if you are prudish, look aside now. i could get much more graphic but the fact is, i’m discussing breasts. my breasts. my weird changed breasts and how i became a sister with any woman who has had breast surgery – in my case, breast cancer surgery.
i had a great (if hyper) plastic surgeon at the time of my surgery 4+ years ago. really. we got him through a referral from sloan kettering but needed someone at nyu because that’s where my breast surgeon was and they needed to be a team. he is highly-sought after by women (maybe men too??? no idea) who want to enhance their original shape – or sculpt it in a specific way. at the time of my diagnosis and before my surgery, i was given some choices – all of which were dependant on the medical outcome of my surgery. if the tumor could be removed with ‘clean margins’ (which, for the unitiated means that not a microbe of cancer can be found in the outer circle of tissue removed), then i could look at a lumpectomy. if not, or if the tumor was larger than anticipated (and it was anticipated to be large and ended up, thankfully, being a little bit smaller than expected. still large but smaller enough that i staged into stage 2 instead of stage 3 – one becomes personally competitive for lower staging when faced with one’s own cancer diagnosis) then i was facing a mastectomy. i gave my permission for the mastectomy if necessary but i came out of surgery and found out that i had had the lumpectomy (“the largest one ever’ said my plastic surgeon”) and, as we had decided, a bilateral (both sides) reduction. “i tried to make you a c cup but needed to make them the same size”. in 8 hours i went from a 38dd to a 38b. let me be clear here: i’m not complaining. i’m not complaining about that at all. [at this time i cannot/am not ready to discuss my feelings about whether i should have had the mastectomy … that’s just still a little too raw. hence, not discussed by me here. i know you’re wondering how i feel about that.]
oddly, in some ways, it’s been better. my chronic heartburn disappeared. my shoulders felt better. at the time, as my weight was ballooning up due to steroids, chemo, , radiation, painkillers, and seemingly endless mindless burgers and pizza, my belly was bigger than my breasts. oh well. as instructed, i bought and wore (wear) non-underwire bras. and who needed the wires? i had pert smaller breasts – an unintended plus! at 47 (my age at the time of surgery), i was sporting two increasingly-flattening downward descending pendulous breasts that still looked good nestled (read: stuffed) into an underwire bra – giving me ample cleavage. but oh…..please no one see me nekked. i was a picture of sag.
over the past year, as i managed to drop some weight off my 5’3″ frame and get some acceptable (to me) shape back to my body (which means, less bloated and not worried that i’ll never be a skinny girl), i’ve made a few attempts to find an underwire bra. and there’s the rub. my resculpted breasts look great …but they don’t fit any standard under-wire bra ever made. i know. i think i tried on every one at bloomies one day. (which comes with it’s own emotional baggage – having to explain to the saleslady that you had breast cancer (oh! the sad eyes) and that it would take some effort to find a bra to fit (oh! oh…this is going to take some work and may not result in a sale).) first of all, 38b barely exists in an underwire (big rib cage, small breasts) so the 38c’s are unfilled by me. and because my plastic surgeon was working with a breast cancer patient who had lymph node issues (all of which HOORAY turned out clean), he didn’t nip and tuck under my left arm (did you know that much of that tissue under there is breast tissue?) and now, no matter what i do, have a puff of stuff that pops out over the wire of any underwire bra on my left side. it’s not a good look.
and you might be saying to yourself right now: oh who cares?. you shouldn’t care. well, mostly i really don’t. at all. but as i try on clothes, i keep getting salespeople and other people who look at my outfit or directly at my top and say: it would look better with a better bra on. ok. but i haven’t found one yet. there are certainly worse problems in life. and i understand why ‘women of a certain age’ start wearing billowy overlay sweaters and jackets! i feel right. i just don’t look right.