Growing up I was always the tall girl in the room, standing 6’1” from the time I was 13. My height bothered me a lot as I towered over most of the people in my class in junior high. Add to the equation the high school boy who thought it was fun to call me “Amazon” or “Amazon Woman”. The words stung…I heard the words as meaning I was big and undesirable. In my view of the world at the time, beautiful women were not supposed to be over 5’10’.
Fast forward 20-plus years, I am looking at the mirror after having a bilateral mastectomy and all I see are more reasons to hate how I look. The parts of me that I felt made me a woman were no longer the same. I was terribly lopsided from having capsular contracture and seeing myself without nipples brought tears to my eyes. Then came my DIEP flap procedure where skin from my stomach was used to rebuild my breasts, and this procedure resulted in the removal of my belly button and a long scar running from hip to hip.
I started to look for connections to deal with my “new look”. I remembered an old tv show called Kyle XY where the lead character, Kyle, didn’t have a belly button so I started calling myself an alien. In the X-Men movies, Mystique didn’t have nipples, or at least you didn’t see them due to her scales. I saw a connection there as well and referred to myself as a mutant.
As I worked through my issues in therapy and talked with one of my best friends, Laura, who also had breast cancer, I started to see my scars differently. I no longer saw myself as I alien or a mutant, and as cliché, as it sounds, I started to see myself as a warrior. At this point, the words “Amazon” came back to mind.
I started digging into what it meant to be an Amazon warrior. Interestingly there are accounts of a practice where the right breast was cut off leaving a scar. The theory for this was that the right breast was cut off to prohibit any hindrance when using a spear or bow. Some etymology even suggests that the word Amazon is derived from Greek words that mean “without breasts”. As I imagine the scars of the legendary Amazons, I see them as being like my scars or those scars of my fellow breast cancer thrivers. While the reasons are vastly different, I could relate to having a breast removed to promote strength and health.
Looking back, I have no idea what was in that boy’s thoughts when he called me Amazon, but those words helped me heal and for that I will always be thankful.