This guest blog has been written by Carly Appleby, BBC Radio Journalist and Mother, who at the age of 37 was diagnosed with Stage Three Breast Cancer.
Finding the right bra can go a long way to help a woman heal emotionally and physically after breast cancer. But finding suitable post surgery bras isn't always as easy as you think.
I’m standing in front of a mirror in a fitting room of a well known high street shop. The shop assistant, at least twenty years older, is looking at me with pity. She is helping me try on post surgery bras. It is the day after my second operation for breast reconstruction. I’m tired, sore and emotional. I have a huge black arrow pointing to the correct boob on my chest and the word “STOP” written in permanent marker on my left arm.
I struggle to get undressed, the bras are tight across my bandages, the straps are stiff and the thought of wearing them night and day for the next six weeks fills me with horror. The lady is kind but apologises for the lack of choice. I reluctantly buy a couple and leave feeling upset.
When I get home I have a lovely surprise waiting for me. My friend has sent me two Theya Healthcare, Peony, front fastening post surgery bras in white and black.
They couldn’t have come at a better time. I can tell instantly they are perfect. They are soft with adjustable straps and so comfortable – they feel like a second skin. There are no seams or labels and the bamboo material is breathable and doesn’t aggravate my scars.
I actually cry when I put them on with relief and happiness. I can wear these amazing bras night and day – they are just what I have been looking for. I feel better immediately! Finding a good bra is tough under normal circumstances but it is even harder when you have had a mastectomy or reconstruction.
I was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in February 2017. I was 37 years old. My husband and I are both stunned. Treatment starts fairly quickly. I need six cycles of chemotherapy, have to get lymph nodes removed from under my left arm, a mastectomy and then radiotherapy. It’s a long old road but at the end of it I hope to be cancer-free.
I lose all of my hair. Call me vain but I think this may be one of the hardest things about my diagnosis.
I opt for immediate reconstruction of my breast which means a temporary expander implant is fitted. The implant needs inflating gradually to stretch my remaining skin. 50ml of saline is injected each time. How much is needed I ask? “Four hundred”, replies my surgeon. “The weight of your old breast”.
“So there is science behind it!” I say. We both laugh.
I have to wear an uncomfortable, tight, sports bra which feels like a corset for six weeks. I still remember the relief I felt each day from taking it off to shower. If only I had known about Theya Healthcare bras back then.
Really though I am upset. My scar looks ugly, I have wonky boobs and none of my old bras work anymore. I have no hair, no breast and no periods. Breast cancer does strip all that’s feminine from you. But I’m alive and the cancer is out.
I give away all of my old bras I have collected over the years and mourn for the carefree woman I used to be. Shopping for post surgery bras is also tricky. There is a lack of choice and most shops seem to design ranges for much older women, not women in their thirties.
I get sent a Knitted Knocker –a handmade breast prostheses. The knitted knocker is marvelous and helps to even me out. It requires a pocketed bra to fit properly. One day I wear a non pocketed bra and my knitted knocker pops out.
Fast forward a year and a half and I have my expander implant swapped for a more permanent silicon implant. I am delighted with the result. I am much more even. I am healing nicely and I am enjoying wearing my Theya Healthcare bamboo bras night and day. They even have pockets for my Knitted Knocker.
The kindness of friends and family has been astonishing. Someone told me having cancer makes you realise how much you are loved. Towards what I hope is the end of my journey, I’m still finding that is true.
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