body image issues

OK now I’m getting rather cross about people - medics - telling me I have ‘body image issues’.
I find this very offensive because the unspoken implication is that my emotional response to my mutilated boobs is somehow inappropriate.
I have a rather poor body image at the moment, due to lopsided boobs - I had to give someone permission to cut lumps out of my boobs to keep me alive, and I consider it is entirely appropriate to be sad and upset about that.
Yes I’m alive -BUT if I get upset I’ve got ‘issues’ so incapable of making a decision about further surgery, if I put up with my appearance nothing needs to be done to correct things. And corrective surgery is supposed to be part of our treatment plan…
Talk about Catch 22!!!
Is anyone else getting this one?

Hi grumpy,

Sorry to hear this. Of course you feel bad and should express it. But I can say that if you did not have ‘body image issues’, they would complain too.

I lost a huge amount off one breast and it looks really horrible. It doesn’t stop me going swimming. I was talking to one doctor (I’m in Germany) about having the other side reduced and she said she would not recommend me for surgery because ‘you aren’t suffering’. I was more worried about the effect of the lopsided weight on my spine. However, I would quite like to get a bra that fits (I don’t like wearing a prosthesis).

I’ve heard so many inappropriate remarks from doctors and others over the last four years, I no longer expect them to show any sense.

Grumpy I think this is a common complaint and you are not alone in feeling as you do. I think I have come to terms with it but there are still moments when I look in the mirror and feel sad that the body I once had has gone forever. I am happy with my reconstructed breast but as the years have passed my “good” breast has lost its firmness and gravity has not helped the matter!! So when I am naked it is not apretty sight. I did think about asking for another op to even things up a bit but to be honest I also think “leave well alone”. I have lost weight over the past year, not by any dieting, but chemo caused me to shed the pounds so now I am a bit slimmer the difference in my uneven breasts is not quite so bad now.
Is it just your own feelings or has your partner/friend made any comment about it either good or bad? As we get older or bodies do change anyway but once I have my underwear on I feel much beter about myself. I have a bad hair problem that bothers me too. I have very fine hair and although I have not gone bald with this latest chemo, my hair has thinned quite a bit. When I lost all my hair many years ago it upset me more than the mastectomy as the person looking back at me from the mirror reminded me that I did have cancer and there was no denying it any more.
I wish I could give you some answer to the body issue question but there is not easy answer. Perhaps you need to have a heart to heart with someone either a close friend or a professional counsellor. It is obviously bothering you as you have asked for help here. Just sending you a hug and hope that you get some more constructive help from others on here. Thinking about you, Val

Val and Zeppa - thanks for your comments. My problem is Droopy and Perky after double WLE, node clearance on one side and double rads. If I had known before surgery that nip and tuck is difficult after rads, I would have insisted on the nip and tuck THEN have rads - but no-one told me that!!! I’m fine when dressed but I really don’t like what I see when I’ve got no clothes on. And it’s for ME not a partner, I’m a widow, and all (female) friends comment on the assymetry when I show my scars, which are so faint and well positioned they look like little creases in the skin. Scars don’t bother me, I’ve got loads from childhood accidents, falling off mountains etc, and each scar tells a story!!! Part of why I get so upset is because I was told for 18 months ‘have all your treatment then we’ll put it all right afterwards’, and then after rads I was told ‘oh well not really’. I’ve really had to make a fuss for over a year to get some corrective surgery organised/agreed. And then the ‘body image issues’ talk kicks in!!!
I am seeing a counsellor and she is helping - bottom line is counselling won’t make my boobs look right, only surgery can do that. While my head is all of a muddle it is difficult to make a sensible decision about what surgery would be best.
Anyhow onwards and upwards!!!

Just a quick update - my onc has agreed to do a Benelli lift (quite a minor op to resite the nipple) or refer me to a PS for mastopexy. Great!!!
Took myself to the Talking Lady to unravel my brain, and discovered that not only I am UPSET about false expectations, I was ANGRY as well - so the anger has been dumped in the Lake of Guilt for the alligators to eat (Benchland thread).
So now looking forward to seeing the onc next week - he’s a brilliant surgeon and I suspect I shall choose whatever surgery he offers rather than start all over again with someone new.

