The Search for a Post-Mastectomy Swimsuit Can Be as Puzzling as Wordle

Finding a swimsuit if you have not chosen reconstruction after breast cancer can be a challenge, but there are many ways to find what best works for you.

When summer comes, swimsuits are fun to look at, even if it is not time to buy a new one. One can always fantasize. For people like me — a woman with one breast — finding the optimal suit can be as puzzling as Wordle. Fortunately, I like a good puzzle, even if I am not able to solve it easily.

In a store, it is easy to inspect a swimsuit to see how it will fit. Online, it is possible to check boxes on a menu of features to select the appropriate attire. That is how a few years ago I found a lined suit for swimming laps, one that is not optimal but works well for a short time in a pool. Thinking I would love a swim dress in beautiful fabric for the beach, I decided to look at what an online shop I like had to offer for summer fun.

I started by checking a box for lined suits with no bra cups. One out of about 300 swimsuit options offered a tank suit that I did not need. Further, without adjustable straps on this one model, I would need a “long” anyway. Oh, well. The long version only came with bras, as if tall women always have breasts. Tall women do not always have two breasts. One, none — we come in all shapes and sizes.

After that, still looking for a skirted suit, I checked a box for removable cups. Removing the cup(s) from a swimsuit is one way to allow a post-mastectomy chest to blend in. Three swimsuit options popped up for me to review. Two of these were engineered for women with DD or DDD cup sizes. Nope, not for me. The remaining suit, a possibility even with no colorful option, had an underwire. I was never a fan of underwire, which separates, lifts, and supports one’s breasts (emphasis on “breasts”), not even when my body sported two A-cup breasts.

Why not look at the “mastectomy” swimsuits? I checked that box. Surely, I would find something. There were 15 of these, most body-hugging tanks with slots to add a prosthesis or two. Several offered “tummy control.” A few had adjustable straps. One with a surplice bodice and modest skirt was the same one I had admired in my previous search for a skirted suit. It was so pretty that I thought I should just break down and buy a swimmer’s prosthesis.

The idea of swimming with a prosthesis, though, seems disconcerting. Many do choose to use one or two and do so successfully and with great grace. As someone who avoids a prosthesis except on rare occasions, I am not inclined to try. Even so, I studied the design of the pretty suit, enlarging it on my computer screen. Because it included some folds, I began to think it might work out with no prosthesis. It would have been ideal with the overlapping part of the bodice on the left side, but the ideal is not always in reach.

Still, I thought I might give this one a try if I gave any of the suits a try. The folds of the surplice might work to camouflage superfluous fabric. Just in case, I looked again at the same swimsuit without pockets for a prosthesis. It was more than $10 cheaper, always a plus. That suit went high on the list of possibilities for a beach trip. Meanwhile, I put the new swimsuit idea out of mind.

Shopping at home, I rummaged through drawers to find two old swim minis whose tops had been donated after they became less useful for a one-breasted woman. Then I paired the swim minis with different yoga tops to see if I could cobble together a swimsuit that does not involve cups. Yay! My 20-year-old blue swim mini pairs with a yoga top that sort of matches. The black one goes with a black and gray geometric pattern. Although neither yoga top is lined, they would work for strolling on the beach or splashing in the surf. It makes sense to wear what I have and to be thrifty. I can always change my mind.

If you are looking online for the perfect swimsuit after a mastectomy, having exhausted local stores, take advantage of drop-down menus. Here I have shared an experience with just one shop, but there are many alternatives. If I had not been inspired to look through my drawers, I could have spent hours tempted by pretty swimsuits.

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