My Return to Post-Cancer Normalcy

July 30, 2018
Laura Yeager
Laura Yeager

As well as being a cancer blogger, Laura Yeager is a religious essayist and a mental health blogger. A graduate of The Writers’ Workshop at The University of Iowa, she teaches writing at Kent State University and Gotham Writers’ Workshop. Laura survived cancer twice.

I had a revelation while dress shopping. What caused my change from carefree to self-conscious regarding my lopsidedness?

I had breast cancer for the first time in 2011. The cancer was in my right breast. It was stage 2. I had both breasts removed, just to be safe instead of sorry, and plastic surgeon graced me with breast implants. I also had chemo and radiation treatments.

Five years later, in 2016, I developed a secondary cancer on the right breast (the one that had been treated with radiation). The radiologist said that the radiation from 2011 had given me this new cancer. To treat the cancer, I had the rest of the tissue removed from my breast area and the implant taken out. Consequently, I was lopsided — one side was full, and the other side was flat, so I purchased a prosthesis for the flat side. Last year, I often went without the prosthesis, daringly showing my body as is. But this year, my views on my post-breast cancer body have changed. This summer, I want to look "normal." For this reason, I always wear my prosthesis.

Today reconfirmed that I truly still do want to look "normal." I tried on a maxi dress with spaghetti straps — something I can't wear a bra with. No bra, no prosthesis. Even though I loved the dress, I couldn't go there. The scar on my right "breast" was very visible.

What would people think?

It's strange. Last year, I didn't care what people thought. This year, I do. I don't want to call attention to myself. I want to blend in, and I don't want to make people uncomfortable.

Am I heading toward “post-cancer enlightenment?” Ironically, there is no such thing. How you chose to display your post-cancer body is completely up to you; it's subjective. There are no "rules."

But I've joined some professional organizations, and none of the women who belong to them are lopsided. I guess I feel peer pressure not to be, either. Also, as I move away from my two cancers, I want to look as though I never experienced this disease. I guess I also want to forget the pain, the uncertainty and the suffering.

But, oh, that dress. It was so beautiful — blue and green chiffon. If I had bought it, I was going to wear my peacock feather bracelets. If only.

I miss looking sexy. I just have to realize that I can never wear the slinky look again.

But style changes are a small price to pay for being alive.

Cancer survivors, like me, you may experience an evolution in how you view your post-cancer body.

This is just fine.

Go with it.

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