Every single day I receive messages from women and sometimes men dealing with cancer. Some have received the dreaded diagnosis themselves, sometimes it’s concerned friends and family looking for answers and then there’s those who went through treatment years (sometimes decades) ago wanting to connect. Recently a reader asked me “what can I wear after a mastectomy?’ GREAT QUESTION!
Fifteen thousand Aussie women will receive a breast diagnosis this year, some will have no breast surgery, some will require major breast surgery and some will also have even more medical treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy. With treatments and surgeries their bodies and self esteem will take a battering.
Having a breast removed is painful, sometimes mentally but always physically. Different surgeons use different techniques, some mastectomies are more radical than others and everyone recovers differently but trust me, there’s pain and limb restriction involved.
Then there’s ‘multiple surgeries’, not all women have them, I did and recovery was slow while pain was a constant. After my first mastectomy I had another surgery just two weeks later to remove all my lymph nodes. Then in the following weeks another two more surgeries.
Having multiple surgeries in a short amount of time put extra stress on my body and slowed my healing and as I sit here writing this nearly three years later I’m still in daily pain. Yep, cancer is the gift that keeps giving! I can keep everything under control with regular yoga, massage, physio and diet but in those early post mastectomy months raging pain…raged.
Losing a breast or two also impacts on how a woman might dress, some women really want to hide all evidence of their missing breast…and cancer. There’s some who don’t care and don’t change a single thing about how they face the world.
There’s no right or wrong. I proudly wore my uni boob and didn’t give a flying fuck who noticed, except that one time a pack of ignorant teenage girls stared and pointed and commented loud enough for me to hear. That time, I cried.
When women lose a breast they lose much more than soft warm tissue and flesh, some lose confidence, self esteem and femininity. Suddenly their clothes don’t fit the same, their pain makes it difficult to dress and then if they have chemo it strips them of their hair, lashes and brows…yeah, good one cancer!
Practical Dressing Tips
Here you will find just a few easy practical tips, whether you choose to cover up or be more open there’s tips for you all. Knowing how to dress for comfort and practicality post surgery and camouflage a missing breast or two is tricky, but it’s something I became very good at.
- Post surgery you will need tops or dresses that have plenty of room in the arms, or try sleeveless, this will allow for drains and give freedom of movement. Sometimes you might have one or two drains (annoying and tricky to manoeuvre), after one of my surgeries I had eight!!
- Tight armholes are constrictive and in the few months to follow breast surgery comfort and ‘loose’ is what will serve you well. Try loose kaftan style tops.
- Look for tops with wide necks that will be easy to pull off/put on one handed. One limb might be heavily restricted and doctors orders will be to not raise your arms up over your head, so something you can ‘pull off’ over your head will be handy.
- Flowy tunics or kaftan style tops are perfect in summer, loose clothing is not only soothing and comfortable but makes it difficult to detect a missing breast.
- In winter Jersey or bamboo is soft and easy to manoeuvre, it will cling more so creative dressing will be needed. During the summer months you might like a fabric with SPF protective technology to protect your scars.
- Vests or jackets might be handy for giving a little extra coverage over your chest area…like a security blanket. Jumpers, especially knits draw attention, so in the cooler months layer.
- All over print is a great way to cover up a missing breast.
- Be careful of details like pin tucking, smocking, pockets and ruffles near the chest. These may draw unwanted attention.
- Front opening buttons or press studs can be handy when getting dressed and for medical checkups.
- A layering tank under a tunic (once all healed) gives a little support and smooths any post surgery bumps.
- A scarf is the easiest way to to cover up your chest area and add a little colour lift.
- Be careful when wearing necklaces, watch where they end as they may draw unwanted attention.
- Wearing rock star accessories, shoes and jewellery which will draw the attention away from your chest.
- Once you start wearing a post operative or mastectomy bra a tank with wider straps will cover the wider bra straps.
- Mastectomy bras sit higher on the chest (to be able to hold the prosthesis), you may need to wear tops and tees with higher necklines or add a cami/tank under your tops.
Breast cancer sux…who am I kidding?…ALL cancer sux. I hope these tips help those women facing breast surgeries or currently struggling with post operative issues.
If the general public were more aware of what a women is ‘really’ losing as she fights for her life and became more accepting and less judgemental when it came to body image it would go a long way to how women feel about themselves during this extremely difficult and frightening time.
Til next time,
*this post contains affiliate links which means if you click and purchase I may receive a small commission but you pay no extra. Neat huh! Please see my disclosure policy for more info.