A battle forged

Mar 12

I’m still scarred after reading an online product review for mastectomy swimwear last summer.  The reviewer of a particular swimsuit said something along the lines of, “The design is very poor.  While swimming, it is very easy for the prosthetic breast to pop out of the suit and then you’re left to chase your boob across the pool.”

OMG.  My heart rate increases and I feel nervous just thinking about this poor woman and her boob-chasing debacle.  Seriously?  That happened?  Isn’t that whole scenario just awful?

I know, I’m so sorry, now you’re scarred too.

So, you can imagine the trepidation I felt when it came to the whole prosthetic/fake boob situation.  Right?

A note about my surgery: Since I needed to have radiation therapy after my bi-lateral mastectomy surgery, I was not eligible to have reconstructive surgery done at the same time.  (Doctors don’t like to put foreign objects in you and then nuke them.)  I met with a plastic surgeon to discuss options, and the protocol is that any radiated patient must wait for reconstructive surgery for at least six months after her last radiation treatment because the skin continues to change/heal for that duration.  This meant that I knew I would have a minimum of eight months of “nothing” before reconstruction was even on the table.  And reconstructive surgery is a multiple-surgery process itself.

I thought about prosthetics, and I even went and tried them on.  I have a great story about this (it was a great experience, actually), but I’m not going to blog about it because my dad reads this blog.  And my uncles.  And I just don’t need any of the men in my life to know that story.  I have to draw the line somewhere.

The short version of the story is that prosthetics just didn’t work for me.  Having several pounds of detachable silicon stuffed into a bra did not make me feel beautiful; it made me feel self-conscious, awkward and uncomfortable.  It’s kind of the same way my 5’10” tomboy self feels in high heels.  Perhaps I should have predicted it.  So, I decided to save my insurance company the $900+ (over $400 each!) by passing on the breast prosthetics and bras, and I now wear a simple camisole.  Although the fake boobs didn’t work for me, some women do feel better with prosthetics, so it is truly a personal choice.  To each her own.

I feel lucky that my mastectomy surgery was August 30: right at the end of summer.  I was able to transition directly into fall/winter clothes which are a lot more forgiving when everything suddenly fits differently.

I’ve jumped over one fairly major mental hurdle thanks to my free gym pass: I’ve worn a swimsuit with this new body of mine.  I’ve never been particularly confident in swimwear (is anyone?), but the blase atmosphere at the gym, and the senior citizen nature of the pool at the gym made it the best possible scenario in which to leap the hurdle.  I’m wearing a Speedo from Costco.  I thought I’d be less self-conscious about my mommy tummy and my thighs (because you know, I have this new body problem to deal with), but the truth is that I’m still self-conscious about all of it.

But like so many other things, I think of the positives.  This scarred body beat cancer, after all.  And my husband regularly calls me hot, so who cares what anyone else thinks.  And I’m working out, I’m getting stronger, I’m getting healthier.  I would lose those things if I let my physical flaws dictate the way I behave.  I keep my chin up.

A swimsuit.  One more thing I faced and conquered.  It’s a good example of how this cancer aftermath is all around all the time.  I am faced with it multiple times a day, and I have to choose, every time, to see the goodness in it.  I’m fighting for my own beauty as I walk the forty-three steps from the locker room to the pool these days.

Aren’t we all fighting something like that?  To you I say, fight the good fight.  You are worth it.


  1. You are SO worth it!! Stay strong and be beautiful!!

  2. Lindsay /

    Love your blogs, Jen! 🙂

  3. Sharon Hajek /

    You strut, girl. Strut out to that pool knowing how much Brad loves you, how much he loves “hot” you. Strut out there wearing your devilish “hot” smile, get to the edge of the pool and wiggle you cute butt a couple of times, and dive in. Jen, you sizzle when you dive straight into anything., which is what you do so well. So strut your suff. You have earned that honor in spades in ever way.

  4. It is most definitely a personal choice. But I will tell you: when I see a woman who has chosen (or had the choice made for her) to not get the reconstructive surgery, I immediately think, Strong Warrior, because it is pretty clear what she has come up against, battled, and won.
    You are most definitely a strong warrior.

  5. Christin /

    Beautiful post!!

  6. Latoya /

    You.Are.Amazing! : ) Jen, you are such an inspiration…I thank God for you! p.s. Keep rockin’ that Speedo, girl!

  7. Bonnie J /

    You are one super trooper Jen and by the way I’ve been a fan of Speedo for years. .. having worn them for years. Makes gliding through the water so easy 🙂 Glide on my dear and continue to be the encourager of all. The Lord has graced you with the grasp of real life and it’s challenges – we don’t lay down we fight on with God’s strength running through us. Have a wonderful day !!!

  8. You are Be-YOU-tiful!! No fighting needed at all.

  9. Such awesomeness! I’m still trying to lose my baby weight 8 years later, but my kiddos LOVE the pool so I suck it up and find the best fitting suit for my body and venture out; last year I tried on 48 suits. No lie. So YOU INSPIRE ME TO KEEP ON KEEPIN ON! Thank you.

  10. Lynda M O /

    Once again, I am inspired and enthralled by the way in which you express yourself. So openly and so clearly. I’m a 5-10 tomboy too. Isn’t it a fun life with this height ?~!

  11. Kathy Swim /

    Dear Jen, I feel your frustration! This is what I did and I’ve been happy with the results. I bought a regular suit that sort of helped with the bulges and it had cups. I sewed in simple prosthesis made with pillow stuffing in a nylon like outer pocket. Found in JoAnn Fabrics (always with a coupon). Then my boobs are always in the suit and can’t travel in the water. Plus you can be any size you want! For regular prosthesis I’ve purchased products from “Bosom Buddies”. Check them out on line. They are reasonably priced and very comfortable. I have a couple of sets and love them. You can make them bigger or smaller and they are washable. I had a regular set of the expensive prosthesis and didn’t like them either. They eventually leak! Good luck! Call me if you have any questions at 630.416.3620. I’m a college friend of your mom and dad’s.

  12. Denise P. /

    Thank you for sharing your info. My mom had her mastectomy on Feb 8 but hasn’t met with the plastic surgeon so I didn’t know it would be another 6 months post rads. So far we have just gotten her the cami with fiberfill inserts and she’s feeling good.

  13. Marsha Vonderwish /

    Oh Jen, You are such a beautiful person!!!! I’m sorry but I did chuckle about the boob flooting across the pool. That is why I don’t wear anything that is not attached, because those are the types of things that seem to happen to me. Good think I can laugh at myself. I have many scars from my battles with the big ‘C’ and I’m proud of each one, because I’m winning the battle!
    Keep shining ‘Miss Sunshine’! 🙂

  14. Jana /

    So glad to hear you’re feeling well and getting stronger. Loved this post.