Wearing a Breast Prosthesis Day to Day
Double mastectomy feels much less like a double whammy thanks to my breast forms
By Dianne A., a 20-year breast cancer survivor in California, USA
In the nearly two and a half years since I had a double mastectomy, I’ve been amazed that, on the one hand, I have quickly learned how to embrace my new normal—and on the other, I still feel like I’m a stranger in a strange land. Wearing breast prostheses and pocketed bras was a foreign concept to me twenty years ago, but with time and patience, I’ve come to accept it as part of my day.
Breast cancer is not a one size fits all disease, which is something many women don’t realize until they are diagnosed. In more than 20 years since my initial triple-negative diagnosis, not a day has gone by that I haven’t discovered something new about either myself or the disease. For most of those 20 years I was learning how it feels to have a lumpectomy. Two surgeries were indeed traumatic, but I wasn’t faced with what it means to have your breasts removed, and I didn’t know first-hand about external breast forms.
Some Choices Are Easier than Others
Since my breast cancer came back (again) in my left breast, eventually I did face mastectomy. In my case, I was given the option of removing that breast and just keeping a watch on my right breast (which had also been home to my initial breast cancer back in 1996). I didn’t think twice before telling my doctors I wanted both breasts removed. I fully understood that a double mastectomy was not going to change my overall survival, but here is what it did do for me – it allowed me to let go of having to endure mammograms, which in my experience felt like waiting for the other shoe to drop. Of course, I still have to pay close attention to my body, but as I’m sure any woman who has dealt with breast cancer can tell you, every mammogram takes us right back to feeling vulnerable while we await the results.
I would be lying if I said I’m glad I no longer have breasts; however, I can say, without reservation, I am glad I have so many options when it comes to my choices of breast prostheses and pocketed bras. I can also honestly say, unless I tell someone I’ve had breast surgery, they would never know. When I’m wearing my prosthesis and bra and look in the mirror, I too am amazed at just how close to my old normal they appear. Thankfully, I have been dealing with this at a time when there are so many beautiful bras and camisoles from which to choose! And, although I still have every ounce of my former derriere, I even have the option to wear gorgeous matching panties to complete the look.
4 Things I Didn’t Know About Wearing Breast Prostheses
- When you take your bra off – hang on! It’s now holding the weight of your forms. The first few times I took off my bra, I’d forget and then laugh hysterically as I retrieved it and my “breasts” from the floor.
- With the proper fit, in no time at all, breast forms feel very natural. I have even done very strenuous workouts wearing mine and been amazed that they felt nearly like my real breasts. Actually, because I was large breasted before surgery, they felt more comfortable because I wasn’t dealing with sweat underneath them!
- Sometimes it just feels good to take them off and go commando. On a hot day, when I get home from work, I kick off my shoes and take off my forms, and I am immediately refreshed!
- For some reason, not all insurance plans cover the cost of either breast prostheses or pocketed bras, which is important for women to know ahead of time. If they are covered, you will need to have your doctor write you a prescription, to ensure reimbursement. And if they are not covered (which to me seems unforgivable) you should see if there are any programs available in your community to help cover these costs.
There is Always a New Journey Beginning
A dear friend of mine is in the midst of her breast cancer journey. Unlike me, she opted to have just one breast removed. She has completed her chemo and is presently half way through her radiation treatments. Although she is eligible for breast reconstruction once she completes radiation, Jan is seriously thinking about foregoing another surgery, because as she says: “I feel like my body has been through enough, and I’ve talked to many women who had reconstruction only to either continue to have corrective surgeries, or remove the implant(s). At the moment, I’m thinking, why should I put myself at further risk when I can get a great outcome by wearing prosthesis in a pocketed bra?”
Breast cancer, like other challenges and obstacles life puts in our paths, is best faced one day at a time—one step at a time. And I, for one, am so grateful that there are so many options for women.
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