Life After Loss of a Breast

Learning to move on from the grief of losing a breast/s

Life after loss of a breast

Dealing with a diagnosis of breast cancer is scary.  There are decisions to be made in terms of treatments, surgeries and lifestyle.  Cancer turned my world upside down.  But when I landed on my feet, I realized that my diagnosis actually prompted me to improve my life in so many ways.  I needed to make significant changes if I was going to thrive.

For some, what may be more difficult to accept is how you feel when you lose or are forced to alter the part of your body that is considered the ultimate symbol of femininity. Know this – breasts alone do not a woman make.

It is so important to realize that you are not your boobs.  Your breasts do not define you.  Accepting the loss of a body part is a process.  This is amplified by the emphasis our society puts on body image. But it is crucial to your wellness that you learn to manage your loss and not allow it to consume you.  

Healing begins with acceptance.  If you get stuck in the mindset that you are less of a woman because you have lost your breast/s, it is of vital importance that you grieve but then learn to move on.  Accepting the loss and realizing that you are not less than can be the most difficult aspect of dealing with breast cancer.  Know that you are beautiful.  You are powerful.  You are worthy.  You are not defined by your breasts.

When I was diagnosed with my first recurrence of breast cancer and was contemplating DIEP Flap surgery, someone close to me sent me videos of big-breasted women in tight shorts holding up signs on street corners asking for donations for breast implants. She said I am lucky because I get to have a free boob job and a lot of people would kill for that opportunity. I was horrified. I couldn’t believe she was sending this to me. I thought, “does she know me at all?”

I knew she meant well and her heart was in the right place, but it really hurt me and I felt it was brutally insensitive. I never said anything to her and just shrugged it off. It was also eye-opening in a way. I tried to understand, from her perspective, why she would be prompted to treat my diagnosis so flippantly. I realized that it would be impossible for her to take a walk in my shoes and fully understand my journey. She could never comprehend the emotional toll. I was dealing with so much and was definitely not up for any tension between us or arguing my point. I didn’t want to take on more stress and anxiety. So, I let it go and forgave her.

At this point, I had already been dealing with cancer for a few years. Facing a major surgery, I was in a place mentally where I could accept that my body was going to change and tried to see it as life saving, not life altering. Over the course of 12 years and several surgeries, I have seen my body change markedly. I am older and have already been through the stage of life where I had been able to breastfeed my children. So, when I lost my left nipple to cancer, I tried to take it in stride. If I had been younger and the process of losing my nipple meant losing my ability to nurse my children, I am sure that loss would have been much more difficult for me.

The bottom line is that we cannot allow society to dictate how we are supposed to look or how we are supposed to feel. Every situation is personal and every case has its own variables. We try our best to do what we think is right and get through our challenges in the best way we can. However, if you are feeling trapped in a cage of emotional distress because of what cancer has meant to you, it is a good idea to move forward and not wallow in self pity, which is simply a losing battle to fight. Plus, you need to focus your energies on healing your body!

Following are some links to websites that are dedicated to helping women grieve and move on from this loss. I will expand on this list as I gather more information. I hope that it is useful! Feel free to reach out if you know of a resource that I might add to this growing list. And, if you feel I can be of help or support!

Resources That Will Help You Navigate Life After Loss of a Breast/s

Look Good Feel Better
Look Good Feel Better is a free, public service support program that helps people with cancer deal with the appearance side effects of cancer treatment. This site is a great way to learn more about the program, but the best way to experience it is in person. To find a group program in the United States, use the Program Finder below.

Cure
CURE® has become the largest consumer magazine in the United States focused entirely on cancer, and the only one to be an audited member of BPA Worldwide. With a total circulation of 285,000, individual subscribers account for over 140,000 of that figure, with the remainder including cancer centers and advocacy groups around the country. Our dedicated website, curetoday.com, regularly receives over 1 million page views monthly. CURE®’s time-tested approach combines science, humanity and technology to make cancer understandable for patients and their caregivers.

Cancer Care
A resource offering counseling, case management, support groups and financial assistance for cancer patients.

Heal In Comfort
Founded in 2010 by breast cancer survivor Cherie B. Mathews, our mission is to help women heal in comfort and dignity after surgery in their battle against breast cancer. This is a formidable mission the company takes quite seriously, as inspired by Cherie’s own post-operative experience.

Cancer
The best cancer care starts with the best cancer information. With nearly 45,000 members who are leaders in advancing cancer care, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians. ASCO’s patient information website — Cancer.Net (www.cancer.net) — brings the expertise and resources of ASCO to people living with cancer and those who care for and care about them. Well-informed patients are their own best advocates and invaluable partners for physicians. Cancer.Net provides timely, comprehensive information to help patients and families make informed health care decisions. Cancer.Net is supported by Conquer Cancer ® The ASCO Foundation.

Cancer Research UK
Find out about organisations, support, books, leaflets and other resources to help you cope with breast cancer and it’s treatment. There is also information about mastectomy wear and prosthesis suppliers.

Breast Cancer Now
Find out about organisations, support, books, leaflets and other resources to help you cope with breast cancer and it’s treatment. There is also information about mastectomy wear and prosthesis suppliers.

Articles

Stages of Grief After Losing A Breast
Mourning The Loss of Our Breasts: Why Grief Shouldn’t Come With Guilt
I Grieved For My Body After My Mastectomy
Breast Loss: Grieving and Coping
Why I’m Struggling To Accept The Loss of My Breasts
Keeping Your Self-Esteem After A Mastectomy
Coping With Emotions and Finding Support After Mastectomy
No Instruction Manual to Emotionally Cope With a Double Mastectomy
Psychological Impact of Having a Mastectomy
Breast Cancer: Coping With Treatment

Keep checking back on HealthTastesGood.com. This is a growing resource. Expect to see more resources and information relating to breast cancer.

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