I had a meeting today out of the house. That in itself is a big deal for me. I ransacked my closet to find something appropriate to wear. It isn’t easy. With no chest, none of my pre-surgery clothes really fit properly. They all hang differently or gape where there is nothing now to fill. I can’t stand wearing anything that is snug because one it is still painful to have anything press against my chest and two, I am very self conscious about how my body looks so I certainly don’t want to draw attention to it. I have struggled with body image my whole life as unfortunately many girls/women do. We live in a world where if you don’t “look good” you are treated as not worthy or as deserving of positive attention, acceptance and even kindness and love. Different cultures celebrate different looks but every culture has there epitome of beauty…and we all strive to somehow measure up. In university I starved myself trying desperately to rid my body of my curves. I kept a log and recorded everything I ate. My goal was to keep my entire day under first 1000 cals..then 750….then 500 and finally 350 calories. I weighed myself three times a day and recorded everything. I am not proud of that. And I have tried so hard to work on accepting myself and being happy with how I look. As I’ve aged, I have mellowed somewhat. I don’t beat myself up as much if my weight creeps up a few pounds or if my skinny jeans aren’t feeling too skinny around my thighs. But it is still a struggle, undeniably. In another time and place I might have been celebrated as Rubenesque….but alas I was born 400 years too late.
For my meeting I chose a nice cotton dress. It had a criss cross top that before surgery would have worked, but now the fabric gaped and exposed my raw red scars and sutures. I found a black bandeau …like a tube top to wear underneath. It covered my chest completely so that when I put the dress on, nothing was exposed and everything looked together, polished and if I do say so myself, pretty good. I even put on some high heels…nice jewellery and thought, yep, I can do this. I don’t look myself, but I don’t look all that bad.
The meeting went well and when I finished I had to walk through the shopping centre to get to my car. As I strolled along I started looking in the merchants windows, admiring what new fall fashions were on display. I look at clothes differently now as I just want to cover myself and feel comfortable. I haven’t bought any new clothes since my surgery. I almost got up enough courage to go into one of the shops to look and maybe even try on some clothes when I realized that people were staring at me. Oh god, why? I had spent a lot of time putting this outfit together. I thought no one would know from just looking at me quickly what I had been through….could they? I looked at one woman who was looking at me in horror! I looked down to see what she was staring at and realized that my bandeau had slipped down under my dress. It was nowhere to be seen. All that WAS seen was my gaping dress which covered only a very small portion of my chest. What was very visible to everyone who saw me were my mastectomy scars, scabs, bruising and the weird disproportionate mounds that the tissue expanders are forming. I wanted the floor to open up and swallow me. Instead I stopped. Put my briefcase down between my feet, reached down the front of my dress, grabbed the bandeau, hiked it up over my chest, adjusted the front of dress , picked up my briefcase and kept walking. I held my head high, walking like a supermodel on the catwalk with a fu#ck you world you better get your cameras ready attitude…..until I got to my car. There the supermodel vacated quickly and the insecure girl I’ve tried to evolve from was waiting and ready.
Maybe tonight someone is talking about the what they saw today. Maybe it freaked them out. Maybe it offended them in some way. Maybe it “scarred” them for life. Or maybe, just maybe, they saw a woman that was embarrassed and frightened and vulnerable but who pulled her shit together and carried on despite her setback and her fashion faux pas.
President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.