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With your breasts in mind...

I got a three-page, 42-question questionnaire in the mail the other day from my breast cancer surgeon. It’s about breasts and self-esteem.

I tried to answer it, because it’s the least I could do for the surgeon who saved my life, but I got bogged down trying to wrap my head around some of the questions.

For instance:

“With your breasts in mind, in the past 2 weeks how often have you felt of equal worth to other women?” (None of the time, a little of the time, some of the time, most of the time, all of the time)


Here’s another:

“With your breasts in mind, in the past 2 weeks how often have you felt confident in a social situation?”

Is it just me, or do these questions not make any sense?

They seem wrong on so many levels…conceptually, logically, grammatically, politically. Even just from a purely practical perspective, I can’t think of any social situations in the past two weeks in which I’ve actually had my breasts in mind. Am I supposed to revisit all social situations over the past two weeks and imagine how I would have felt if I’d had my breasts in mind?

I just don’t get it. Do other people keep their breasts in mind all the time?

I’ve tried substituting other things for ‘breasts’ in an effort to better understand the question.

For example: “With your hair in mind, in the past 2 weeks how often have you felt of equal worth to other women?” or “With your mind in mind, in the past 2 weeks how often have you felt confident in a social situation?”

It didn’t help much.

So I tried taking out the quantifying clauses. For example: “With your breasts in mind, do you feel confident in social situations?”

That makes more sense, but I still wouldn’t know how to answer it.

Maybe it’s just me. My brain is still suffering Effexor-withdrawal fogginess. It’s slowly improving, but these are not my finest days.

Yesterday, however, I was at quilting school and I made my first attempt at free-motion quilting. The teacher heaped high praise on me for this doodle on the left. I’m not bragging, I was just pleasantly surprised to be even passably good at anything this week. She also praised my posture, saying I was the only student who didn’t lean into their sewing machine. (I suspect that may have been because I was mildly dizzy from the Effexor withdrawals, so I was trying to keep my balance.) Anyway, it doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s always nice when the teacher praises your work.

GC and I found a dog we like. Her name is Lulu and she’s a giant schnauzer/standard poodle mix. She’s about three years old. We filled out the adoption application and then found out we were too late – someone else was in the process of adopting her. We’d already renamed her Maggie and shown her picture to the other pets and everything. So disappointing. But I’m a firm believer in fate when it comes to finding the right animals. If Maggie’s no longer available, it’s because there’s an even better match for us out there somewhere.

Anyway. With your breasts in mind, how often have you felt confused in the past two weeks?

35 comments to With your breasts in mind…

  • I now feel like every time I talk to you I will want to preface every question with “with your breasts in mind…”

  • sassy

    With our breasts in mind: I am sorry the dog adoption did not work out but . . . not to worry, when the time is right, a dog will find you :)

  • Jenny

    They should definitely have a question before that one: “Do you find yourself thinking about your breasts a lot, or comparing your breasts to other women’s? (yes or no) If yes, then… blah blah blah.”

    I can’t imagine basing so much of my self-worth or self-image on my ta-tas. Maybe that’s because they’re so small anyway?? I’ve always liked having small breasts because it makes it SO much nicer to run. I would think. :)

    My friend opted for her reconstructed breasts to have nipples after her mastectomy. I couldn’t understand it – it would be so nice to not have to worry about nipping out!

    • Yeah, there should be a pre-qualifying question before you have to answer that particular set of questions. Also, wouldn’t it make sense to have questions that compared your feelings about your breasts before and after surgery? Otherwise, how meaningful can the answers possibly be? (By the way, I actually didn’t know that nipples were optional on reconstructed breasts. I think I’d opt to have them though.)

  • Whoa. With my breasts in mind, I guess I have feel that I have 50% of what most other women have. I guess he wants to know if my lack of boob affects my self-confidence but to what end? And who worded this? Yikes!

