When you're first diagnosed with breast cancer, all you can
think about is "Am I going to die?" But as you begin to learn to live
with your cancer diagnosis, you start to think about other
things, like "What am I going to look like bald?" It may sound
frivolous, but ask any breast cancer survivor and she'll tell you that she
thought a lot about whether to splurge on that real human hair wig or
what she'd look like in a swimsuit.
Feeling good about how you look is an important part of feeling good about
yourself in general. And no one deserves to feel good about herself more than a
woman who's surviving breast cancer. Fortunately, women with breast cancer
today have a mind-boggling array of options, from wigs and scarves to specialty
bras and swimsuits, designed with their needs in mind.
WebMD senior writer Miranda Hitti interviewed breast cancer survivors as
part of a series for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series, called “Me
& the Girls,” explores the personal stories of these women after they were
diagnosed with breast cancer.
Breast cancer survivor Ilene Smith, MS, RD, 49, lives in the New York area.
In late October 2007, Smith felt a lump in her left breast while on a
conference call for work. "I got cold, and so I put my hand under my arm, and I
When Theresa McLeod started fitting mastectomy bras in the 1970s, there were three bras and
two breast forms. Today, in the boutique she manages at the Evelyn Lauder
Breast Center of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, McLeod
stocks a running inventory of about 3,500 bras in 30 to 40 styles. They range
in sizes from 32A and AA up to 52DD. "You can really get anything you
want," McLeod tells WebMD. "Within the last three to five years,
options have really expanded. You can get microfibers, V-cut bras, lace
appliques, and a huge selection of seamless styles."
Kate Rubien, manager of Underneath It All, the boutique at the Clinical
Cancer Center at New York University Cancer Institute, agrees. "Not long
ago, we were excited to get black," she says. "Now we have all kinds of
colors -- one bra comes in mint green, blue, burgundy, and pink. We stock some
bras that look just like expensive Wacoal bras."
Mastectomy bras still look a bit different than regular bras. Because they
include pockets for breast prostheses, they often cover much more of the breast
than do regular bras. But you can also ask to have a pocket sewn into your own
bra to accommodate a breast form. The department store Nordstrom will do this
to any bra they sell, or you can ask at the hospital where you're being