Help, I Think I’m an ‘A’ Cup

When I once googled “mastectomy support” in search of women who were also trying to deal with the psychological implications of their cancer diagnoses and surgeries, most of the results it returned involved places to buy bras and prostheses.

Mastectomy “support” is not for your brain apparently, but just for your boobs.

Cuz it’s how you look, not how you feel, that matters.

Like I used to get comments on my “healthy glow” during chemo. The skin flush was a side effect of the Taxotere. But whatever. If you think I’m lookin’ rosy, I guess it doesn’t matter that I feel like death.

And if “no one will know” that you’ve had cancer because you’re sporting a reconstruction or prosthesis, I guess that means you can go ahead and get over it. Because in everybody else’s eyes it’s over, or never happened.

Part of the difficulty surrounding my surgeon’s decision was trying to determine how to treat cancer in a woman with, as she said, “such small breasts.” It wouldn’t be possible, she decided, to remove a 2.5 cm lump and leave a “cosmetically acceptable breast.”

Acceptable to whom? I wondered. She’d decided what was “acceptable” without ever asking me.

This was the same woman who, minutes after first telling me I had cancer, had felt one of the most important issues to bring up was “you will lose your hair.”

I’m not trying to chastise her for raising the issue, because it seems to be (though startlingly, I still think) a huge, even the biggest, concern for many women.

But I thought: I have a disease I could die from, and you’re talking about my hair?

The other day I finally went underwear shopping. An older lady was asking for the saleswoman’s help. “I’ve had breast surgery, and now I’m not sure what size I am,” she said.

Me too! I wanted to scream. Despite what you may think, despite how I may look, I’m not some 25-year-old choosing underwear to look sexy for her boyfriend; I’m trying to find something to put over my stitched-up, ex-cancerous un-boob.

I’ve had breast surgery, and I don’t know what size I am. The cancer occurred in my bigger breast, and for the sake of symmetry the reconstruction was meant to match the smaller left, meaning I’ve dropped down from a B to an A cup I guess. But that’s not really the problem here. I’ve had breast surgery, and I don’t know how I am.

The other night I dreamt of being in a bathtub with someone and wondering what to say, how to explain my body. Those dreams in which you find yourself suddenly, inexplicably naked are the worst. Even worse when you’re naked, and missing a breast.

But least I found something to replace the layers of T-shirts I’ve been wearing in lieu of a bra—a sort of stretchy, comfy, thin-strapped sports bra with a little padding for $4.99.

And I can amuse myself by thinking of “AA XXX” by Peaches as my theme song.



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2 responses to “Help, I Think I’m an ‘A’ Cup

  1. I didn’t have a masectomy. However. My radiated breast is now larger than my unradiated breast. In August, my onco told me, “Yeah, radiation can cause permanent swelling.” NOW you tell me. Mind you, I would have gone ahead with radiation but it would have been nice to know before my breast doubled in size that that was a possibility. The Tamoxifen has also changing my breast tissue.

    I don’t care how “normal” I look to the outside world. This is most certainly not normal to me.

    Re: discussing chemo. One of the med oncos I consulted (before all the details of cancer I had were in) made it a point of emphasising that CMF chemo meant I would be less likely to lose my hair. So you think I might decide on my chemo based on whether or not I lose my hair? Furreals?

    *sigh* Another on-point post, Emily. Keep ’em coming.

  2. A.J.S.

    One thing those oncologists or surgeons were not able to take from you was your amazing gift with language. Although, I have not had breast cancer, or any cancer- reading what you’ve written makes my ignorant brain able to at least attempt a grasp at where you are coming from. Your words are brave, your thoughts are pointed, and articulate… thank you for sharing this with the rest of us.
    Love Love Love

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