she hears story after story of similar things happening to other mastectomy patients, many of them in poor health, due to cancer. Often, they are in their sixties and seventies. Some don’t even live long enough to have a chance to stand up for themselves.
For all of these women, for Kim, and for every mastectomy patient in the future who decides that breast reconstruction isn’t for her, we will walk. Men and women who have never had a personal experience with cancer will walk with women with scarred chests, some of them bare.
We will stand together so that awareness will grow; so that women will get the best information and support possible, before and after surgery; so that medical professionals and institutions will be held accountable when bodily autonomy is violated; and so that patients and surgeons will share decision-making in a way that helps surgeons provide the best care available for each patient.
I’ll finish with Kim’s words: “We have strength in numbers on this. It’s easy to dismiss one woman standing on the street with a sign. It’s much harder to dismiss a group of people supporting each other, walking together. I know we all have very busy lives. My two- and five-year-olds would certainly rather I stay home with them so they can climb on me and scream at me… And I appreciate any time that any of you are willing to give towards this cause. I spoke to a woman last week who had this bait-and-switch happen to her, and she will never be able to get it fixed, because she is stage 4 (terminal) and too weak from ongoing chemotherapy to survive another surgery. Can you imagine? This s*** has to stop.”