I too have had WLE twice (March/April) and my surgeon has never ever mentioned anything about corrective surgery
Maybe he’s saving it for my appt in November!!!

Why do I have to find out about things like corrective surgery/partial prosthesis on this site? It makes me so angry that we are either not given information or given inaccurate information that colours our choices.

I am glad that you have finally been offered a solution and that the Talking Lady has helped you as well.
I hope your op is soon and that you have great results.

Hi Grumpy
Glad to hear things are now moving in the right direction.

I’m desperate for a reconstruction, though I must say I have a very lovely and thoughtful GP who referred me as soon as I mentioned that I felt I needed to get on with it asap - he’s German, very jolly and does his best to be reassuring. When I was first diagnosed he urged me to avoid a mastectomy as he was concerned about the impact it has on women. Unfortunately, after the WLE I got a bad histology report and the mastectomy was then necessary.

I spoke to another GP at my practice recently, about a non-cancer issue, and he commented there was something in my notes about a referral, so I said yes it was for a reconstruction. He’d seen in the notes it was because of discomfort etc and I said, also partly vanity. He was very understanding and said I wasn’t being vain trying to get some normality back and was 100% behind my decision as he has a friend who recently had a recon which had transformed things for her.

Until someone has had our experiences and lived a life where they’ve been (unavoidably) mutilated then they should accept your/our feelings about it and, particularly as part of the caring profession, should support whatever you want to make you feel better about yourself.

I hate looking in the mirror and seeing this complete stranger. I can put on a front so people don’t realise my true feelings, I laugh and smile and behave quite outwardly ‘normal’ but I think they’d be upset if they knew my real thoughts about myself.

Some former friends told me a couple of days before my MX that their friend wasn’t at all bothered about it when she had her mx. Well, that’s really nice but she was a lady in her mid 70s and I’m in my 40s and currently on my own. I tend to think there’s a bit of a difference there. It bothers the hell out of me and the sooner I can gain some sort of normality the better.

Good luck with the surgery.

No one who wants a reconstruction is being vain. A reconstruction should be available as standard to all women. Our breasts are a big part of our femininity and self esteem and this should be recognised by, lets face it, mostly male doctors.
Yes , we all end up mutilated and we all put on a brave face but it MATTERS. I think the younger we are the MORE it matters. I am 58 and widowed, had WLE and I am not that bothered now but if I were younger/still with a husband I’m sure I would feel differently.

If…If… I meet a man, can’t see it, but you never know what life has in store, how will I feel?

Hi Grumpy how awful for you!
Have you thought about a 2nd opinion?
I had an extensive WLE on just the one side.Chemo hadn’t had as much effect on shrinking the lump as was expected.
So basically it was a quadranectomy. Once I felt able to consider PS I spoke to my BCN and she arranged an appt to a lovely PS and I am now on his list for a reduction and uplift on the good side and a reshaping on the affected side. He assured me that he was confident he could give me a better shape. No-one has said anything about body image.
My BS retired shortly after I finished treatment and couldn’t have done PS anyway, so I was referred to a PS who does both BC and sees ladies at the breast clinic work and private stuff.
I wonder where you live? I think this might be a bit of a post code lottery ( although of course it shouldn’t be)
Hope you get some satisfaction soon. J xxx

Thank you ladies for your kind and supportive comments.
Yes I was told corrective surgery (small reduction to get a matched pair) is part of my entitlement as per NICE guidelines, UNTIL someone said no surgery to nuked boobs!!! Now if I’d been told that originally, when I signed for WLE and rads on both sides, I would have delayed my rads for 6 months and had the nip and tuck then. I didn’t need chemo, just anastrozole, so it would have been no different to ladies who have to have their chemo before their rads.
Anyhow a 2 page letter to the onc, with photocopies of all the notes I make at each appt, has produced a slight shift i.e. he will do the Benelli or refer me to a PS. And there has been an apology for unclear communication.
When they say ‘body image issues’ the clear message is that our emotions are somehow inappropriate - b#llocks! It is a perfectly normal reaction to be upset about permitting someone to mutilate us, as many of you have pointed out.

so now you all know why I am grumpy!!! but gettier cheerier by the day.