I renewed my annual subscription for www.flatterfashion.co.uk this week! And what started as a defiant act in the face of being advised that I wouldn’t be able to find nice clothes if I lived flat, has lead me to having hundreds of new friends.
At one of my initial appointments my Breast Care Nurse (as well as giving me the above advice!) gave me a leaflet for a local support group for women who have had breast cancer; unfortunately they turned out to be a breast cancer reconstruction support group. I was never going to fit in there!
Whilst searching for advice on what it was like to live breast free in early 2015 I found an American based Facebook group called Flat & Fabulous; Straightup on Pinterest, and another lady on Twitter who were all rocking ‘Flat’. I joined the US Facebook group; however, even though we had all had breast surgery without reconstruction there were differences in both our health systems and our attitudes. But at least I knew that I wasn’t alone in my decision.
Roll on three months and I received a message from a lady letting me know that there was a group for ladies in the UK. That lady was Gilly, the founder of Flat Friends. And who else was in this group… The lady behind Straightup and the lady from Twitter! I was home.
Not to mention the Flat Friends response to Breast Cancer Now and Marks and Spencer’s ill-considered ‘Show Your Strap’ promotion.
My identity is not defined by me having had breast cancer, but it is shaped by how I dealt with it. I was ill, I endured the treatment, I had my breasts removed and had nothing put in their place. And, it is this final element which lead me to my Flat Friends. Yes, I do class them as my friends despite having only met a handful of this 364-strong* group (*figure correct at time of writing!).
(Here I am at my first ever FFUK meet-up in December, my face ached from smiling by the end of the day!)
We are from all over the UK, different ages, different backgrounds, different life stages, different diagnoses and different reasons for not having reconstruction. Yet the physical attribute we all share has brought us together. Flat Friends is a sum of its parts.
What holds us together is our ability to empathise, to support and to celebrate. Gilly has created an amazing space for us to gather in – a virtual living room where we gather under a duvet when one of us needs a hug, or raise a glass to good news.
So here is to absent friends, thank you for giving this blog meaning and for always being in my pocket!