update: my coworkers complained that the look of my breasts post-mastectomy is making them uncomfortable

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past.

Remember the letter-writer whose coworkers complained that the look of her breasts after her mastectomy was making them uncomfortable? Here’s the update. (The first update was here.)

I never ended up going to a lawyer. Because of the job I had in my original team I knew the names of some journalists that weren’t big fan of my organisation (we’re public sector). So I went to see HR, and told them that if they didn’t help me solve this whole mess and find a new job I’d go and have a nice chat with one of those journalists. Apparently they hate bad publicity more than lawyers, and in the space of 24 hours they found me a specific person to help my job search and I was told to meet that person on the company’s time and that if I needed anything else I should just say and they’d make it happen.

When I came back to work in January, I was reassigned to that temporary team, told that I could stay as long as I needed/wanted and that an HR person would make sure that all was going well. I was applying for loads of jobs, got quite a few interviews but nothing was really happening, then COVID happened, we had a full recruitment freeze and I thought that was that.

A couple of weeks into lockdown, I got a phone call from one of the jobs I had applied for, telling me that I was the only applicant, and if I wanted the job it was mine, without having to interview! I probably pretended to think about it for 30 seconds (maybe less) and I have been with them since April. It’s been a big learning curve and I’ve still never seen my colleagues in real life (and won’t until at least April 2021), but it’s been great, I really enjoy it and my new manager and team mates are amazing.

On another professional note, my partner and I finally started our own farm project, which we had worked on for a few years, so we have our own flock of Angora goats now, the goal being to do that full time sooner rather than later (I’ve attached a picture). It’s very exciting.

On a personal note, it’s been very up and down. Covid has been tough, i haven’t seen my family since last Christmas, my gran passed away and I couldn’t be there for the funeral, which I really struggled with, and our planned Christmas trip to see my family got cancelled 12 hours before we were due to fly out. But it’s also been great, both my boobs are doing wonderful and the surgeon is very happy, my boyfriend and I bought a house and he popped the question. So he’s now my fiancé and we’re planning a wedding for 2022.

Thank you again for all the support, kindness and also people helping me realise that the whole thing wasn’t fair and I wasn’t losing my mind for finding it awful. I read your posts every day and I’m learning loads.

{ 126 comments… read them below }

    1. B Wayne*

      Very much so! Updater might not have boobs but she sure has balls to go in and threaten going to the media. Bravo!

  1. Thankful for AAM*

    I was so wanting an update on your story!
    I hope the ups wind up being better than the downs and I wish you the best!

  2. MsOctopus*

    Yay! This update made me so happy—and it even has goats! (Though please accept my sincere condolences about your gran)

  3. Shannon*


    So pleased to hear this update. Congrats to you and your fiancé, and thank you for the photo which gave me a squeal of delight.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, me too.

      I’m very sorry for the loss of your gran and congrats your engagement.

      The goats are adorable!

    1. Emily*

      I’m so glad to see this update. What a great outcome! LW is away from their toxic old job and now has a house and goats (who are adorable btw). Best wishes for you, your fiance, and your goats.

  4. Jessica*

    Congratulations on all your good news, OP, and I can’t believe these adorable goatsheep! I had no idea any goats looked like this.

  5. Hexiva*

    Not to expose myself as an ignorant city boy, but if you showed me that pic with no context I would ABSOLUTELY call those sheep. However, this does not reduce my desire to put my hands in their fluffy soft grey fur.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Even as a country bumpkin, I did a double take ;)

      This is a special to the breed, most goats do not resemble sheep so closely lol.

      1. EchoGirl*

        Same here. I’ve done farm work and had more experience than most city people with goats, but I would’ve at least had an “are those sheep or goats?” moment.

    2. Daffy Duck*

      To tell the difference between sheep and goats (both species come with short-haired versions and long-haired versions) look at how they hold their tail. Sheep can only hold their tail pointing down (although can wag back and forth) while goats have the ability to hold their tail up when happy/excited/etc.
      FWIW most sheep are born with fairly long tails that are shortened for health reasons at a very young age, goats are born with short tails.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        I concur. My family raised sheep when I was growing up. When they still have their tails, they’ll wag them when they’re excited! It’s the cutest darned thing you’ll ever see. They’re usually docked because they can’t hold them up and they get very dirty from all their poo (YUCK). Goats don’t have the same problem.

    3. Wombats and Tequila*

      I would dive in there full face, allergies be damned.

      OP, I admire how upbeat you are. This update did nothing to endear me to your old organization. What beastly people. I’m so glad you’re out of that hellhole!

