JENNY SALDAÑA, 36, lives in Times Square and works for a cosmetics company. She is also a playwright. In January 2006, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy followed by two months of chemotherapy. She’s currently cancer-free.
I’ve always had very dense breasts. The upside was that they were very perky and everybody thought they were fake. But the downside was that they were very cystic. In March 2005, my right breast was hurting and had a lump that’d become humongous. But the diagnostic place I went to said there wasn’t anything seriously wrong, even when I started having an amber discharge and my breast was really hard. Finally, I was crying and complaining about how mean those people were, and my doctor sent me somewhere else. There, when the sonogram woman touched my breast, she was like, “What is this?” And I’m like, “I know! Everyone’s been ignoring me, and that’s why I’m here.”
We’ve all been conditioned to think that the mammogram is the be-all and end-all. I’d had two, and they were negative, and two negative ultrasounds, too, so I’m just thinking that I have something benign. But it was cancer, and I was going to need a mastectomy. And that’s when I lost it. I’ve always been a very booby-centric girl. I’ve always been in love with my breasts—I have a hot rack! The options were an implant or what’s called a TRAM flap: They would give me a tummy tuck, which sounded very appealing, and from the tissue and skin, they create a new breast. And to me, there was no choice: I wanted the TRAM flap. Because I didn’t want to get fake ones, and I still wanted to make fun of other girls with fake ones. I kept making jokes, because they can take the tissue either from your butt or from your stomach. So I was like, If it’s from my butt, I’ll be called “booty boob.” I kept making jokes about my booty boob, but then it became my “tummy tit.” I’ve always been well endowed; I’ve never understood women sweating their breasts, because I have ’em. You know? I had perfect C’s. Like perfect full, full C’s, almost D’s. And they were perky, I could go around without a bra. So I never understood the big deal with implants, and why somebody would feel so driven to do that. But your breasts are so much a part of your womanhood. Even now, I’ve not gotten used to seeing myself without the nipple. I used to sleep naked, and I don’t anymore. And listen—you can look at me and you’ll never know that I have a tummy tit. But I see the little differences. I see that the new breasts aren’t as full on top. Still, now I’m even more proud of my breasts; I just want to show them, and I want to see if anyone notices the difference. I want to feel normal. I miss my breast. With this one, I kind of feel like I have a turkey stapled to my chest. A month after the surgery, when they took the bandages off my breast, the scar was really raw and black—and I lost it that day. I was calling myself the Bride of Frankenboob.
I’m at the point now that I need to feel like I’m the sexiest girl alive. I’m just starting to feel like a woman again. And it’s very important to be reassured that I’m still attractive. That may sound vain, but that’s what women need.
I have my pity parties every so often, and I’m entitled to them. But it’s not who I am. Now I’m on the Upper Manhattan Relay for Life Committee for the American Cancer Society. I’m doing the breast-cancer walk, and my team is called “Hooray for Boobies.” I have a T-shirt that says CANCER SUCKS, and I love wearing it because cancer does suck. I have a T-shirt that says DING DONG THE CANCER IS DEAD. I had it made. I haven’t worn that one yet. I think I’ll wear it to the next walk.