A Reader’s Thoughts On Body Image After Breast Cancer Treatment
A few weeks ago, a reader called Mary, left this comment on Journeying Beyond:
I’m glad I stumbled on this site. No one tells you how your going to feel after. The emotions, the dead nerve skin, pain where they removed lymph nodes. I can deal with the scars, those I expected.
Anger is there often. I don’t want to hear I’m lucky to beat cancer. Beat it…it’s always there. Everytime you look at your altered body. Still taking medication that put me into a second menopause.
I do my best to stay positive but sometimes it’s hard, like when I try to find a bra, enter all my info on website to be told I’m outside their size range, your size is only 17percent of women, or check back if anything changes, like I’m going to grow new boobs.
Nothing like making me feel like a freak.
So I’m destined to not have a bra, and continue to wear surgery bras. I’m not looking for fancy or sexy just something that fits and doesn’t fit.
So I’m happy I survived, I just wish I could feel normal.
My heart goes out to Mary and to all of us who have struggled with these issues around body image after breast cancer. I wish I had some practical advice to offer Mary around post-mastectomy bra fitting, but I’ve never found a bra that fitted me and I have just had to get good at padding out my lop-sided bosom. I am reposting Mary’s comment here with her permission in the hope that perhaps some of my readers might have practical advice to offer. Even if you don’t, it would be wonderful if you could reach out via the comments and let Mary know she is not alone in feeling this way.
Go a specialist at a
Lady Grace who can fit you properly. Made a huge difference and I felt great.
Mary, I know how you feel, and you are not alone. I “survived” breast cancer, but had so much difficulty adjusting to life after cancer and a new less-than-stellar body image. I found a certified mastectomy fitter who finally — after my years of searching for someone with bra know-how — met my needs. I still need a prosthesis for my breast that had had the cancer. I know you’re in emotional pain. Just hang in there. You are definitely not alone.
You are definitely not alone Mary! I got fitted in my local cancer support centre by a trained fitter( who also happened to be a nurse) . There are days when a bra is too uncomfortable. Sometimes I wear a cotton vest next to my skin and then a bra. Not very glamorous but it helps on those days when my skin is very sensitive. Catherine
Thanks so much Beth, Catherine and Barbie for reaching out to Mary
I can so relate to Mary – after a double mastectomy last June, every day is a new day. I agree with the previous comments about professional, certified mastectomy fitters. I visited one and was very encouraged that I found prosthetics that are reasonably comfortable. They certainly help me feel more “normal” to the outside world. But no one tells you about the weird itch that can’t be scratched, the numbness and hypersensitivity at the same time in the same place. It’s freaky. I’ve heard it stabilizes after a while. And I do feel so lucky to have beaten cancer. But living in this body isn’t easy. Peace to you Mary.
You are in a vast sisterhood Mary. I will say that nerves continue to change and heal – areas that once felt completely foreign and dead, now after a few years have enough sensation to feel less weird for me. As to the bra, I seek out sports type bras that will lay smoother on my mastectomy side. I have chosen not to use the prosthetic. It has been very amazing to me how little noticed my uniboob status seems to be.
Gratitude by the way is not something that happens instead of other feelings. It is possible to be grateful for life, and pissed about the ravages of treatments, and grieving for all that was lost in the process all at the same time. The “encouragement” to look on the bright side by other people is often inappropriate to the situation at hand- which is the hard work of processing loss. Hang in there. Xo Iris
Thank you all for reaching out to Mary and sharing your wisdom – I love Iridacea’s words about being in a vast sisterhood – draw on this support Mary.