It’s been a year and a half since cancer stopped me in my tracks and forced me to part with my breasts.
Enough time has passed to enable some real perspective. Distance is like that.
So what’s it really like after a double mastectomy? The most accurate assessment is that it’s not as I figured it would be. Because it’s important to focus on positive things, let’s consider those first. Never to need a bra again unless wearing the foobs. Never be subjected to another useless, uncomfortable mammogram. Learning that my husband loves me fiercely, with or without those lovely C-cups.
So now the not-so-positive stuff. I miss them a lot. It’s as if (hahahaha) part of me is missing. Getting used to the feeling of their departure has not been easy on any level. Enter the Foobs.
“Foobs” is loose slang for Fake Boobs. They can be silicone, fabric or foam. Many ladies make their very own knitted foobs. They all have benefits and drawbacks, but the main thing to know is that comfort is an elusive thing with any of them. The silicones are heavy and have the feel of real breasts, but are hot-flash inducing horrors. Manipulating them in and out of specialized bras (my bras are now and forever considered “medical devices” and covered by insurance) can be frustrating. The foobs made from lighter materials don’t have the necessary weight to properly hold most bras in place. I’m either pulling those down, and yanking the silicone ones up since they like to sink. Told you the silicone were more realistic. And if you should ever leave the house without them, be prepared for the stares of curious folks. Good news: you will easily be able scare the living shit out of them and thus stop the staring by thrusting out your bird chest proudly while making loud, disturbing animal noises. Yes I have done this, in public. No I am not proud.
The damage from surgery and radiation has altered my once limber body to a creaky, dry, tight, aching, uncomfortable ghost. This is the funny thing, because I had imagined my flat, scarred chest would bother me worst of all. But for some reason my visions of forlorn crying jags and inconsolable rants lamenting the loss of femininity never came to pass. I’ve no doubt that my not-so-bad scars are due to Dr. Nora’s skillful hand.
It’s surprisingly non-dramatic for me to live without breasts now, just sort of a minor inconvenience. But I’m left with a compromised lymphatic system, major scarring under the skin, and a dry, radiated chest that never seems to improve. There are no functioning sweat glands in my right armpit, and no hair grows there anymore. My range of motion post treatment was nil and it was all pain, all the time. That has improved slowly, thanks to gentle yoga and pilates, still grueling and extremely difficult.
If you are wondering – yes I would still choose a double BMX again vs. a lumpectomy, even though the latest research claims that lumpectomy + radiation + chemo is just as effective. But to me it’s a simple matter of math. Less breast tissue = less chance of local and/or distant recurrence.