  6. Malarkey01*

    So so happy for you!! Good luck with your goats (and maybe update us each year on their progress!)

  7. Coffee Bean*

    I am glad that your job situation worked out for you. I am sorry about your grandmother. On a side note, I love the goats. They look like they’re smiling.

    1. Batty Twerp*

      Happy update, happy boobs, happy goats!
      (Sorry for your gran, OP, and I hope you’ve not been too badly affected by the shifting tiers – we will get past this)

  8. glitter writer*

    As a person in media I am delighted on your behalf that the threat of going to the press worked on your former employers, and I am even more delighted for you that they are your FORMER employers.

    1. Ann Onny Mous*

      I loved the fact LW threatened to go to the media and Toxic Job was all “NOOOOOO! Anything but the media!”

  9. Sunrise Ruby*

    The picture of those beautiful goats in that pastoral setting, and the comment “both my boobs are doing wonderful” have made my day!

  10. Frenchie too*

    What a great update, congrats on the new (*)(*) and wishing you many happy years of married bliss!
    Also. Damn. Now I want to get some cute goats, too.

  11. New Job So Much Better*

    So glad to hear that!!! Thanks for updating us and especially for that pic– Merry Christmas!

  12. Alexander Graham Yell*

    This whole thing is great, but “Both my boobs are doing wonderful” absolutely killed me.

    Congratulations, OP, on a truly wonderful update.

  13. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP, I was thinking about you recently! I’m so happy for you and your intended, and send my condolences on the loss of your grandmother. And GOATS GOATS OMG SO CUTE!!

  14. jph in the heartland*

    So, I am a knitter–do they make angora yarn (the softest, fuzziest yarn EVER!) from angora goats? Just curious.

    1. Zelda*

      Yes. Although there are also angora rabbits– I have some rabbit yarn in mt stash right now, and it’s divine– but if it says “angora” without further specification, it should be the aforementioned goats.

      1. Mentalrose*

        And on that note, I am a spinner in my spare time – would OP consider telling where can order your lovely soft spinning fiber from you? Because I would looooooove to make up some cashmere yarn.

  15. SimplyAlissa*

    I totally would have thought those were sheep.
    I’m so glad things are on the upswing for you! I’m secretly hoping for another future update just so we get more amazing fuzzy cuddly goat pictures.

  16. LeisureSuitLarry*

    “I never ended up going to a lawyer. Because of the job I had in my original team I knew the names of some journalists that weren’t big fan of my organisation (we’re public sector). So I went to see HR, and told them that if they didn’t help me solve this whole mess and find a new job I’d go and have a nice chat with one of those journalists.”

    That’s a pro-baller move that I don’t think most people would have the balls to make.

    Cute goats.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      That’s a pro-baller move that I don’t think most people would have the balls to make.

      IANA cojones expert but it seems to me that it isn’t most people’s lack of “balls” which would lead them not to threaten the organisation with bad press but rather a lucky (for the OP) set of circumstances that happen to mean they have access to journalists.

      What options would there be for people in a similar position to the OP’s original question (e.g. harassed about appearance after a medically necessary surgery) but without circumstantial access to journalists? They would end up going to a lawyer which I guess a move “people with balls” wouldn’t need to make…!

      I won’t post any more about this, but hopefully it’s apparent that something being solved just because the person happens to “know someone” isn’t really a general solution for a problem and invites “what would others be able to do?” type of sentiments.

      1. Ads*

        While access is absolutely a real problem, I’m not sure that in this instance a member of the public wouldn’t be able to find some journalists to reach out to. How many stories have you seen about “X company behaving badly towards Y consumer or Z employee”? Now maybe OP’s position gave them some personal connections and credibility with specific journalists, but in this instance it’s not that grim for the layperson either IMO.

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          I expect many people would be able to find journalists to reach out to, yes (As in any situation, if egregious enough!), if they took that route.

          But – the “barrier to entry” is much higher for someone who doesn’t already have a friendship/working relationship based way in.

          OP already had the contacts, obtained through their job, that they were willing to make use of. Who knew her already and had an anti-company agenda already.

          1. Weird comment*

            The barrier for entry is very low. It’s being able to compose an email, make a phone call, send a Tweet, or mail a letter. Doesn’t take more than a few minutes or cost more than a stamp.

            The idea that contacting reporters is difficult is strange. Being easy to reach by the public is a part of their job. That’s where many of their stories come from.