    • Laurie, with my breasts in mind I googled the survey instrument. It’s called Q-Breast. Or Breast-Q. I forget now. It’s got its own website and everything. But I think this survey needs an editor, a statistician, and a focus group more than it needs a website.

  • deb

    With my breasts in mind…I think that you and Laurie should send a letter to your doctor’s office and voice your concerns with the wording and intent of the survey.

    • I actually wrote extensive comments in the margins of the survey on behalf of my breasts and myself. But then I ended up throwing the whole thing in the garbage.

  • deb

    Oh and by the way, you might have found that a schnauzer cross is too noisy…they are non stop barkers as a rule.

    • Her description says she’s very quiet. But we did a little online research and learned that the breed, on the whole, is pretty barky.

      We don’t actually have a breed in mind. We’re just looking for a dog to love. We’re both drawn to lovable scruffy mutts with lots of character. We want a quiet, laid back dog with little to no prey drive because of the birds.

  • I thought about my breasts twice in the past two weeks, once when Sam used them as a pocket warmer, and when I was attempting to keep my goat Missy from goring them. I am confident my breasts are warm and insecure about them attracting the horns of a pushy goat.

  • Jan

    With my breasts in mind, I hereby posit that those questions were written by a man. I think they have our breasts in mind far more than we do!

  • I loved this comment thread from beginning to end.

  • Why would you rename a dog that has been going by the same name for three years? Or is that what the dog’s breasts wanted and you had them in mind?

    – RG>

    • Well…GC thought she looked more like a Maggie than a Lulu. Lulu is a good parrot name, but not a good dog name, according to GC. We discussed how Lulu might feel about having her name changed. We don’t know if that was her name all her life, or if it was given to her recently by the Rescue. We read that to change an animal’s name, you start by combining the new name and the old name (ie MaggieLulu, then MaggieLu, then Maggie). We kept all eight of her breasts in mind while deciding to go this route.

  • Dspun

    While I wonder why the questions are posed so awkwardly, I understood them. I had a size c bra as an 12 year old. While growing up, men always paid attention to my breast and women sometimes made snide comments about me based on my breasts. And I was not a confident young lady or even adult. So when they found a lump . . . My mind immediately thought about how I would measure up without my breasts or with fake ones. My breasts were part of my identity. And as one experiencing depression right now I do not want to think about how awful life could be to add not having my breasts to the mix. I am so glad you did not understand the survey as these issues of self confidence do not appear to haunt you.

    • Dspun, it’s not that I don’t have issues of self confidence – I do. When you have smaller breasts, it’s easier for everybody – including the owner of them – to forget about them. I imagine that when you have bigger breasts, they play a bigger role in your life, since people treat you differently because of them (not necessarily better, though, from the sounds of it).

      When you say your breasts *were* part of your identity does this mean that they no longer are?

      I’m sorry to hear you’re depressed. Depression sucks. Are you okay?

  • grace

    How can any of you boobs be thinking aobut boobs when there is free-motion quilting before you? And a dawg!!!!

    But seriously, with my breasts in mind, I have to say that your questionnare is very strangely worded. Would someone who had a different kind of cancer receive one worded “with your testicles/liver/brain in mind”?

    • Grace, that’s what I was thinking too. I can’t even imagine them asking these questions of people who have had surgery for other cancers!

  • With my breast in mind (and lots of body confidence issues), I fail to understand the purpose of this survey.
    Also, I have friends who applied for the same dog. One of their references was checked (I know because it was me!) but they think the adoption pending is for someone else. This girlie is in demand.

    • Really? What a coincidence! When we applied, they said Lulu was a popular dog. She got snapped up fast. We just found out they’re getting a whole whack of puppies over the next few days. Goldiedoodles, boxer-beagle mixes, and a Dogue. All girls.

  • Julia

    With my breasts in mind… is it better they are in my mind or should they be on my chest?

