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.