            1. Chinook*

              Absolutely. I already know which reporter I woukd call up ir a discussion if DH’s job gets him killed and it is not handled properly by his employer. I have never met her but her crime reporting is spot on and she has lived here for decades (and yes, it is horrifying that DH and I have planned for this type of scenario in detail. His instructions include “go get ’em since this employer i not known for supporting the frontline).

              What this reporter would do with my information is up to her, but by knowing about a local reporter that I trust, I am sure can leave it in her capable hands.

      2. Observer*

        I’m not sure what your problem here is? There are a lot of people who would either not think or not have the guts to use this access.

        So, sure the OP is lucky to have the access. But she deserves credit for making use of that access in a productive way.

      3. BluntBunny*

        I think in the UK it is would be more accessible to speak to media than a Lawyer. Many newspapers have contact details if you have a story so you wouldn’t really need to know a journalist. Also speaking to the media is free a lawyer may only be able to give limited free advice. The problem with going to the media is if you change your mind they may still may want to cover your story whereas with a lawyer you have more control. Nowadays I think more companies are seeing things play out over Twitter where customers tell their story tag the company and wait for it to go viral and for it to be resolved rather than lawsuits.

      4. Weird comment*

        Most newspapers and sites either include reporters’ email addresses in their bylines or tag that information onto the ends of articles. Their Twitter handles are often included, too. If not, you can likely find that information in their sites’ directories. If that doesn’t work, you can try a general online contact form for the site.

        I used to be the person on the other end of that form, a phone line or two, and some other methods of contact. It’s quite easy to contact most reporters (and most methods, such as their email addresses and direct phone numbers, don’t even involve a gatekeeper like me ensuring your message isn’t spam). That’s how they get stories a lot of the time, after all! They’d be unable to do their jobs if they were hard to contact.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Neither did I. So I said I was going to do a letter to the editor. I knew I struck home, because after that I was told not to close my eyes at night.
      To that I said, that I would send out letters to friends and relatives all over the country. Each letter would say the same thing, if something happens to me demand an investigation.

      To anyone who is struggling with a baadd situation, if you can’t find a door then look for a window as the song goes. The overall idea is to find out someone, who is not employed or paid for any reason by your company and who cares that x is going on at your company. This is more than one path to accomplish this, you do not have to personally know a reporter.

      1. DefinitelyEnoughDetailToBeIdentified*

        Wait… you were *threatened*?
        Never mind the bl00dy editor, phone the police!

        1. Chinook*

          Call both. The issue in the letter may not have been big enough for news, but threatening someone over something written in the paper definitely is.

  17. Quill*

    We needed this update, but I especially loved “Apparently they hate bad publicity more than lawyers” because this is a lesson I think many of us can learn from.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      It was a good update, but I’m not a fan of the (implied) blackmail:

      I went to see HR, and told them that if they didn’t help me solve this whole mess and find a new job I’d go and have a nice chat with one of those journalists

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        (I meant to add: especially as OP knew these journalists Because of the job I had in my original team rather than, e.g. because they were generally well-known or had contact details listed on a general website so that any member of the public could contact them with a relevant story. It seems like abusing ‘access’.)

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not really blackmail to say, “You are breaking the law. I’d like us to solve it, but if the company isn’t willing to do that, I stand ready to shine some light on this publicly.”

        1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

          Not as such, but OP was proposing to use access to journalists they had as part of the job, who already had an anti-OP’s-company agenda, which muddies it somewhat I feel.

          Out of interest what do you think differentiates this from blackmail? (e.g. threatening to make public facts that aren’t generally known, and are disfavorable to the organisation, which I understand as one of the central facets of blackmail, seem to be present here.)

          1. Observer*

            Are you seriously complaining that the OP used the resources she had available to make the company stop illegally abusing her?!

            If that’s blackmail, then blackmail is not always wrong.

            1. WellRed*

              Wtf? They are not shaking them down for cash over an illicit affair. Someone’s always gotta mayday…

          2. Des*

            Because the OP is not blackmailing them into doing something other than following the law??? If a policeman says “You shoot that gun you go to jail” they’re not blackmailing the potential shooter by using resources of their job to assert the law.

            It’s a natural consequence of following illegal practices that the OP can expose them.

            What even!

          3. tiasp*

            I think the difference between this and blackmail is that the situation that OP would expose is what the company had done to her, and what she was asking for to avoid that is what the company should have been doing to address the situation and get her out of there. I think blackmail would be a third party threatening to expose the company and asking for something in return that didn’t have anything to do with resolving the situation at issue. I think the most important part is that the action/payment demanded is an actual remedy for the situation. (E.g. if one of OP’s coworkers who knew the story had brought it to HR and asked for them to help OP, also not blackmail.)

