“I hate my boobs!” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked in the mirror and had that thought. I’m not sure if this is a U.S. thing or if women all over the world feel this way. I can say that until I became a Certified Mastectomy Fitter, helping women find mastectomy bras and prostheses after breast surgery, I was sure that most women’s breasts look like the ones we see in the movies or walking down the Las Vegas Strip. I am here to proclaim from the mountain tops, “IT’S NOT TRUE!” How freeing for me it is to know that other women have breasts that look like my imperfect pair. I’m sharing this because I really want women who have had a mastectomy (partial, unilateral, or bilateral) to know that other women look like them too.
Many, not all, of the women who we see at Mariposa are very self-conscious about removing their clothing for our mastectomy fitting appointments. This is understandable. Our breasts are a special part of our female body. First, we have them, and men don’t. Second, they are a natural part of our intimacy with our partners. Third, they are life-nourishing for our babies. There are other reasons that make our breasts special, but these are some of the tops.
So, what happens when a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer and has surgery to remove that cancer? Sometimes she feels like she isn’t normal anymore. I know this because I’ve had many women in a fitting appointment look in the mirror, after putting on a pocketed bra and prostheses for the first time post-op, and say “Oh my gosh, I look normal again!” The other thing I’ve noticed is how concerned some women are over their partner’s opinion of how they look. The need for affirmation from the person we are closest to is real. I’ve witnessed some raw emotions in these situations. If there are any men reading this, I think what your partner wants most is your attention on her and what she is going through now. She doesn’t necessarily want you to say she looks perfect just the way she is (she probably won’t believe you) but she does want to know that you are focused on trying to help her make choices that help her feel good about her appearance and make you happy too!
I love working with women and helping them make choices with bras and prostheses that give them confidence. It’s great that many of the products being developed are more comfortable and beautiful than in the past. See this link to see the types of products available: Mastectomy Products. I’m thankful too that strides continue to be made towards these goals. But what I really want the post-mastectomy woman to hear from this is that “more women look like you (or similar) than you can imagine.” I hope this helps you!