A Feisty Women's Discussion about Breast Cancer with Elaine Ratner

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Join Elaine Ratner, author of The Feisty Woman's Breast Cancer Book for a discussion about meeting the emotional and psychological challenges surrounding Breast Cancer .

Event Date: 03/17/2000

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

Moderator: Welcome to the Women's Health Place Program on WebMD Live. Our guest today is Elaine Ratner, author of The Feisty Woman's Breast Cancer Book.

Elaine Ratner is a publisher, freelance writer and editor. As a woman who's been through breast cancer, she has thought a lot about the emotional and psychological challenges. She is bothered by the overly negative and often distorted image women have about breast cancer, which she fears sometimes gets in the way of their handling their cancer experience well. Ratner is especially upset that the popular culture has focused women's attention so strongly on their breasts as the source of their womanliness and their ticket to love that the thought of losing a breast has become a major trauma in itself. She wants her book to reassure women that you are the same person with or without a breast, and that no one is going to stop loving you because you've had a mastectomy.

Welcome to WebMD Live, Elaine. It is a pleasure having you here today.

Please feel free to ask Elaine Ratner your questions about meeting the emotional and psychological challenges surrounding Breast Cancer. Elaine is not a medical doctor, but she is happy to address your questions and concerns. Please preface your question with /ask. EXAMPLE: /ask What is the topic?

Ratner: Thank you, Natasha. I'm glad to be here and looking forward to some interesting discussion.

Moderator: Elaine, let's start by talking about what you call "The Breast Myth." Would you tell our members about your take on this, please?

Ratner: OK. What I refer to as the breast myth is the impression given to women by our popular culture that a woman's breasts are the source of her femininity and in many cases women believe that our breasts are the reason we are loved. This, of course, simply isn't true.

Ellafit_WebMD: This is really interesting, why do you think many women get reconstructive surgery? so it is not obvious to anyone that they have had cancer?

Ratner: I think it's partly that. But I think women have also been convinced that if they have only one breast they are no longer complete women. They think in order to feel good about themselves and to be "acceptable" to others, to be a normal woman (whatever that means), they have to look like other women. What surprised me in my own experience was discovering that I could feel just as comfortable with my lopsided body as I did with my "normal" body. In fact, I am more comfortable with my body now. We've been through a lot together.

Moderator: I like that - you've been through a lot with each other- what a wonderful perspective. I think a lot of women feel really estranged form their bodies when diagnosed. How did you find a comfortable relationship with your body?

Ratner: That is certainly true. And it takes some work getting to the place where you can feel okay. I certainly don't mean to say it's easy. I took it one step at a time. First getting used to my image in the mirror. Then realizing no one besides me and my husband really cared how many breasts I had. You think everyone is going to be looking at you and judging you, but most people are too busy with their own lives to notice. I've also discovered that most people take their cue from you. If you feel like you're okay, and act okay, other people think you're okay too.

Moderator: You have a checklist at the beginning of your book, The Feisty Woman's Breast Cancer Book,.things you wish someone would have shared with you at the beginning of your breast cancer experience. Would you share this list with our Members, please?

Ratner: There are 18 things I realized after my experience were key, and that I wished I'd heard sooner.

1. A breast is completely expendable.

2. You may die of breast cancer, but you probably won't.

3. There is enough time.

4. Worry makes things worse.

5. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good.

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