          4. Sue Wilson*

            Well for one thing OP didn’t ask for anything she wasn’t entitled to nor did she suggest a consequence that she wasn’t entitled to. If the law entitles you to something, asking for it or another resolution is just negotiation of a settlement.

      3. tiny cactus*

        I mean, the company behaved appallingly (perhaps illegally?) so I don’t fault the OP for threatening to expose their bad behavior unless they do what they can to resolve things. I wouldn’t put that in the same category as personal blackmail.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        This sounded less like blackmail and more like natural consequences to me. Like, if you do a shitty thing there is always the risk that word gets out and you look bad for it. If not wanting to be a shitty company isn’t enough motivation to make it right, not wanting the bad reputation should be. That they needed to be reminded of this is sort of idiotic on the company’s part.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

            Whistleblowing is not blackmail!

            I 100% agree, but my understanding of whistleblowing (which I’m pretty sure is sound) is someone going privately to the ‘authorities’ – whoever they are in the specific situation – and exposing a situation or circumstance that is going on and is considered harmful – so that it can be investigated and so on.

            I’m pretty sure it’s not protected by “whistleblowing” regs if you tattle on the down low to your journalist mates you’ve made on the job and feed them their next story and agree to appear as an ‘anonymous’ source or, worse, a “person intimately involved with the matter”!

            1. Observer*

              Why exactly is this “tattling”?

              I’m not sure why you seem to think that self-defense is only morally acceptable if it’s done very narrow official channels? That’s how bullies, abusers and tyrants stay in power.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                I am with you, Observer. I am not clear why this is suddenly so complex. But the above is the type of logic that allowed Hitler to come to power. If one wants to find a reason not to do something one probably will. Period.

                Tattling is something that happens in kindergarten. We’re talking about adults here.

                As far as the ethics of going to the paper with a story of wrong-doing, this is what we have the whole concept of free press for. Companies, NPOs, governmental agencies know and are very much aware that at any time a reporter can show up and start asking questions. This is not a deep dark secret.

                So yes a person may have a choice between a relevant regulatory overseer or the press. We are free to choose which path we want to take.

                There are times where a person can see a large issue and choose just to move on. Because some of these large issues are a huge time suck and can totally ruin one’s health and perhaps their relationships at home, I totally understand the choice to just move away from the problem. I know of an individual who walked away. Decades later a citizen’s action group approached this individual. “We know you have documentation. We are going to court. We will win. We’d like to use your documentation to show this has been deliberately going on for decades.”
                They won in epic style.

                If people want to walk away, personal reasons are totally acceptable reasons for not taking on a Mt. Everest size problem. The person in my story had declining health and an elderly family member to consider. It turned out to be the absolute right choice because the clean up- from court to actually fixing of the problem- involved hundreds of people and this part took decades to work through. This person was not going to be able to handle it alone. Because this saga was so long (50 plus years), the person with the documents passed away from old age in the middle of the process.

                Bottom line: If someone sees something wrong and simply pulls themselves out of the situation, I don’t see a problem with the oxygen mask answer. But let’s not tell people they can’t go to the press if that is the option they choose.

          2. Ball of yarn*

            Blackmail would be if she tried to pressure them for hush money or something like that. Just telling them “you know what you are doing is wrong. Stop doing that/make it right or we will see who the public will side with” isn’t blackmail. She is abused by her employers and has the right to talk about it.
            It would also be blackmail if she threatened to tell the press about her boss having an affair or eating his toenails.
            There’s a huge difference between what she is doing and blackmail.

      5. Rosie*

        In the UK you risk your career by getting lawyers involved in any workplace situation, no matter how utterly justified. If it becomes known you are blacklisted. It is the absolute last resort, and I say that as someone who has done it. It doesn’t matter what you’re fighting against; calling a lawyer is seen as proof you either are unable to negotiate properly or a gold-digger and therefore a threat no employer will risk. But the bar for media involvement is a lot lower. An off the record chat with a journalist here (and you don’t necessarily need access to find one who would listen) can do a hell of a lot more damage to a bad organisation than any tribunal. She handled them perfectly.

  18. A Poster Has No Name*


    I’m sorry for the loss of your gran, and the tough year otherwise, but congrats on your impending marriage and escaping your crappy former employer!

    And, goats!

  19. Jaybeetee*

    The. The *public sector*??

