It might sound frivolous -- who worries about fashion when she's fighting
for her life? -- but part of the joy (and challenge) of surviving breast cancer
is reaching the point where you're confident enough of your health again to
start thinking about how you'll wear swimsuits or halter dresses.
"Everyone needs to reassess their personal style after breast
cancer," says Mary McCabe, RN, director of the Cancer Survivorship program
at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
"You have breast cancer."
This year, nearly 250,000 women in the U.S. will hear those words.
Last year, Zunilda Guzman was one of them.
"I was devastated," says Guzman, 39. "I wanted the world to end."
But Guzman, mother to a 9-year-old daughter, knew she couldn't let that
happen. And neither did any of the other nine breast cancer survivors
interviewed by WebMD as part of a special project for Breast Cancer Awareness
Their stories relay important messages about prevention, screening,...
For Jami Bernard, a New York film critic who battled breast cancer in 1996,
an essential part of surviving breast cancer was learning to feel more
comfortable with her body, and how it looked in clothing like swimsuits,
lingerie, and short-sleeved shirts.
"It takes awhile to get used to the fact that your body looks different,
and adjust to the fear that other people will find it offensive or
weird-looking," she says. "I remember seeing a woman one summer who was
wearing a very low-cut top, and I could see the top end of her surgical scar. I
was so excited to see someone else who had a scar!"
Remember, says Bernard, the U.S. has an aging population, and more and more
surgical options for treatment of various conditions. "More and more people
will have scars. I'm not a 20-year-old bathing beauty, and it's not like I have
to compare my body to others," she says. "I've seen other people with
scars, and I feel heartened to see that they're not ashamed of them."
Bras: Choose from Lacy, Demure and Sporty
If you choose not to have reconstruction after a mastectomy and still want
sexy lingerie options, you're in luck. We've come a long way from the days when
mastectomy bras all looked like something even your great-grandmother would
have found too clunky. Victoria's Secret hasn't jumped on the trend yet (are
you listening?), but other lingerie manufacturers, including Playtex, Jodee,
and Amoena, sell mastectomy bras of all kinds: plunging, lacy, demure,
Your local department store might not carry them, so look for a specialty
shop, possibly in the medical center where you were treated. You can also order
online at shops like Nicola Jane (www.nicolajane.com). If you want even more
variety, some department stores, notably Nordstrom's, will often add prosthesis
pockets at little or no charge to any bra it sells.