Breast Loss & Lingerie?

Written By: Heather Glover

For most of my adult life, I took beautiful lingerie for granted. It was simply there when I wanted it. I never considered what it “meant” to me. That all changed in the summer of 2017 when I learned I had the aggressive form of Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC).

Sadly and ironically, my sister-in-law had been diagnosed with the same only 8 months earlier. Her treatment plan began with a mastectomy. Because I’d nursed women who’d undergone this radical and body-changing surgery, my heart went out to her. So I was especially grateful that I only needed a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy to get rid of my cancer.

Despite complications, I was grateful that I hadn’t lost my breast! I focused on adjusting to life after cancer and got myself in shape through training and completing a half marathon. That wasn’t a long-lived spell at all.

On New Year’s Eve 2018, another sizable lump was poking out of the scar line on my right breast (this was a carbon copy of my first diagnosis). Terrified, I couldn’t wait to get to the breast care center for investigations. Despite all the reassurance that it was probably scar tissue, TNBC was diagnosed again. Only this time it was much more aggressive and twice as big.

How did I feel and what were my thoughts: GET RID OF THIS DISEASE-RIDDEN-BREAST! This time the tumor was painful, so it was hard to sleep.

Because my previous chemo had been pretty ineffective, my mind was tortured with what-ifs (which made it even harder to sleep).

I wanted freedom free this threat. I was desperate for my mastectomy–the first part of my second cancer treatment plan.

For many reasons, it was decided that no reconstruction could be performed. I’d simply be left flat and sent to see the prosthetics nurse. Was this a conversation? No, not really. I was simply told.

But for me, being left flat was more of an unfortunate life-saving consequence like I got the “boobie” prize (pardon the pun!). Even now as I write this, I breathe a huge sigh of relief.

When I woke up after surgery, I felt relief that the cancer boob was gone and the pain had stopped. I felt even more relief with the knowledge that my life wasn’t in as much danger.

Looking down upon my body was a different thing–I avoided it.

Thankfully, my daughter collected me from the hospital and as she helped me dress, her expression was so caring, loving, compassionate, and accepting. (These memories still make me tearful.)

She told me it’d be ok to look. I glanced down at the bandages. A mixture of relief, numbness and horror is probably what I felt if I’m honest.

For 12 months I tried to accept my one-breasted body. Instead, I felt:

  • Unattractive when undressed
  • Sorry for my husband whenever we were intimate (He didn’t do anything to make me feel this way. It was all in my head.)
  • Like my confidence was on the floor
  • My mind was overflowing with the awful things that happened over the last two years
  • My body struggling with the after effects of two courses of chemo and the post-menopausal state into which I’d been thrust.
  • As far as possible from the attractive Heather Glover I had been 2 years earlier.

I’ve always been a bit stubborn though. I knew I was eventually going to have a preventative mastectomy, so I suppose I refused to accept the way I looked.

At the beginning of 2020, I had a preventative mastectomy on my remaining breast.

So many of my friends and family were sad for me but I felt quite differently. I was taking control. I was taking proactive action and helping to reduce my risk. I was helping to take my body to a shape I preferred.

And when I woke up, I felt strength, relief, empowerment, and more confidence.

That was until I went out into public. Then my confidence plummeted again. It was only a couple of weeks after surgery that I went out for my husband’s birthday. I stayed flat as I didn’t want the pressure of a bra on my chest and I felt like EVERYBODY was staring at me. I felt like crying for the whole evening and couldn’t wait for the sanctuary of my own home. (Nobody was staring at me, by the way.)

Over the next few months, whenever I tried prosthetics, I felt like a fraud. This solution works for some, but it didn’t work for me. I felt like I was changing from one character when I dressed to another when I undressed. I started to question why I was making myself so miserable and why I was trying to force myself to accept those false boobs.

I learned that I didn’t like wearing prosthetics and I was going to live “flat”. That felt quite liberating and literally increased my confidence, just by making that decision. I quickly learned that there was no pretty underwear for women with a flat chest. I’d embraced my new shape, my flat chest, and refused to feel embarrassed or ashamed. Why should I? Why should I only have stretchy crop tops to wear for underwear? The stubborn Heather reared her head again! 

Having no pretty lingerie for a flat chest really annoyed me. I wondered why:

  • Shouldn’t we have the choice to wear a lacy bra just because we lost our breasts to this disease?
  • Are we robbed of that pleasure as well as so much more?
  • Is it thought a sexy bra is purely to support breasts?

It’s not.

As women, we’re brought up wearing underwear (most of us) and how many of us choose attractive sets when we’re dating, getting married, going on a night out or for an important job interview? It’s often the first piece of clothing we’ve learned to put on. We feel complete, dressed, and feminine.

I wanted to feel that way again.

And that’s how the Skarlette was born!

Connect with Skarlette on Instagram, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Well not just like that, but those revelations were the very first seed in the creation of our lingerie.

It’s designed by flat women for flat women.

It includes beautiful flat bralettes for those occasions we choose to wear lingerie.

Because we have the added perk that we don’t actually need to wear a bra for support, wearing a Skarlette is purely a matter of choice. And it’s a decision you can make for yourself after mastectomy when wearing lingerie helps you feel more like you.

———

Amanda Savage Brown, PhD, LCSW, is a self-acceptance counselor & coach. She uses the research-backed approaches from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to help women reclaim their wellbeing from adverse childhood experiences, other trauma, grief, loss, and people-pleasing through mindful self-acceptance and values-guided change. 

She explanted in 2018, recovered from breast implant illness, and now specializes in helping women find their way before, during, and after breast implant removal.

She is the author of Busting Free, the first self-help book for women whose life journey includes breast implants.

Learn more at amandasavagebrown.com and follow her on FB and IG @dr.amandasavagebrown

Disclaimer: All information shared in these blog posts is educational and should not be used as a substitute for therapy or taken as therapeutic guidance.

© 2022 Amanda Savage Brown

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