Any body change requires some wardrobe adjustments. But while shopping for maternity wear can be exciting, shopping for cancer wear is not fun for anyone.
Losing one’s hair and losing one’s breasts – these are the two major body adjustments most people associate with a breast cancer diagnosis. But you are not ‘most people’ and the intrinsically important thing to remember while contemplating one’s changing body and the related body image adjustments that will require, is that every individual needs to make the decisions most comfortable (and comforting) to her. The second most important thing is that, along with everything else on this cancer journey, circumstances and requirements will change along the way.
Immediately post-surgery there are some basic truths.
You will not be able to lift your arms over your head for a while, so front-fastening shirts with buttons or zips will be a must.
If you’re having a tissue flap reconstruction (procedures using tissue from your tummy, back, thighs, or buttocks to rebuild the breast), you will need clothing which is easy on the additional wound sites for the period of recovery too.
If you’ve had lymph glands removed your doctors will talk to you about the risks of lymphoedema (the accumulation of lymph fluid on the side of your body on which you had surgery which can lead to swelling and pain), and the use of compression sleeves and other garments. While extremely functional, these needn’t always be unattractive. American company LympheDivas (link below) specialises in ‘Medically Correct Fashion for Lymphedema’, and they ship to South Africa too.
During chemotherapy most (but not all) patients will lose their hair. It’s a good idea to have some thoughts before this happens on how you’re most likely to deal with that.
If you’ve chosen to invest in a wig the common advice is to: purchase one before chemo starts (while you still have the energy), choose the right colour to suit your skin tone (style can be changed by a practised hairdresser), purchase it in person (there are lots of online sources but you really need to try a wig on) and don’t forget the accessories (care products, a stand, wig caps for wearing underneath it).
Many women chose to wear hats and headscarves instead, but some patients say it’s nice to have a wig for special or specific occasions (I know someone who only ever wears hers to school functions, to make her children more comfortable). And don’t forget a head without hair can get chilly – invest in some soft cotton sleeping caps.
And the big one: if you’ve chosen not to have reconstruction at this time – then you might be shopping for prosthesis. Visit BreastFree to read up on the many prosthetic options, as well as advice on not using prosthetics at all. Locally the Like B4 Mastectomy Boutique provides a dedicated fitting service for underwear and swimwear and with trained consultants to find the best fit, for you.
LympheDiva’s (patterned compression garments) http://www.lymphedivas.com
Compassion Hat (local head scarf manufacturers) http://www.compassionhat.com
A good list of Western Cape based wig providers here: http://www.cancercare.co.za/support_services.htm
Like B4 http://www.likeb4.com/
Recommended Read: http://breastfree.blogspot.com/2013/05/post-mastectomyfashion.html (packed full of links to post-surgery clothing providers, all international but many sell online or have local suppliers)
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