This month’s blog has been kindly written by a very inspirational lady I have had the pleasure of getting to know since opening Figure 8 Lingerie. Shirley was one of the first lady’s post-surgery that I fitted for breast prostheses and lingerie. Here she shares a little of her journey and the importance of feeling feminine and regaining confidence following double mastectomy.
My name is Shirley and I am 57. I was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) in my right breast on 3 May 2019. It was not expected at all. I found out following routine surgery for the removal of a fatty lump/cyst which had been aspirated. The mammograms and ultrasound scan I had didn’t show anything apart from a cyst. To be on the safe side, the Consultant recommended that I had a double mastectomy because of the concern in the left breast re future monitoring with mammograms as the right breast had not showed anything apart from a cyst. I received my results which showed I had Lobular Cancer in Situ (LCIS) in my left breast, which is abnormal cell growth that can develop into invasive cancer so, it was the right decision to have it removed as well.
On Thursday 16th May, I was admitted to hospital for the procedure. My physical recovery was good, and I was soon back to my normal routine including swimming, Zumba, and Pilates.
Psychologically I was relieved that I needed no further interventions except regular check-ups. I discussed reconstructive surgery at the time, but I am not ready to undertake any further major surgery now. I decided I just wanted to live my life and I had holidays booked so I wanted to enjoy them.
The first outfit I needed to sort post-surgery, was my pre-surgery purchase of an off the shoulder dress for my Brother’s wedding. The wedding was only six weeks after my surgery. My dress had a bra area on the inside and my two-soft foam prosthesis looked OK - you could not tell. But this was not ideal for long term!
My first hurdle was to find new bras, swimwear and prothesis - so off I went shopping! What a minefield purchasing bras can be when you have breasts! I was never particularly good at buying them before they ended up being too tight, too small etc. After surgery we get the soft foam prosthesis from the hospital. These are light and comfortable against our scars and swelling and give you some shape. So, for the time being I purchased some soft bras that I could pop these in which were more like a vest than a bra. They were comfortable, but I did not feel at all feminine.
Once healed, I started my internet search. Plenty of companies sell post-mastectomy swimwear, bras, and prosthesis, along with several high street shops too. I bought shaped padded bras, but I hated the look when you bent over; some of the internet selection that came were incredibly old fashioned.
Then I was recommended Chris. I rang her and she came to visit me at home, armed with bras and prothesis. We spent over an hour trying on lots of bras, which came in every colour and were very pretty and feminine. I also tried on different protheses. Trying them on was great because different styles fit differently. I was fitted with a smaller size than I would normally choose and went up to the next size on the prosthetic (why not!). I was able to keep the bras I choose as they were in stock, then we got out the catalogue and I ordered the knickers to match and the prostheses. They came in a couple of days.
I have to say I am delighted as it is the first time, I have felt comfortable, feminine, and normal since my surgery. It is so important psychologically, as this journey is not an easy one. Physically and emotionally it is always there, and some days are better than others. I find feeling good is half of the battle.
I am so looking forward to seeing Chris in the future to add to my collection. She has given me back my confidence.
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