Make a splash after mastectomy
Advice on how to rediscover your fabulous, beautiful self!
Fort Wayne, Indiana (June 2, 2008) — Treatment changes a woman’s body, as well as her body image. Most women already feel self-conscious in fitted sweaters, strappy tops and lingerie, let alone a bikini. It might sound frivolous—thinking about shopping at a time like this—but an essential part of dealing with breast cancer is learning to feel more comfortable with your body again. We talked to breast cancer survivors and top docs across the country for advice on feeling great inside and out after undergoing a mastectomy. Below, the best tips we heard. You go girl!
“Oddly enough, I never really gave much thought to the whole idea of a mastectomy. My first surgery was a lumpectomy and my surgeon said I would probably lose my nipple, worst-case scenario. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a real joker, so of course my first comment was that my days of entering wet t-shirt contests were definitely over.”
—Gail Mungovan, breast cancer survivor
“The topic of body image became even more personal after both of my breasts were removed in January of this year. It was less conspicuous that I had had my breasts removed in February and March while suited in wool blazers and winter sweaters. Now that spring fashions are the attire each day, it is much more obvious when I choose not to wear my breast prosthetics. However, I have quickly learned that my ease and comfort in being breastless, for a day or an evening, determines the comfort of those around me. Yes, seeing the scars on my chest each day during my morning shower reminds me of cancer. But, they also remind me of life, and the joy of life. As I enter swimsuit season without breasts, it feels odd. Yet, I am intentional in my attire to communicate confidence; to be joyfully living, not dying.”
-Beth Goldsmith, breast cancer survivor
“Reconstruction is not just about self-esteem, it can also be a matter of practicality. Facing a mastectomy and choosing between reconstruction or prosthesis on only psychological terms implies that it is all emotional and not rational. Wearing prosthesis does not prevent a woman from looking lovely and from wearing bathing suits and normal clothing. It’s simply a personal choice.”
-Connie Rufenbarger, breast cancer survivor
“Women consider reconstruction to preserve or restore body image as the breast is a principle element in the feminine form. It is an active rebuilding and serves as a strong positive in a difficult time.”
-Geoff Randolph, M.D., a plastic surgeon in Fort Wayne, IN
“I worried more about what my husband would say in seeing my body after my mastectomy than in my own reaction. He said, ‘Women look at mastectomy surgery as an amputation of an important part of the body. We need to have women think of mastectomy surgery as a transformation surgery because the surgeon’s mission is to transform a patient from a breast cancer patient into a breast cancer survivor! She’s exchanging her breast for a fair chance of life.”
-Lillie Shockney, R.N., B.S., M.A.S, Administrative Director, Johns Hopkins Avon Foundation Breast Center, two-time breast cancer survivor
“There is a lot of information to assemble. As a patient you need to do your homework. You need to think about how important aesthetic, practicality, function and comfort are to you. You have to do some work in really thinking this through. You can’t rush these decisions. My best advice is to take the time you need to process all of these considerations and understand what it means to you.”
-Marisa Weiss, M.D., President and Founder, BreastCancer.org
Log onto Shop Well With You to boost your body image. Use the “Clothing and Accessory Directory” to search for specific garments, brands or styles. You can also download The Shop Well with You Guide to Body Image and Cancer for great advice and fashion tips.
Pick up Facing the Mirror with Cancer by Lori Ovitz and Joanne Kabak. In this book, a veteran makeup artist offers patients tips on solving common beauty problems during treatment.