Turns out, choosing a bilateral mastectomy was far from the only choice I’d have to make along cancer’s journey. I was forced to think about many things never given any consideration before, and not just big decisions, such as mastectomy versus lumpectomy and treatment choices, but small, inconsequential things you’d never think would give one pause. But, that’s cancer for you. It changes everything that was once commonplace, routine, so very much taken for granted. I found myself surprised at what became an issue, such as, What to do with my pre-mastectomy bras? Keep or trash? Would they ever fit again? Would I want to wear bras that came before? Here again, was something I hadn’t considered, but eventually breast cancer brought to my attention.
It didn’t take long to realize, the old bras no longer served their purpose. Size and shape were significantly changed. New ones were called for.
Earlier in life, before BC, bra shopping wasn’t terrible. As a matter of fact, depending on the situation, I liked it. It was fun to shop around, try on different styles, some I’d never consider purchasing, some I might…hello pushup. It’s easy when you know your size, but after implant surgery I had no idea what size I was. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’m 510cc’s, but what is that going to buy me in Victoria’s Secret?
I wish now I could remember the last time I wore a bra before the mastectomy. I should have savored the moment more. I didn’t realize then how long it would be before I’d comfortably wear one again, if ever. I never wore a bra while I had expanders. Why would anyone? What’s the point? They’re hard as rocks and certainly not bouncing around, so I was basically starting from scratch with my new implants. I needed to know my size, but how would I learn that? Try a sample in every size from B through D? Tried it. Nothing fit right. I never thought bra shopping would be such a pain in the ass.
My fear was the bra fitter. Am I alone in thinking a bra fitting is awkward under the best of circumstances with the best body? I wasn’t ready for that. I was determined to do this on my own without asking for help. Help came with a whole slew of questions I didn’t want to answer.
I entered stores with the best intentions, every time, but I began to see this as another cancer challenge. One daring me to dress these boobs I never asked for, as if it were yesterday. It didn’t need to be fancy. It just needed to fit, like the old days, but the bras never did and I’d leave empty handed, bra less.
This went on for months. Every now and then, I’d try again. I thought I nailed it when I headed for the large department stores at the mall, where lingerie lives in some corner no sales person dares to tread, but still, bra after bra rejected. Whatever I was looking for, I wasn’t finding it here. I’d leave again, defeated, sad.
Maybe, I wasn’t as strong as I liked to believe. The thing is, it was hard to face the mirror. This wasn’t like seeing the scars in my own bathroom mirror. I can accept them there, but in a store trying to do something I did hundreds of times pre-mastectomy, I wanted to achieve the same results, but clearly, that wasn’t happening. It would never happen. These new breasts, though nice, were different. It wasn’t possible to see a former vision of myself, no matter how hard I wanted to, or how many bras I tried on — She’s gone.
When I finally couldn’t stand camisoles a moment longer, I drove 45 minutes to Nordstroms, where I’d heard they specialize in such things — Us, nutty mastectomy patients, with the hope they’d understand and help me without it being too uncomfortable, and it was okay. Except for the stripping part. I tried to weasel out of that even then.
Me: “I’ll just keep this tank on.”
Specially trained bra fitter: “Honey, it’s nothing I haven’t seen.”
So, I stripped, scars, implants, no nipples and all, for yet one more stranger in the long line of unexpected, unwanted, public disrobing that is cancer, but I left happy. It fit. It was nice and even though it didn’t remind me of days gone by, it looked pretty good. My search, at least until I need a second bra, is over.