Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A New Use For the Lowly Tissue

For those of us who choose to wear breast forms after a mastectomy, perspiration behind the forms can be a problem. It only gets worse during warm weather, and hot flashes don't help, either. After years of experimenting with various types of silicone and non-silicone breast forms, as well as different pocketed bras and camisoles, I've found help from an unlikely source — a simple Kleenex* tissue.

When I was first fitted with silicone forms, I noticed something curious. The right side of my chest, which had been treated with radiation, didn't get hot underneath the new forms. But the left side was a different story. Although I don't normally perspire much, the un-radiated side became hot and sticky within a few hours. Apparently, radiation had destroyed the ability of my right side to perspire, but no such luck with my un-radiated left side.

I went on a quest to discover a breast form or a pocketed garment or a combination of the two that would create a comfortable, sweat-free environment. I tried silicone forms, like the Amoena Energy, that are designed to minimize perspiration. They helped a little, but didn't get rid of the problem. As for bras and camisoles, while some pocket fabrics felt better than others, none prevented me from perspiring. I even tried cotton pads designed to soak up perspiration under the arm, as well as nursing pads. I found both uncomfortable and even itchy against my skin.

I soon realized that non-silicone forms were the least likely to cause perspiration. I wore foam forms while hiking and during other strenuous exercise and they worked wonderfully, especially when I used them in a soft pocketed garment like the Still You camisole. But even when wearing foam forms, I would occasionally sweat behind the form and might even get a heat rash on a hot day or after exerting myself. Once I had a rash, I had to be extra-careful to keep the area cool. That's when I turned to my Kleenex tissue box.

I reasoned that with a tissue next to my skin, if I began sweating I could remove the damp tissue and replace it with a dry one, thereby preventing further irritation to my chest. Even if I were out and about, all I had to do was have an extra tissue or two with me. I tried out the idea and it worked!

I simply folded a plain Kleenex tissue (not one with lotion added) in half, then again in thirds, and placed it just above the band of my bra or camisole. Even when I wore an unpocketed bra, the tissue didn't move around. And I found that, in addition to absorbing perspiration beautifully, the tissue fiber felt soft and silky against my skin. Who would have thought? And, even better, my rashes seemed to go away much more quickly.

Still, for a long time I resisted using tissues against my skin regularly, and only resorted to them if my skin felt irritated or rashy. But this summer, I've finally embraced the concept and, to my delight, the lowly Kleenex tissue has kept me cool and dry, even on some very hot days. And since I've started using tissues on a daily basis, I haven't had a single heat rash. It may seem like an inelegant solution, but for me it's been an effective one. Hopefully, it will be for you, too.

*I've recommended Kleenex tissues because when I've tried other, less expensive brands, I've found them too abrasive. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

There Are Worse Things Than Losing My Breasts

Since I had my bilateral mastectomy, I've tried to keep the loss of my breasts in perspective. There are worse things that could happen. For me and for many of us who have had breast cancer, the news we most fear is that our cancer has spread beyond our breasts — that it has become metastatic.

Recently, two contributors to BreastFree.org received this devastating news many years after their original diagnoses. One of these women had early stage breast cancer and had been told that the odds of her cancer spreading were only 1%. The other had a serious Stage 3 cancer, but after eight years with no evidence of disease, she had begun to hope that she was cured. I ache for these wonderful women. And their stories remind me not to take a single day for granted.


Some cancer survivors describe the appreciation of life that comes from confronting their mortality. For me, after my initial diagnosis, everything seemed more vivid and wonderful — just taking a walk could bring me to tears because the flowers and sky looked so intensely beautiful. And that intensity extended to my family. I felt a passionate love for my husband and sons, a depth of feeling that all too often becomes submerged by the routines of daily life. And all too soon, as I recovered from surgery and resumed those routines, that intensity faded.

But my perspective has permanently changed. I make a conscious effort every day (well, almost every day) to slow down and enjoy my friends and family, and the world around me. If I ever receive the frightening news that my cancer has metastasized, I want to feel that I've enjoyed my good health while I've had it.

Even for those to whom the worst happens, there is reason for hope. Many women with metastatic breast cancer live for years, sometimes decades, with a high quality of life. A number of the treatments available today are gentler than in the past, and if one fails there are usually others that can be tried. I fervently wish that my two friends respond well to treatment and have many more years to stop and smell the roses.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I'm Now Blogging on Breastcancer.org, in addition to here at the BreastFree Blog

I've long been a fan of the Breastcancer.org website. It offers a tremendous amount of information and support for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer, as well as for those going through treatment and those struggling to find a new normal afterwards. While Breastcancer.org doesn't explore non-reconstruction as comprehensively as BreastFree.org, the editors have recently expanded their coverage of this important subject.

One reflection of that change is that I've been asked to contribute to the Breastcancer.org Blog. Earlier this week, my first article was posted. It's entitled Living a Breast-Free Life. In it, I introduce myself by telling my personal story. In subsequent posts, I hope to address issues of concern to those of us who have chosen to live breast-free. I also intend to continue posting here at the BreastFree Blog.

I hope you'll check me out at both places and that you'll feel free to add your own comments.