Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Shopping Boobless

Clothes shopping for women is never an easy venture.  It becomes infinitely more complicated when you try it after a double mastectomy.

For the first time since my double mastectomy, I tried on clothes.  I went shopping with my Mom.  I was only trying on shirts and sweaters since I have enough pants for now.  I'm taking a trip next weekend to a much warmer climate (Las Vegas Baby!) and I need clothes for this!  I'm a Seattle girl and I'm always cold, so I dress in sweaters and long sleeves until the temperature reaches well over 70 degrees.  If you know anything about Seattle, you know that the temperature doesn't get above 70 that often so I wear sweaters for about 10 months of the year.  I am woefully unprepared to spend a few days in a warmer sunnier climate.

Living in a colder climate has been very helpful for dressing after a double mastectomy.  I had my surgery in July and by September, I was wearing sweaters and scarfs to camouflage what wasn't there anymore (boobs).  I'm not sure I'm really fooling anyone, but it makes me feel better.

Super Cute dress - but not for
the boobless.
Back to the shopping trip; I found several lighter shirts and a few sweaters to try on.  There are a lot of cute styles out right now.

Sadly, many of these cute new styles did not look anywhere near presentable on me.

Not only am I boobless, but I have some other serious fashion don'ts.  The boobless dilemma is just the tip of the iceberg.

The fact that I don't have breasts means that I have a flat chest.  "Flat" isn't quite the right description.  Since I had what is called a "skin sparing mastectomy," I have extra skin (refer to cute picture of Sharpei puppy).  This extra skin is in preparation for reconstruction.  Someday, it'll turn into a nice round perky boob.  For now though, it's not attractive.  This causes a problem with clothing.  There are a lot of cute shirts that are scoop necked or v-necked to show a little cleavage.  Unfortunately, for me, I don't HAVE cleavage anymore.  Unfortunately, for me, all you see is wrinkled skin.  It's not a good look.

Not only is the fun extra skin an issue.  But, also, since I don't have boobs anymore, I'm (as I said) flat where boobs should be.  This doesn't seem like too big of an issue until you factor in that I do not (sadly) have a flat stomach anymore.  In fact, I don't think I've had a flat stomach since I was about 12.  Having children and loving food have exasperated this.  Before I had breast cancer, I had a big tummy AND big boobs!  The ratio was, at least, normal.  Now, I have flat boobs and a big tummy which gives the effect of being about 15 months pregnant.  With triplets.

Pitiful looking port scar.
The one-eyed sad face.
As if things couldn't get any worse, I also have a scar on the left side of my chest where my port was put in (and still remains).  It's a line with a dot above.  It looks like a one-eyed sad face.  Completely pitiful looking and unsightly. (Which brings me to the rant of why they couldn't make the line curved up so it, at least, looks like a one-eyed happy face!)

Cute darts to emphasis the boobage...not so cute
when no boobs to emphasize!
I also noticed, as I was trying clothes on, that many clothes are meant to emphasize the boobage.  There are cute darts and strategically placed ruffles and buttons.  All there to make the breasts look cuter, rounder, perkier.  However, when you don't HAVE breasts, these efforts to make boobs look "cute," just look ridiculous.

After trying on a few things and failing miserably to find anything that I would wear in public on purpose, I wandered around the store a bit more and noticed that there were no mannequins that looked like me.  No clothes made for my body type anymore.  I perused the rows and rows of different garments, feeling the materials, loving the colors, wishing something looked "cute" on me.  On THIS body.

Then I saw something that stopped me dead in my tracks.

The bra section.

The BRA section!
(Twilight Zone Music)
I stood there, holding my breath, staring into the abyss.  The abyss that was the bra section.  I felt self-aware and awkward.  I haven't been in a bra section in almost a year.  I wanted to venture over there to just "look" but it felt so wrong.  Like a "boobless" alarm would sound and I would be kicked out of the store.  I vacillated between being thankful I don't have to wear those contraptions known as bras anymore and being sad that I don't have anything to fill all those lovely lacy garments.

Instead of spending my days trying to hide bra straps and too much cleavage; I'm left to be self-conscious about scars and wrinkles and a body type that virtually no one has.

I don't expect retailers to start making clothes that look good on flat chested, boobless, chubby women. And that's okay.  Everyone has a different body type and everyone has to accept the challenges of living in what they have.  It really is what's inside that matters.

Now if we could all just convince ourselves of that....

(Oh, and I did buy two things...two turtleneck sweaters.  Not helpful for a trip to Vegas...)

Boob Count = 150

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Day of No Hats

Me, in one of my favorite hats.
(No makeup here, don't be scared!)
My hair growth has gotten to the point now where I almost feel comfortable going hat-less.  Almost.

Before today, I was at the point where I would wear a hat places but take it off in stores.  But, still, carry the hat...just in case.  Just in case of what, I don't know. Just in case there was some crazy lottery where everyone with a hat in their possession won one million dollars?  Just in case there was some devastating apocalypse where only hat wearers survived?   Regardless, it made me feel better to know that I just had it.

Having the hat with me was like a signal to other people (in my mind) that I just had cancer.  A signal that I didn't do this horrible haircut to myself on purpose!  A signal that I'm not trying to look "cool" at 42 years old by shaving all of my hair off.  As long as I had the hat with me, it served as an explanation.

Today, I went to the grocery store and I didn't take my hat!  Not at all!  Not even to the car so I could, maybe, change my mind later.  I left all my hats at home.  I thought long and hard about this.  Was I ready to give up my security blanket so soon?  Was I ready to face the world knowing that I would be judged for looking like this and not hiding behind a hat?

Me, college years.  Oh hair, I MISS YOU!
As I walked through the grocery store, I felt a bit empowered.  I am woman, hear me roar without my hat!  But, I did get more than a few looks.  There weren't any of the looks that I got back when my head was bald and I wore a scarf.  The looks of sadness and pity weren't there.  These were looks of, "Why the hell would anyone do that to themselves?"  "Does that woman think that "hairstyle" looks GOOD?"  I knew what people were thinking as clearly as if they had screamed it at me themselves.

On one hand, I hate how my hair looks right now.  In my vain youth, I would have never been seen out in public looking like this!  On the other hand, it's a badge of honor too.  "Look at me!  I made it!  I survived cancer! I DID IT!"  Unfortunately, I think I'm the only one who knows that it's a badge of honor and not just a really bad haircut.

I've had several people tell me that they love my hair.  Some people, in fact, have told me that they love it now even more than when I had hair.  I'm not sure whether to thank them or slap them.  Was my "real" hairstyle so bad that I look better now this way?

Closeup of the anarchy that is happening
on my head right now.
The gray is ever present and seems to be more abundant than before (it was the first to grow back - oh joy).  I guess if anything is going to turn you gray, cancer would do it.  In that last few days, my hair has also decided that it would be super fun to be curly.  Instead of being a cute manageable curl, it tends to just stick out without abandon like it's trying to escape my head altogether.  Places where the hair just sticks straight out as if to say, "Get me off this crazy woman!!"  To me, none of this equals an acceptable look.

Are hats a thing of my past?  I can't be sure.  It's nice to have the option to go without a hat but it's hard to do so when you hate what's on top of your head.  But, hair grows only as fast as it grows (and mine does grow fast).  This is who I am right now.  It is a badge of honor, no matter if strangers know it or not.