Body Image After a Mastectomy
Body image after mastectomy is difficult for many women. I went through this myself after a bilateral double mastectomy. It is my own definition but I define women who live with mastectomies, “hidden amputees”. No one sees you are missing body parts when you wear prosthesis. No one feels what you feel each time you see a reflection of yourself in the mirror or try to pick out something to make you look feminine or sexy when you want to step out for a social event. No one truly understands the desire to just magically want the clock to turn back before you had to have your breasts removed due to cancer; no one except you.
What was your personal choice?
How did a mastectomy change your body image and how have you dealt with it? Did you decide to have reconstruction, wear prosthesis, cover your scars with artistic tattoos, or go “flat and fabulous”? It is a personal and individual decision. I respect each choice made after mastectomy.
Femininity restored after Mastectomy
I decided after a double mastectomy I was going to move forward with breast reconstruction. For me, it was the right decision. My femininity, my curves, being able to choose clothing to make me feel sexy again for both me and my husband was important. I also missed those body parts. It may sound strange to some, but I felt out of balance. I seemed to get cold easier lacking the added insulation from my breasts. The “divots” and scars left from my mastectomy were a constant reminder of what I’d been through.
Plastic Surgery and Balancing Out Your Body
Having DIEP flap surgery made me feel as if it was all me after reconstruction and in fact, it was all me. I used my own body tissue and the plastic surgeon I chose was a master at his skill, an artist, a visionary. He balanced my body out and I had more of a figure at 59 than I had in my entire life. I was never well endowed “up top” but did the best I could with bra purchases and trying to enhance what I lacked before I had a mastectomy, push-ups, pads, you know the drill. We’ve all been there to help “the girls” out.
My little sister, who helped me recover from both phases of my DIEP flap surgery, once told me I would be able to wear clothes without a bra someday. She is a nurse and has seen many breast surgeries. Still, at the time she told me, I just smiled and said, “Really, no bra?” I guess I was the doubting Thomas. She took this picture of me the day we went out to pick up my prosthesis about a month after my mastectomy with no breasts on the chest!
My wardrobe malfunction moment is a story to chuckle about. I still wear a bra every day as support for my newly reconstructed breasts. I did, however, buy a couple of dresses I could wear without a bra. I didn’t think one night without one was going to cause any undo damage. I tried it on before I bought it to make sure it would look OK sans the bra. I chose a night to wear it when my husband and I went out to dinner on a beautiful summer evening. He complimented me on the dress which validated my purchase. I was feeling great, liberated! We went out with friends who were both younger than we were but really great fun to be with.
We were sitting outside at a resort with them one evening on a patio overlooking the desert landscape and it was just breathtaking. All of a sudden, one of the straps on my dress broke and I came very close to having a “Janet Jackson moment”; a certifiable wardrobe malfunction. Keep in mind you have numbness in your breasts from the mastectomy surgery due to nerves being cut. I had some sensation restored at the time of my DIEP flap but not in the top part of my breasts above the nipple area, so I was lucky I even felt the strap break and the dress begin to fall right off of my breast! I was able to catch the dress falling before I went in to full exposure mode!! My friend looked at me and smiled and said, “I have safety pins in my emergency bag in my purse.”
Body Image Improved and Put to the Test
We stood up after my wardrobe malfunction, I held the broken side of my dress to remain covered and we went to the restroom for repair. We were both laughing as she got to work repairing my broken strap with those safety pins. I said to her, “I feel like telling my plastic surgeon I almost gave him a free advertising moment!”
I do feel better about my body image and I wouldn’t trade one minute of my decision to have breast reconstruction surgery. I just know now in my emergency bag, I’ll be adding safety pins to the mix. The improved body image I experienced after breast reconstruction gave me the sense of humor to deal with this moment in a positive light.