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.

9 comments:

  1. Thank you for your post. I also have been trying to go without forms unless I'm wearing a special outfit. Maybe because it's winter, and bulky clothes hide many faults, but no one seems to notice. We all can identify that involuntary glance down that says something isn't right - but 90% of the time, no one honestly seems to notice. I wonder about summer clothes though - tee shirts and bathing suits don't leave anything to the imagination.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I am going to have a double mastectomy soon. I have not made my mind up to have reconstruction done. The thought of no breast does not scare me, but will I think different when I see myself? Just need to hear from others that have already been down this road. So new to me.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In response to the 2nd anonymous... if you're not sure, it's always an option to wait and reconstruct later if you decide to. Then you can get a chance to experience what it would be like without your breasts and decide what is right for you. For me, it also helped to go to a support group and hear other women talking about their reconstruction experiences. It was enough to make me think, "no, thanks!" at least for now

    ReplyDelete
  4. I had a bilateral mastectomy in November and opted to not have reconstruction. I have a RX for prostheses but decided not to go that route either. Going back to work was an adjustment (I work in a hospital - so people tended to notice more than when I was out with the general public)everyone was very supportive and happy I was back and HEALTHY. I wear regular shirts - usually a size smaller than I used to so that there isn't a loose gap at the neckline. I will admit that shopping for a bathing suit for a vacation a few weeks ago was very emotional - I finally found a great one - a tankini - straight across the top - had underwires in it that I slid out, so now its perfect. My 25 year old daughter was with me and when we got to the check out line we were laughing so hard when we saw the big bold typeface on the tag hanging on this particular bathing suit -
    "bust enhancing"...I told her I should ask for a refund!

    Anonymous - At first it was weird seeing a BreastFree me...my belly seemed too big and my arms looked lost...I accepted the new normal of a HEALTHY me! My advice is to allow yourself time to adjust and then just when you think you have...something may trigger you and you need to allow yourself to feel feelings. There is NO timetable here. You can make decisions as you feel you are ready. In the meantime ...keep your sense of humor - try on things that you would normally just grab and buy...its surprising how many necklines seem fine on a hanger but when you are BreastFree tend to hang down to your belly button! Enjoy the freedom...going to the gym in just a t-shirt and capris is wonderful...not having to wrestle out of a soggy sportsbra...priceless! Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or just need to chat.
    Denise

    ReplyDelete
  5. This sie is sooo great. I had my surgery 22 November and have been breast free on my left side since. My family is not the type to let any reason for a good laugh to go by so its been 6 months of jokes about my "uniboob". At first it hurt my feelings a little but soon I found the laughter helped and began to beat them to the punch line. Then my daughter in law found a soft jel filled ball the looked like a breast at the local flea market. Now occasionally I will slip it into my regular bra and when the moment is right yank it out to show "close" friends and relatives. She then presented me with 8 of them and they sit in a lovely crystal bowl on my dining room table. Talk about a conversation starter! All I had read before talked like every woman had severe emotional problems with a missing breast and I was feeling like an odd ball because it didn't bother me until I ran across this site. What I was looking for when I found it as what I call misplaced tenderness. There is one place on the underside of my upper arm that if I touch it, I feel the touch where the breast used to be and visa versa. Anyone else have this sensation?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous June 7,

    Others have reported phantom breast sensations, but that's a very unusual one. I've noticed that if I'm wearing a breast form with a nipple protrusion, when I touch it, I feel like I did when I touched my real nipple in the past -- not just in my finger, but a mild sense of arousal in other parts of my body. The brain is amazing in the way it remembers and reproduces sensation.

    ReplyDelete
  7. In reading the postings on this blog, one thing is evidently clear - every person feels this experience differently. How we identify with our breasts prior to and afterward is a result of our experiences with them. Our minds ARE amazing. Great blog!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have never worn any kind of form since the surgery in May, 2010. I eased into the flat all time by wearing oversized clothes or a cardigan as much to camouflage the drains as anything. In really short order I just started wearing very feminine normal clothes that fit me and I swear people really don't notice or pay any attention. It has been over 15 mos now. I have asked a couple of men on occasion if they would ever confuse me for a man because of the flat chest and they almost invariably burst out laughing with a No Way!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's good to hear, especially about the question to the men. I'm leaning heavily toward breast free. Thank you for your comment.

      Delete