Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Believe It or Not, They Don't Notice!

Many of us who have not had reconstruction find that it feels wonderful to go form-free. I often don't wear my forms when I'm at home, but (so far) I always wear them when I'm out in public. Some women, however, choose not to use breast forms at all and many of them report that people don't seem to notice their lack of breasts. One woman, Mia W., decided not to wear a breast form during her radiation treatments and wrote about her experience. She has kindly allowed me to publish her story, which follows.

Leading up to radiation, I was anxious that I would be too uncomfortable to wear my breast form. I had a unilateral mastectomy, so I'm a B cup on one side and concave on the other side — going without my breast form in public seemed unthinkable. When I finally felt brave enough to try, I learned that with some basic clothing camouflage and a little self-confidence, no one seemed to notice!

I built my comfort level with baby steps. My first forays in public were to my doctor appointments. I figured this was a group of people who would understand, if anyone would, and I wasn't looking to make a fashion statement. I resurrected my maternity shirts, which were loose and comfortable, and layered a jacket and scarf on top. When this went without comment, I tried just a jacket layer, or just a scarf layer. Both passed. Next, I wore a patterned shirt (which wasn't maternity wear) with a scarf. Still, no problem.

Going without a breast form (and indeed, without any bra or camisole) was so much more comfortable as radiation progressed that I decided to be braver in public. I went to a support group that way and no one noticed, even though I was sitting in a circle with other women who knew I had had a mastectomy!  I was the last to share during group, and everyone was very surprised. Not the polite kind of surprised meant to save my feelings, but actually surprised.

So, I tried several other venues, including a party and a lunch with co-workers. Again, it was no big deal. At the party, when the hostess turned up the temperature in the house, I took her aside and asked her to drop it a few degrees, as I wanted to keep on a camouflage layer. Because she was a close friend, I told her why.  She was surprised, too, but very supportive.

I am now one treatment away from the end of my radiation. My skin has come through better than it would have if I regularly wore the binding clothes that would've been necessary to support a breast form. I have also been more comfortable than I would have been. And, I am more confident of my appearance — if people didn't notice when I wasn't wearing a form at all, how likely are they to notice if my form isn't perfect?

I hope my experience is encouraging for you, too.