The hardest part about going back to work for me after having a breast removed was how people were going to see me. I think our perceptions of ourselves are far harsher and more judgemental than what other people see. We are our harshest critics! Well that’s certainly the way I have felt over the years.
So when I first attempted to go back to work and my wardrobe options were quite slim, I was super self-conscious. Not only was I worried that I had little to wear with one boob (and wore the prosthesis very little during treatment) but I kept thinking that everyone was looking at me.
For quite a while I was fixated on it. I would go up to someone to talk about work and I would start with, “Does this look alright?”, “Can you tell I’ve only got one boob?” It was like I thought I had a sign on my head saying “ONE BOOB LADY” and I thought people were stopping, staring and pointing. I was imagining that I stood out like a person with a broken leg. And while that was just the paranoia and adjusting to my body changes, I do accept that it was an understandable emotion for me at that time and one that I would imagine all breast cancer survivors experience.
From other people’s perspectives however, I have been told numerous times that they didn’t even notice. They said that it wasn’t even something they looked at. It’s hard to say whether people were just saying that to be nice to me and reassure me that I still look fine, or whether they genuinely didn’t notice. I will never know, but it doesn’t matter. It matters more that they were making me feel normal and accepted.
I think with one boob and no prosthesis, it was a little bit more obvious to people as I was clearly lopsided and as a result I found it harder to dress – especially during treatment when the prosthesis is almost impossible to wear.
But now that I have had both of my breasts removed, I like to think that people are genuine when they say they don’t notice that I am breastless. While I’m glad it’s not obvious, I don’t think people realise that the reason they don’t notice is because I have put hard work into making sure I find and choose styles that are appropriate. I fully understand why so many people struggle post breast cancer, because if you don’t find shopping an easy task in the first place, you would easily struggle shopping for a breastless chest. Sadly, it takes time to work out what’s going to suit and the last thing you need to add to your stresses while going through breast cancer, is turmoil around what you are going to wear.
The best proof of my clothing efforts is made apparent when people who have just met me are told that I am breastless. They honestly say they can’t believe it. It makes me very excited because I know that I am doing something right with what I am choosing to wear. Because in no way do I look unusual or deformed and that to me is my success story. At the end of the day, post cancer, you just want to look as normal and as beautiful as other women.
But I wish that I had worried less when I was first getting out and about post cancer. I wished that I had realised that people might have been looking at me, not because I looked weird, but because they were pleased to see me back out again. Yes, it’s a certainty that people would have been curious about my changed chest after knowing what had happened to me. but that’s human nature. They would have only been looking from the perspective of concern, not criticism.
So these days, I’m making a conscious effort to be kinder to myself and to accept myself just the way I am. For too many years I found it so easy to find my flaws thinking that no one else had them. But the reality is that we are all flawed in some way and that’s what makes us real and unique.
Within reason and as much as you can, I encourage you all to hold your head up high and be confident and proud of your appearance. Try not to criticise yourself – be kind to yourself, you’ve been through a lot both physically and mentally.
And I can’t emphasise enough how important it is for you to take the time to find yourself some outfits that make you glow. While physical treatment is so important to your recovery, so too is having confidence in your physical appearance. Don’t underestimate how your self-assurance will improve through this process of nurturing yourself.
Today I bring to you a brand that is universal and affordable. Years ago I enjoyed buying NEXT clothes when I was in the UK and only just recently realised I could source it here in Australia. It is stylish, modern and very on trend. The best part is, the postage is free over $35 and most items you can get are under $50. Here is my first purchase from NEXT and some other fantastic items I have in my wishlist….
Next Grey Twist Sleeve Dress – $39
And here are some great other finds….
Have a wonderful week.
I am breastless and beautiful.
Love, Gen x