Breast Reconstruction ~ Concealing Scars After Mastectomy
Breast reconstruction and concealing scars after mastectomy is a certainty for patients post surgery. There are those who bravely bare their scars as a symbol of strength and what they have been through. But for many, hiding the scars of breast reconstruction is a skill and becomes a sort of creative art.
Various Surgeries ~ Various Scars
There are abdominal scars and breast scars if you have had DIEP flap breast reconstruction. LAT flap will leave you with scars on your back and breasts. TUG flap will leave you with breasts and inner thigh scars. PAP and GAP flap will leave scars at the breasts and buttocks areas. Those who have immediate breast reconstruction will likely have the least amount of scars on their breasts, but scars nonetheless.
Placement of scars is a topic that should definitely be brought up in the initial consult with your plastic surgeon. A skilled plastic surgeon will do their level best to place them in inconspicuous areas so scars are not visible when wearing clothing.
Breast reconstruction is seldom a onetime surgery. There is frequently follow up surgery to achieve symmetry and much can be done at this time to correct scar adhesions, dog ears on abdominal scars, and removal of scar tissue that has formed from your first surgery.
Self Esteem and Image
Breast cancer and BRCA patients must live with those scars daily when unclothed after breast reconstruction, especially autologous plastic surgery procedures. The scars of mastectomy and absence of breasts are the scars that are often time far more devastating to the patient than post reconstruction scars. It was the case for me. I lacked body form and the natural beauty that is associated with having breasts. We are born with breasts. Those of us who are mothers have nursed our children and nourished them through our breasts. The clothing we wear as women enhances our feminine outline because of breasts. Absence of breasts can affect a woman’s sense of sexuality and sensuality.
There are adjustments to be made after mastectomy if no reconstruction is chosen or one has delayed reconstruction as was the case for me. There are those who choose not to rebuild their breasts and accessorize accordingly either by acceptance of and embracing their breast-less bodies or wearing prosthesis to replace the form of the breasts that were lost to cancer.
Studies have shown that for many, breast reconstruction improves quality of life and self image. It was the case for me. I was raised by women in my family who embraced their femininity and graced their bodies with clothing that honored that womanliness. When that was taken away from me after my mastectomy it became difficult bringing loss of self esteem.
I traveled for my breast reconstruction so one of the challenges of that is not being able to go back to your plastic surgeon for a six week follow up visit. My plastic surgeon, however, compensated for that by making a personal phone call at six weeks to assess your physical status and I honestly remember him asking me how I felt about the appearance of my breasts. I’ll never forget my response. I stated, “I am enjoying my new wardrobe options!”
Clothing the Scars of Mastectomy
I could buy clothing now that I felt feminine in once again. I felt a sense of wholeness and balance. Did I have scars beneath the clothing? Many, but I knew that they would fade over time. Like a beautiful piece of pottery or a cherished gift that was damaged or cracked with some sort of trauma, my body was put back together and now I could clothe and embellish it once more just as I did before breast cancer took my breasts from me.
Scars will always be a part of my life now and also for my fellow breast cancer survivors who have chosen breast reconstruction. But my face lights up when they send me photos of themselves post-reconstruction in a swimsuit, dress, blouse, or new garment that makes them feel feminine again. I smile because I know that under those beautiful new clothes and beyond that beautiful new shape, there are scars that remind them daily that they have weathered the Journey of mastectomy and breast cancer!
I leave you with this excerpt from a book that was given to me many years ago and I treasure it to this day. It is from, The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran.