Anna Bonny — an introduction
If you had asked me when I was a child: “What would you like to be?”, I might have spoken of ballerinas or astronauts or, as I got older, doctors or lawyer but I doubt I would ever have mentioned pirates. Pirates, I thought, were the domain of wild boys, who knew, that as a woman I would come to identify with that rogue imagery, that lust for life, that devil may care attitude and yes, even the eye patches but we’ll get to those shortly.
The irony is not lost on me that my new found piracy was born, not of wild adventures but from pain and loss, though wild adventures came along with the territory. My name is Noelia and you may think of me as a pirate.
Noelia is my name and Anna Bonny is my muse. For those of you unfamiliar with her, she was one of the few female pirates of legend, by all accounts, a wild, adventurous, beautiful and brave woman who lived her life entirely on her own terms, all that and a total bad ass.
So what brought pirates into my life? Like far too many women I ended up on the wrong side of a statistic. In 2014 I was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, initially I had a lumpectomy, followed a week later by a radical mastectomy. In many ways, I was fortunate, surrounded by loved ones and no follow up with chemo or radiation but again, no loss of irony in viewing my new one breasted body as fortunate. That’s when the adventures began.
I actually found the decision not to reconstruct an easy one, easier than it ought to have been given the immense pressure from the medical world and society at large that to build a false breast (or two) in place of your lost one(s) is the only solution. I pass no judgment on anyone, each woman must decide for herself though I fervently hope that each decision is made not under pressure but in fully informed consent and the realization that there are alternatives. Suffice to say I decided to embrace my new reality but once I had decided to reject further surgery, I found myself in strange new territory.
Yes, there is a flat and fabulous movement, #nolessawoman hashtags, beauty in scars but this scar left me lingering in front of the mirror not in joy, nor yet despair but in a new curious place, wondering how to find my way back to the woman, who loved being naked, who enjoyed sex, who revelled in a body that was loved by my partner, had given birth to my son.
One sided, there is no equality anymore, symmetry a thing of the past, so what remains?
How do I feel sexy again, is a question that looms large for breast cancer survivors, I used to love lingerie but when it no longer served the same purpose, I had to rethink what it meant to me, explore a new kind of sexiness knowing I had not lost my taste for fun, flirtation or adornment as many, many women do post mastectomy.
Enter Anna Bonny.
My first AB was a pimped up or rather simplified La Perla bra.
Dismantled so that only one side remained, slung across my scar like a pirates eye patch, it was an homage to all that had been survived and to my absolute determination that it would rob me of nothing more. To my delight Matthias my partner loved it, my little boy Leon was thrilled by it and just like that I found my pirate self.
Why only a patch? Why not fill the empty side of a beautiful bra as indeed I have done on many occasions, though nowhere in the post surgical guides is the advice on how to keep your falsie from escaping. Aside from the misty eyed sympathy and furtive glance, there is a whole other category of look, the one that says -what is that weird silicone lump poking out under your armpit? The falsie fumble ought to be a patented move. There is a deserved and much need place for traditional mastectomy bras, but that is not what Anna Bonny is for.
It is a patch because I can not and will not deny the damage, the missing part, but I can embrace it, even celebrate it, when I put on the patch, it’s my nod and my wink that says, ahoy there sexy woman, a feeling I thought I might have lost forever.
Eye patches are used as a trope in drama and fiction to signify powerful rebels, usually seductive, if at times a little wicked, characters who took their disfigurement and flaunted it with style. For me, as I began to play with the idea of wearing a breast patch when otherwise naked or peeking out from the neckline of a pretty dress, I found my wild adventure in learning to love my body again, a fascinating part of the wholeness of living with only one breast. After several dozen prototypes and the precious help and support of talented friends I am happy to introduce our designs. Made from the finest British silk because nothing beats silk’s healing properties on scars, organic cotton because not doing so would be irresponsible and Mokuba straps used by top couture fashion houses because ABs are made to look gorgeous and last. Indulgence should never be under estimated as a healing property.
Each one crafted by hand in Barcelona by talented seamstresses that earn a decent living, it’s a breast patch that is as beautiful to wear as any bra I wore when I was only Noelia. Simple yet effective way to make something seductive and beautiful from what shouldn’t be.
There are many metaphors of cancer, battles and journeys are the most common but for me of course it must be seen as more of a voyage, set sail with me for these are unknown waters.
Noelia Morales, Anna Bonny