To Bra or Not to Bra? A Good Question for Breast Cancer Survivors

Started by Felicia, June 21, 2016
1 reply for this topic
Felicia

Member
558 Posts
Posted on
June 21, 2016
When I was a girl, wearing a bra foreshadowed womanhood. I made my first by cutting a cotton t-shirt in half. Soon enough, my mother bought me a training bra and taught me how to stuff it with tissue.  

As I grew older, the bra became an encumbrance. Going braless felt best, and not just because stuffing a bra with tissue seemed impractical. I really did not need a bra until I gave birth at 34. By this time, the bra was not a symbol, but a practicality, like a good sun hat.  

After motherhood, I wore a bra more often than not. It was, however, the classic white t-shirt of my childhood that I turned to after a mastectomy to treat invasive breast cancer at the age of 54. Preparing, I bought three t-shirts. These served me well from surgery to radiation and beyond.  

Was I self-conscious in the early days with just the one breast? I want to say that I was not, yet I must have been. I wore loose sweaters and developed a technique I termed, “Trompe l’Oeil,” after an art technique, “trick of the eye.” This fashion trick involved bright colors, flashy necklaces and scarves.  

After about a year, a friend hinted that it might be time to think about a prosthetic bra. With her support, I agreed to this survivor’s rite of passage. Off we went, my friend helping me the way a sister might, while a fitter fitted me with a lymphedema-friendly prosthesis in a pink dressing room.  

Buying the prosthesis and bras was more fun than actually wearing them. I came to look at the prosthesis as an item for dress-up, for occasions I might play with my identity the way I did as a child. It was easier, and more comfortable, just to go lopsided into my day. Soon I worried less about Tromp l’Oeil. I am who I am. I became comfortable with who I am.  

Even so, as open as I am to a new normal, I must disclose the fact that I own not one prosthesis, but three. The first fits perfectly. It has a natural drape that works well with a mature body. When I wear it, I blend in. The second I bought in a panicky moment after looking at myself in the mirror soon after purchasing the first. The problem was that the perfect prosthesis is perfect.  

My diseased breast, the one with invasive tumors fueled by an over-expressive protein, had never been perfect, in an idealized way, even before it decided to try to kill me. It had always been quite a bit smaller than my other breast. Thus, my "normal" had always been abnormal. To feel normal in a prosthetic bra, I rationalized, I needed to remain asymmetrical. Pursuing asymmetry, and comfort I purchased a microbead form.  

I seldom wear any of these prostheses. While I might start out the door in one, I tend to turn back and change into my new normal. Now and then, inspired by traditional fashion, I manage to leave the house with one. A sports bra with microbead form is easiest. While this form shape-shifts, it is light and comfortable. Most often, I prefer layers or my childhood invention, a t-shirt cut in half like a bra with no constraints.  

This personal history is not to suggest that your new normal should be my new normal. We have to do what we have to do to go out into the world each day. Some of my friends always wear the prosthetic bra. Others have opted for reconstruction. Whatever you choose, take a deep breath, open the door and enjoy the marvelous performance that stars the human body.
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Bell

Member
0 Replies
Posted on
June 19, 2016
In November of 2011, my little irregular lump and I went to the Dr. I had been fingering the small thickening in my armpit for well over a year or two. I was not concerned because my breasts (although still beautiful) were kind of ropey and lumpy anyway and none of my regular mammograms had been positive. Long story short, I had an invasive lobular carcinoma. I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy for 3 reasons. Lobular breast cancer is often multifocal and in both breasts and what was I going to do with only one breast anyway. I can feel my remodeled chest for new thickenings easier because I have no bumpy breast tissue. I was older (64) and single and decided that I would go breast less and bra less. NO ONE NOTICES OR CARES!! I did not have to have reconstruction surgery. I don't have to shop or pay for bras. It is cooler in the summer. My new wardrobe consists of pretty black t-shirts ( no shadows). I am always comfortable and I kinda like my flat chest. It is an option.
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MAL

Member
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Posted on
June 20, 2016
I opted to have a double mastectomy following my diagnosis of breast cancer. I tried to consider the advantages of reconstruction all through chemotherapy but I just couldn't find a good reason. I tried to find a good reason to be fitted for and wear prosthesis but I just couldn't! The right solution for me was to have no reconstruction and just be in my body as is...flat. When discussing options with my oncologist and my breast surgeon I had to bring it up and insist on NO RECONSTRUCTION, EVER. I had to insist several times. I choose breastless AND braless. My reason for posting is to promote the option of mastectomy with no reconstruction. Why isn't this common as an option?
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