Loving Your Body After Breast Cancer
Accepting your body image after breast cancer can be difficult. Whether you decided to go flat, wear a prosthesis, or get breast reconstruction, you will have to learn to accept the new you. Getting my breast removed made me feel like an amputee…a part of my body was cut off. Although I decided to get breast reconstruction, I still felt that I lost a part of me. And it was unbearable at the beginning.
Body Image after Breast Cancer Reconstruction
It is a misconception that breast reconstruction will make you feel normal. Yes, you will have something to fill in your bra, but there is nothing normal about a breast with no tissue and just an implant. I remember cringing when women would say to me ‘at least you’re getting new boobs’. They don’t understand that a normal breast augmentation is adding an implant to a breast with your tissue. After a mastectomy, your breast feels empty, even with a breast implant. And when you touch it, you won’t feel anything but a slight pressure from your hand. You literally have no nipple sensation.
My reconstructed breast is hard and has no sensation. I was lucky that I was a good candidate for a skin sparing mastectomy. This is when all of your breast tissue is removed, leaving the skin and nipple. Imagine the removal of your nipple, getting the tissue scraped out, adding a tissue expander and then having your nipple replaced. That was how my nipple sparing mastectomy went.
My reconstructed breast looks great under my clothes with a bra. But, without a bra, things get a little out of control. I will spare you the details but know that I am going in for a second reconstruction in November. It can take several surgeries to get it right.
Bikini After Breast Cancer?
Two weeks ago, I went on vacation in Jamaica. This was my first vacation since going through breast cancer almost 2 years ago. I went on a hunt for a bathing suit that would cover and distract from my breast. Because I have scars I needed a one piece that would cover up as much as possible. It was then that I noticed that I was not comfortable with my body image after breast cancer surgery.
When my husband and I arrived at the beach-side resort, women of all ages, shapes and sizes were rocking bikinis! I felt like an old maid in my one-piece bathing suit. I have never had a body image problem but losing a breast has made me self-conscious. To the woman who flagged me down to tell me my bathing suit was beautiful, you made my day.
Regardless of whether you choose breast reconstruction or not, accepting your body image after breast cancer may be challenging. Personally, I try to focus on things that I can control, like taking care of my fingernails and toes and keeping my hair done. Maybe I will be more comfortable after my second surgery; maybe not. I applaud breast cancer survivors who bare their scars and mastectomies to the world. I too, can’t wait to get to the point of not caring if people notice my scars and mix matched breasts.
Breast cancer survivors, how did you deal with your body image after breast cancer surgery?