Stories of Resilience: Using clothing to accent & celebrate your body after your double mastectomy

post-mastectomy resilience self-care Jan 17, 2020

*This story is the second in a series of short narrative vignettes; educational stories of women using proven self-care techniques that promote personal empowerment and resilience. They are a teaching tool for your benefit; please read, absorb and utilize the techniques to promote your own resilience and empowerment!*


Betty discovers how clothing can help her celebrate her new post-mastectomy flat chest

Betty crossed her arms over her chest and felt again the disconcerting awareness there were no soft pillows beneath her arms.  It was just flat, two shallow indents where her breasts used to be.  She'd lost them both to breast cancer more than a year ago, and she still had trouble believing this was her chest.  The skin was all puckered and dry looking, hanging in folds beneath the horizontal scars.  It was very alien; she didn't like what was there now.

She had a hard time knowing how to dress herself, since having her double mastectomy.  Clothes were hard to fit, and seemed to chronically be baggy where they used to fill out.  Tank tops and bathing suits were out of the question because they showed too much of what was underneath.  She even had a hard time touching her chest because it seemed to belong to someone else.  Even for washing she mostly let the water and soap run over her chest, rather than scrubbing it herself.  She felt ashamed of her new body and didn't know how to deal with it.

Startled out of her thoughts by the arrival of her best friend Annie, Betty looked up.  They were meeting for coffee in their favourite coffee shop, and Annie plunked a quick kiss on Betty's cheek as she plopped down in the chair opposite her, looking flush, stylish and gorgeous as usual.  Flushed, because Annie was always running late, stylish because she always seemed to be able to put a good outfit together, no matter what the occasion.

Annie had also elected to remain flat after her double mastectomy more than 3 years ago, but she seemed to be able to dress in a way that celebrated her shape, rather than covered it up.  Today she was wearing a purple bamboo tank top with ruffles along the scooped neck, a long linen-coloured cardigan draped over her toned shoulders that flowed to her knees, and loose trousers and pretty turquoise sandals.  Betty also noticed she had on a striking necklace that drew they eye up from the chest towards her neck and face.  

"Clever", thought Betty, "Maybe I will try that".  She liked the way Annie's whole ensemble complemented her shape and didn't try for it to be anything other than what it was; a flat scarred woman's chest but one that she was proud of.  She celebrated her assets and showed her form in a flattering light.

"Hey Annie, you look terrific.  You're always so stylish and you seem so comfortable in your body.  I'm always trying to cover mine up and pretend it's not what it is.  I'm so uncomfortable in my new body but I'd like to feel more comfortable.  Can you help me get a new look? One that suits me but is different and celebrates my new body instead of hiding it away in shame."

Annie brightened like the sun had come out. "I'd love to!" she exclaimed.  "I love shopping and have been thinking of some looks that I think would celebrate your body.  Thanks for asking!"

Annie was so delighted it made Betty wonder why she hadn't asked her before.  Annie was not only her best friend but she was also her mentor for getting through cancer; she was a great resource.

"All things in their right time", she mused to herself. 

Feeling encouraged and energized, the two ladies paid their bill and headed for the shops, chatting about what they would look for.  Betty's spirits were higher than they'd been in a year.  It was time to start celebrating her new body!  Time to put away the shame and fear and wear her scars with pride.  She may even start to touch her chest again by giving herself massages.  She felt sure she would be more comfortable with it soon.  Next stop, wholeness inside.  It was time to reclaim herself.



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