Sometimes it’s best to just keep things within “Cancer Club,” those of us who have been there and understand the ups and downs of the illness. Cancer pushes the absurdity of living to the extreme, whether in the physical or social or emotional realm. And often even the most loving friends and family members will not get it.
I suppose it would be similar to the first rule of Fight Club: There’s no use talking about certain issues related to cancer with those who have never fought it.
Recently I was told by a dear friend that I should not worry about clothes and such, that those things are simply vanity. Honestly, I understand the perspective that regaining health should be more important than appearance. I get it. However, “living flat” in a society focused on buxom women is difficult.
When I had my bilateral mastectomy–surgery without reconstruction–I realized that breasts were everywhere. They are part of our society’s views on sexuality, womanhood, and self image. Women’s clothes and lingerie and fashion are built around them.
Basically, if you’re a woman, then you have breasts, and you learned early on in life that they are important.
And once they’re gone?
Breast cancer has forced me to come to terms with what makes me a woman. Also, on the more practical side, the surgery has compelled me to look at my clothing differently as I could no longer wear much of what was hanging in my closet. Suddenly being feminine had become a huge and seemingly impossible thing in my life.
And going out of the house among regular people who aren’t part of Cancer Club–people who only see the woman with the hair that’s just growing back after chemo and the flat chest–can be anxiety producing for me. Really, it can be hard to even imagine that I will ever feel comfortable–much less womanly–again. Because the only people who truly understand the issues of womanhood and breast cancer are either part of Cancer Club or work at your local Cancer Center.
So being called vain just because I worry about finding clothes that fit me now that I am flat? I wanted to scream. (I seem to find myself wanting to do that a lot lately, actually.)
Normal, healthy women, no matter their cup size, will most likely never be able to get it. And honestly, I pray that they will never have to hear the words, “You have cancer,” and then face an enormous surgery like a bilateral mastectomy.
Yes, regaining health and surviving cancer should be our focus. But for a woman with breast cancer, feeling feminine is also important. And regaining that feeling after breast cancer surgery and treatment is a big, big thing.
Cancer survivors want to feel beautiful and sexy. Check out the video of AnaOno’s fashion show in New York, which featured lingerie made for women living with breast cancer. Lovely and strong women–seven of whom are living with metastatic breast cancer–finally got their chance on the catwalk. Thank you, AnaOno, for creating lingerie just for us.