    This crap was happening to you in a government job???

    I’m so sorry you went through that OP, and I’m so glad you got out of there and things are going so well for you now.

    Just… this was happening in a gov job?? I work for the Canadian fed, and the managers are trained to the nth degree to… basically be the opposite of that. I’m stunned that was happening.

    1. Anon for this*

      In the 80s, my public sector employer went all the way to the supreme court and lost . . . and thats how we got some of our sexual harassment laws in the US.

  20. Daffy Duck*

    Congratulation on a happy outcome! Goats are so smart (as smart as dogs, research shows), enjoy the wonderful, busy, amazing, and heartbreaking world of livestock.

  21. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I love this update more than I can possibly say. Your original post made me so angry and I’d somehow managed to forget that your situation got worse in your first update.

    So happy that your boobs are doing well and congrats on both the farm and the upcoming wedding!

  22. KuklaRed*

    Oh my goodness! A better job, better health, a proposal and adorable GOATS!! This has to rank in the top 5 of all updates. I’m so happy for you, OP! May 2021 bring you even more wonderful things. And more goats.

  23. Elizabeth West*

    I have never clicked on an update so fast in my LIFE.

    OP, I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you gave them an ultimatum. And the outcome? Ha! Perfection. I am very satisfied by this update. And thank you for sharing the goat picture. :D

  24. PoppinInForThis*

    The best update EVVVVVEEEEEEEERRRR. (But sorry about your gran). Hope your 2021 is delightful.

  25. Cuckoo for Corona*

    Goats that look like sheep! Fabulous! From now on I think Alison should include with her advice to start a farm with goats, sheep, ducks, or other medium sized mammals. (more accessible for newbies, hahahahahaahahhaa)

  26. Legit Boss, Sasha Banks*

    This is my favourite update ever. You have far more balls than I do (threatening them with the press! You are my hero!) and I adore the goats.

    I’m in the UK too, and feel your pain on not seeing family. I’m here with you and we will get through this ever changing tier system… I’ve also been in the civil service here for a few years, and unfortunately recognise some of the shitty practices you’ve talked about (not to the same degree, and I am in no way trying to discredit your experience) so I just want to say that you are truly inspiring to me, and I really hope you achieve everything you aim for, you deserve it. Best wishes.

  27. Dragon_Dreamer*

    Yay! So happy that everything worked out for you! :D Good luck with your new life and new body!

  28. Akcipitrokulo*

    A good update! on original and firat update I couldn’t believe they thought could get away with such flagrant breaking the law… but the threat of media involvment was great :)

    I love your goats!

  29. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I am very sorry for your loss of your grandparent.

    But I am so happy that you included goat pictures. Your animals are gorgeous and I love how they are looking the camera. Well, they are actually looking at you because they know you take good care of them.
    I wish you all the best, OP.

  30. Delta Delta*

    We all needed angora goats today! I mean, this is a great update, but the goats are really the icing on the cake.

  31. CollieO'Brien*

    Can you deliver one of your fluffy sheepgoats for Christmas to California? Because I really want one.
    P.S. Congrats on all the things!

  32. CoveredInBees*

    Love that you stuck up for yourself and were able to make a change. Also I love the goats! Maybe round out the look with some highland cattle and some heritage breed chickens?

  33. MiriamG*

    I’ve never commented before but the combo of the story – and the photo of the moppets! lol – forced me to. As someone who’s had 2 mastectomies on the same side (yep, that’s actually possible – simple mastectomy & then a modified radical) but who would be a little freaked out at being at work w/o my prosthesis you do whatever the heck you want and more power to you. I have 2 friends who don’t have an arm – one used to walk around w/a metal claw and one had no prosthesis. Both were happy w/their choices – and really their opinions were the only ones that mattered. I’m so sorry about the losses in your life and very pleased about all the good news. The goats cracked me the heck up and I’m so glad they’re part of your good news.

  34. Former Employee*

    Such great news, though I am sorry about granny.

    The goats are so cute. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought they were sheep.

    Wherever the OP is located, it looks beautiful. Living in such a place as that can be very healing, especially since there is no longer a toxic workplace to offset it.

    Best wishes to OP for the future.

  35. Chris*

    Good outcome, but I have to say that a potential employer who was willing to hire me without an interview because I was the only one who applied would be a big warning sign. That is some bad hiring practice right there. It would take me a lot longer than 30 seconds and a lot more questions to investigate whether this organization was dysfunctional in other ways before I took the job.

Comments are closed.