At age 43, Melody Robertson had a body that men would die for and women would kill for.

Her long legs and flat stomach were as lean and hard as a 19-year-old and her skin as clear as women 20 years her junior.

But it was her breasts that men admired and women envied: shapely, firm and — even in these times of cosmetic enhancement — real.

Melody worked hard to keep her youthful look and liked to wear clinging dresses, sweaters and swimsuits which displayed her ample charms. She knew that her active social life with younger men was due, in no small part, to her bustline.

Likewise, her success as a sales rep was, she openly admitted, due to her stunning looks.

When friends said she should pose for Playboy, Melody smiled and said her body wasn’t for the public at large, just a privileged few.

melody1.jpg (2519 bytes)It was on a Saturday morning, after a delightful evening with one of the privileged few, that Melody was washing those magnificent breasts in the shower and felt something was wasn’t quite right.

“It was a lump and it was a little tender,” she told a coworker. “It wasn’t there before. I’m sure of it. I always checked for lumps.”

But she didn’t get regular mammograms, something recommended for women her age, because they hurt.

“They take your boob and mash it flat so they can x-ray it.” she told a male friend once. “How would you like it if someone took one of your balls and mashed it flat as a tortilla?”

Maybe, she thought, she was eating too much salt, so she cut back.

The lump didn’t go away.

So she went to the doctor. He scheduled a biopsy. The results came back.

Malignant.

Even worse: Malignant and advanced.

The doctor reviewed her options. Chemotherapy was a possibility, but probably too late, given the advanced stages of the tumor.

Instead, he recommended a radical mastectomy — removal of both breasts.

Melody sought a second opinion, three more times. Each doctor said the same thing: Remove the breasts and remove them now before the cancer spreads.

Two weeks later, Melody awoke in recovery. She couldn’t bear to look down at her chest. The young man who had been part of her life didn’t come to see her in the hospital. She never saw him again.

The following weeks were a blur: Chemo to make sure the cancer was gone and therapy from a psychiatrist to help her deal with the loss of her breasts. When she finally got up the courage to look at herself in the mirror, she threw up.

She looked at plastic surgery, implants, anything to restore her bustline, but doctors advised against it. Her mood swings became so bad her boss trashed her performance in her annual review and put her on probation.

Melody stopped going out. She avoided her friends. The woman with a body to die for was ashamed to be seen in public and wasn’t sure she had anything to live for.

“I tried the fake bras and other utensils that made it look like I had boobs,” she wrote in her daily journal. “But I knew they weren’t real and I was sure everyone that looked at me knew it to.”

She gave away the clinging dresses, the sweaters and the swimsuits. But she continued to work out and keep in shape.

“My tits were gone but I wasn’t going to let the rest of me go to hell,” she wrote in the journal. “Besides, it was something to do. The more depressed I became, the harder I worked out.”

She saw a psychiatrist twice a week. He listened, but didn’t offer any advice. She thought about suicide.

Then she met Avery Fischer. Fischer was a cold call sales contact, about 50 or so, in good shape, with salt-and-pepper hair and a wry sense of humor.

He flirted with her.

She flirted back.

It felt good.

Dinner followed, then a movie, then a show at the Kennedy Center. He treated her with deference. A good night kiss, no overt moves. She was glad. She didn’t know what he would do if and when he made his move.

They were sitting in Nathans, a Georgetown bar, when he asked her if she wanted to go to his house for a drink.

Christ, she thought. Now what?

She took a deep breath and told him.

He listened, then smiled.

“So?”

“So, I’m not all there.”

“You mean because you don’t have a couple of lumps of fat on your chest that you’re not complete?”

“Something like that. Besides, there are scars. They’re ugly.”

“Come out to the car with me. I want to show you something.”

She didn’t know what to expect. Once they were in the car, he turned on the dome light and unbuttoned his shirt. She saw scars. Lots of scars.

“Car wreck four years ago,” Fischer said. “They had to put me back together.”

She reached out and ran her fingers over one of the scars. He smiled and put his hand inside her blouse, pushing aside the padded bra and returning the gesture. She inhaled sharply and then relaxed, enjoying the sensuality of the caress.

“The feeling was sharper, more intense, and a greater turn-on than any time a man had touched me when I still had breasts,” she wrote in the journal. “The sex that followed was better than any I had ever had before.”

She and Fischer remained an item for seven months before the relationship soured. When he moved on, she started going out again. She met another man, took him home. When she undressed, he gasped.

“What happened?”

“I had a mastectomy.”

He grabbed his coat and left.

“The look on his face was something I’ll never forget,” Melody wrote in her journal, “It was like he was looking at a freak in a carnival.” Most men, she quickly discovered, weren’t as understanding as Avery Fischer. They wanted those lumps of fat on her chest.

Melody retreated back into her private world of exercise, theapy and depression.

Until two months ago when coworkers alerted police that Melody Anderson was missing. Two cops went to her house, found her car in the garage, and broke in. They found her in bed, dead from an overdose of sleeping pills.

Two days later, her journal arrived at a friend’s house.

Melody Robertson no longer had a body that men would die for.

And she no longer had one she could live with.

–Doug Thompson
Washington, DC

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