Hi. I would really appreciate any advice. I was diagnosed last week and am having a mastectomy on Thurs. For various reasons I will have a delayed reconstruction. I am really struggling with the fact that I will lose my breast. It just feels so brutal. I keep crying whenever I think about it. Does it get easier? Does anyone have any tips on coping? Many thanks.
First of all, you need a huge hug. Along with a cancer diagnosis comes a whole load of other crap that personally I could only describe as an emotional tsunami. That is going to need careful management.
My first post on these forums was an appeal for advice about the awful side effects I was getting with chemotherapy (I was unlucky, in case that sets you worrying!). One of the people who replied told me she’d had none of these effects and in fact she was doing x, y and z. NOT what I needed to hear. So maybe my own experience won’t be what you want to hear. I hope you get a lot of helpful replies.
I think age is a factor, as well as self image. At 67, I guess I had less to lose? Put simply, I was glad to get rid of that breast. After my mastectomy, my cancer had gone. So I saw it as a life-saver, brutal though it was. That was 14 months ago. I didn’t opt for a reconstruction (only recently has my husband said he was surprised at how easily I made that decision - he never questioned it at the time but I just didn;t want another boob to worry about) and I do have a prosthesis but I don’t wear it unless I feel it would draw unwelcome attention if I were to be seen single-breasted. I’ve been surprised at how coy and ‘discreet’ people have been - bra-fitting, prosthesis-fitting - all averted eyes and consideration for my privacy. I don’t give a toss. I still strip off in the gym changing room - why should I hide? It’s only a scar. I can’t say I love my scar but it intrigues me and I don’t avoid looking at it. I have to massage it regularly through the day so I probably know it better than most parts of my body.
There is a lot more to a woman than a pair of boobs. However, society has laid so much emphasis on the importance of perfect breasts that it’s hard for many women to feel feminine with less than perfection. Yet my younger cousin was in hospital not long after me having her implants removed as one had disintegrated!! It’s all hit and miss. I think one important question is how much confidence or fight do you have in you to resist that social pressure and allow yourself to be different, if only for a shortish time. Like I said, age is a factor, but there’s also personality, whether you’re a conformist or a trend-setter or a one-finger at the world kind of person. The fact is, it’s a huge shock but its absence means your cancer is gone. What follows is treatment to ensure it doesn’t come back. That alone gives that flat space huge value to you and those who love you.
There is a website called flatfriends (org.uk?) which may help you understand things a bit more. It might be worth a peek. However, treat yourself very gently and kindly for now. You are experiencing trauma on an emotional as well as a physical level and they are equally huge. And I hope you get some advice from others who sign in today. Good luck with the surgery - get pjs and clothes that button at the front!
Well, as they say, time is a great healer. It does get better with time. I had right side mastectomy a couple of years ago. I opted not to have a reconstruction. I felt I’d been through enough. I’m middle-aged with a body that reflects little exercise, but was still happy with what I had, so losing a boob mattered. Initially, I felt very self conscious, even though my new shape was undetectable once dressed, wearing my prothesis, so I wore scarves a lot. The turning point for me came, over 18 months after surgery, when I travelled over 200 miles to a shop called Betty and Belle in Altrincham and had a bra fitting session. Can honestly say I almost skipped out of that place with a new confidence that I looked normal and that everything would stay in place. Worth every penny. I now only wear the scarves to keep out the cold. Will own up to occassionally feeling a bit sorry for myself - mostly, when shopping with friends or daughters knowing that I’m unlikely to pick up underwear off the rail.
It’s very early days for you, and we all respond differently to the hand we’re dealt with. Give yourself time to come to terms with what’s happened. Hoping you have lots of love and support from those around you, to whom you most certainly are more than a pair of boobs!
So sorry you are going through this Pixie. I had a mastectomy 5 years ago and like you I was very upset at having to lose a breast. It was a much loved part of me! The cancer was thought to be early stage, so needing a mastectomy was a shock, but the cancer was scattered in several places and surgeon said mx was the only thing they could recommend. Since then I’ve had a lump on the other side, which was actually more aggressive than the first one, but could be treated with lumpectomy and radiotherapy. So, I believe that they don’t opt for mastectomy unless its really necessary and, for me, losing my breast was horrible but I kept telling myself it had to be done in order to get rid of the cancer. I’m glad I still have one left and I was able to have an implant recon which helped. All best wishes for your op, take care Love Mo xx
Hi PixieG, sound advice from others already. I didn’t have a MX, I had a lumpectomy, but I still lost about 50% of my breast. But far better that, than for the tumour to have remained. The surgeons are wonderful, highly skilled and compassionate. I fully appreciate how you feel, but try to look at things from a different perspective. You are having lifesaving surgery and how that makes you look is possibly not quite as important as the main aim.
Over time it will get easier, but for now concentrate on the fact that the surgeon is on your side.
Meanwhile hope you are stocking-up on lots of creatures comforts and treats and managing to get enough rest/sleep. X
Hi PixieG, first of all big hugs to you. It does feel brutal and I couldn’t believe this had to happen to me to stay alive. During chemo I tried to not think about the next treatment step. I sobbed for two weeks before surgery. It feels so unfair. We all feel quite different about it (although none of us wanted to lose a breast) and you will decide what is right for you. I had a left sided Mx in November 2017 and have been waiting over 2 years for a recon which is scheduled to take place soon. I can’t say it’s been easy. My feelings are similar to Delly’s reply. I can hardly bear to look at myself naked and feel it’s taken it’s toll on my mental health. I know there are support groups available but for me I just want to be symmetrical again and talking about it doesn’t change that. If you want to have a read of my blog I’ve listed the bras I’ve used on the “surgery” thread, which have been quite satisfactory. lifeafterlola.com/
We have to be brave even if we feel a bit of a coward. Try and stay focussed on healing and staying alive for now. Xxxx
PixieG, best wishes and thinking of you tomorrow. You can get through this and if you need us we’ll be right here for you. Xxx