    I had the same surgeon and got the same questionnaire. I looked at it and felt defeated from the get-go, so I put it back in the envelope and decided to look at it later. THEN this morning, as I was spelunking at Carleton (have you ever tried to get from A to B on that campus!?) I got a phone call from her office (the surgeon is a woman) asking me to put my name on the form when I hand it in. So it’s not to be anonymous. So then I felt like I really had to fill it in. I tried telling her that the questions didn’t seem to apply to me and she interrupted me to say other women had told her that. No help there. I understand the point of the thing and I appreciate that this surgeon is trying to improve her surgery. Unfortunately, this is not the way to do it. I was interested to read above that she had not originally drafted the survey. Maybe she’ll start all over?

    • Me too Julia. Dr. A’s office called me this morning and asked me to put my name on the survey before returning it. I told her that I wasn’t going to be returning the survey, since I found the survey questions disturbing. She wasn’t interested in hearing my thoughts on the survey – she said just make sure to put my name on it and return it. I told her I’d already thrown it in the garbage and she said fine, goodbye.

      I was surprised Dr. A hadn’t composed the survey questions either. I initially figured that hey, she’s a surgeon, she can’t be good at everything. Maybe survey design isn’t her thing. But then I googled it and learned it was a widely used survey instrument, which really surprised me…it seemed amateurish.

      Are you going to answer it?

      • Julia

        Yes, I will answer a few of the applicable questions. As for the rest, I will make comments. Dr. A. needs to know the results will not be (cannot be) very useful and she has to conduct a better survey, if she is really interested. And I am sure she is interested! But the process she has chosen is all wrong. Plus, whoever she has calling people is not very good at that either.

  • Sheila

    As a lurker can I just say that I love your blog and had to come out of the woodwork to comment?

    With my breasts not in mind, does that mean that if you were a man who had survived prostate cancer they would be asking those same questions but with the word “penis” subsituted for “breasts”?

    As for your dog, we saw a picture of lovely rottweiler/shar-pei mix and I knew right away he was the dog for us. However, after we submitted our application we were told that he had already been adopted out. We were very disappointed as he seemed perfect for us. A week later we got the call from the rescue organization that the people who adopted him returned him because it didn’t work out. So we got our rottie-pei, Pete, after all. He’s fabulous. So don’t worry all kinds of things can happen but the right dog will find you in the end. Good luck.

    • Sheila, I love it when lurkers say hello!

      I’m trying to picture a Rottie-Pei. I can picture each of them, but I’m having trouble with the mix. I just imagine a wrinkly-browed Rottie. I adore Rotties. I love how affectionate they are, and how they always seem to lean against people. My dental hygienist, who cleaned my teeth this morning, breeds Rotties occasionally. Her Rottie had a litter of twelve puppies this summer! She kept two of them.

      Anyway, as eager as we are to find our dog, we know our patience will be rewarded with the perfect dog. It’s how it works.

      Thanks again for reading. And for commenting. And for keeping your breasts in mind while reading and commenting.

  • deb

    Goldiepoos and goldendoodles are really nice, smart dogs. they are now the service dogs of choice, I hear.

  • with my breasts in mind I get confused when they hit the track pad or push keyboard when I’m not wearing my glasses and trying to see.

    aw, you missed out on Lulu. did the birds like her photo?

  • I don’t think I give much thought to my breasts on a daily basis (except to watch their inexorable sag toward my navel). Now, however, I will spend the day “with my breasts in mind” and see if it makes a difference.

  • Cussot

    Was there a separate questionnaire for those of us who’ve had a mastectomy? “With your breast in mind …” I do feel awkward when I’ve absent-mindedly forgotten to shove my prosthesis in my bra, yes (“once in a while”).

  • Lo

    Excited to hear you are looking for a new furry family member:)
    Someone wrote Goldiepoos and goldendoodles are the service dog of choice…This started for those allergic to dander or fur. The Canadian Guide Dogs started using Standard poodles and then mixing other breeds to ‘make’as closer to an allergy free service/guide dog that they could. The other more traditional service/guide dogs were doing a great job but they were making some sneeze:)