Stephanie Germino, who underwent a double mastectomy and chose not to have her breasts reconstructed, is glad she didn’t have implants.
When Stephanie, 29, was told there was a mutation in her BRCA1 gene, which means she had an 87% risk of developing breast cancer, she wasn’t shocked – it runs in the family.
In a bid to avoid getting the cancer, she made the brave decision to undergo a double mastectomy, where both breasts are removed, but she refused a reconstruction.
The influencer, who has over 1.5 million followers on TikTok (@theebooblessbabe_), is now using social media to share her story and raise awareness for the procedure.
In a YouTube video published on Shera, (@shera_oficl), Stephanie talks about the hateful comments she receives from people online.
She’s also revealed the positive aspects of a double mastectomy – including the ‘freedom’ of not having to wear a bra and going topless in public.
The mum, from Florida, US, said: ‘I’m 100% more confident in my body now than I was pre-surgery, as I never loved my breasts when I had them.
‘They weren’t my source of femininity and I do get stares when I’m out topless in public, but nobody has ever come up to me being rude – it’s always positive.
‘I absolutely love the fact that I don’t have to wear bras ever again, as there’s something about being bare.
‘It did take me a minute to finally get rid of my bra, but I threw the wire bra out immediately.
‘My sports bra though, that’s more or less what I used on a day-to-day basis.
‘It’s cute, faithful and I questioned whether I should keep it – so I did, as it’s a reminder of the bright side.’
Stephanie, who is mum to Josiah, six, claims she knew from the age of 15 that she was a potential carrier of the mutation, due to her mum and grandmother both having the same.
Her mum, who also got a preventative double mastectomy in her 40s, had a breast reconstruction afterwards.
But Stephanie, who underwent the procedure in October 2021 at Tampa General Hospital, Florida, opted against this due to a range of factors.
She said: ‘There are three reasons why I chose not to get one.
‘One being that breast implant illness is a thing and several people I know have suffered from it, so this wasn’t a risk I wanted to take.
‘Secondly, implant maintenance every 10 years seems like unnecessary additional surgeries and [finally], I don’t like the way implants look without breast tissue to soften them up.’
Stephanie’s friends and family were supportive about the preventative surgery but they weren’t overly happy that she chose not to have a reconstruction.
Stephanie said: ‘I did face pushback when I said I wasn’t having a reconstruction.
‘I also had a surgeon tell me that I would regret it, so I should have a Goldilocks procedure, where they leave extra skin.
‘If I decided later on to get a reconstruction, then the implants could be inserted – this made me very worried that my wishes weren’t going to be respected.
‘Even before surgery, when I was getting prepped, I kept telling every nurse to make sure I was completely flat.
‘But when I opened my binder, which is what they put on after surgery to keep the compression running, I saw a left breast on my body.’
Stephanie recalls feeling betrayed and like her ‘worst fear’ had come true, but then discovered it was due to swelling.
Now, she’s taken to social media to raise awareness about the procedure and her decision to refuse a reconstruction – but not everyone has been supportive.
She said: ‘I get a lot of hateful and vile comments, it’s scary how ignorant and nasty people can be.
‘It’s crazy how they have no problem showcasing that for the whole world to see.
‘I’ve been told: “You’re definitely a man”, “Where did your milkers go?” and “You’re going to hell”.’
Stephanie has also been told ‘no guy will want you now that you’ve mutilated yourself’ and that ‘this generation is fucked, no one wants to see that’.
She added: ‘Breast cancer knows no bounds, men and women of any age can get it. I hope the trolls stop being ignorant before it affects someone they love or themselves.
Stephanie said that people mistake her for being transgender, but that she is ‘very confident’ in her decision not to have reconstructive surgery.
‘No one can persuade me to do anything that I don’t want to do for my body and how I want it to look,’ she said.
The mum hopes to raise awareness through sharing her story on social media and despite trolls calling her an ‘attention seeker’, she believes the message is being heard.
Stephanie added: ‘People often say I’m doing this for attention and absolutely I am, that’s my mission.
‘But I’m not an attention seeker, I want people to see my story and spread awareness for this disease.
‘Unfortunately, we live in a society where we put a lot of emphasis on the way people look. I want women to accept themselves, whether that’s with implants or without.’
Stephanie wants to encourage women to do what is right for their bodies and not to have their choices impacted by other people’s judgement.
She said: ‘My advice to anyone going through the same situation, is that you’re not alone.
‘Just understand that whatever you choose to do for your body is for you and you must stay strong in that choice.
‘You’re valid and I can’t think of more of a warrior than a woman who has defied the odds and gone against society’s standards.
‘Take a look at your body and love it for getting through the worst case scenario.’
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