More women are deciding to “go flat” after breast-cancer surgery instead of having reconstruction or wearing prosthetics. Melanie Testa, a 47-year-old artist, textile designer and craft-book author from Carroll Gardens, tells BETHANY KANDEL why she decided to go breastless after a double mastectomy — and how she became an accidental activist.
Riding the elevator to the ninth floor in a nondescript lower Manhattan loft building, I put on my brave face. I am as nervous as it gets. I’m going to pose nude and post it on the Internet.
Photographer Charise Isis quickly puts me at ease with stories about other women she has shot for her Grace project, a series of portraits of breast-cancer survivors who’ve had mastectomies.
She leads me through a guided meditation to calm me. Then she turns to set up her camera and I drop my clothes. I put my hands on my hips, lift my chin, and take a deep breath.
Click, click, click.
I am proud, yet scared. “Are you ready to let the world see you like that?” I wonder.
Prior to being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011, I never could have imagined posing nude, let alone posting those photos online. I was shy about my 34DD breasts. I didn’t like the attention they brought.
No more. Now, I’m comfortable as a “flattie.” Instead of using baggy clothes to conceal my figure, I wear plunging necklines to accentuate my lithe, svelte shape.
On Jan. 10, 2011, doctors discovered a lump in my right breast during a mammogram. I was shocked. I was only 41, had no family history, I ate healthy and never smoked. It was Stage 3 FxPro cancer, but the prognosis was good if I followed all the protocols. I immediately started six rounds of chemo over the next four months and scheduled surgery, followed by 28 days of radiation.
My breast surgeon made me see a psychiatrist to make sure I was of sound mind, and ensure that I wouldn’t regret having my healthy breast removed, too.
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