Michelle (not her real name) had surgery on her breast five months ago to remove a non-cancerous tumor. Here, she talks about what it was like to go through a lumpectomy and how she feels about her breasts now.
Bras Outside the Box: When did you have your lumpectomy, and where are you now in your recovery?
Michelle: The surgery took place in September of last year, 2015. As far as recovery, it's pretty much over! Surgical scars can take several years to fully heal, so I'm not counting that. The incision has faded significantly in those five months though.
BOTB: Before you had the surgery, what were your concerns about what would happen to your breast?
M: Mostly that it would turn out to be bad news. I had a biopsy sample taken a year prior to the surgery. It turned out to be a simple fibroadenoma. I worried that the removal of the lump would alter my breast shape in a drastic or noticeable way.
The ultrasound technician said it was "slightly larger than is typical and a slightly odd shape," so I worried. But for me, that didn't happen. My breast has retained the same tissue distribution as before. It simply lost a touch of volume. It was in my larger breast so I am not bothered by the loss of volume!
BOTB: Did the experience turn out the way you expected? What, if anything, came as a surprise to you?
M: It more or less went as expected. When I discovered the lump, purely by accident, I stayed calm and started doing research. I let my parents know and called my health care provider. We ordered the appointment and I was examined by my primary doctor. She confirmed the position of the lump, ordered a tissue biopsy and and talked through my questions.
I like to go into situations like these armed with as much knowledge as possible. I felt very well-prepared for the process, knew what to expect at each stage, and I really felt like I was in charge of the situation.
BOTB: What are the challenges you have now with the way bras fit, as a result of the surgery -- if any?
M: Because my breast only lost a little bit of volume, and it was the larger breast, I haven't had any issues. My tissue distribution has stayed more or less the same as well, which is perfect. All of my old bras still fit my shape! For this I feel lucky. Though, I have a suspicion that my worry about breast shape changes was just me being a little paranoid. Unless the lump was quite large or very oddly shaped I can't see a typical fibroadenoma causing a drastic shape change for anybody.
BOTB: What's your favorite bra that you're wearing right now?
M: Currently I've been rocking Panache Black Odette in 30G. I also have a hoard of Cleo Lillies in 32G. The bands are stretched from much love, but I still get support on the tightest hooks!... for now.
BOTB: How would you like to see the lingerie market change to meet your particular size and shape?
M: I'd like to see more British bra makers take on the "cakes on a plate" look. Polish bras are great for people my size and shape (narrow, projected, with even fullness). My Cleo bras give me lift, but I cannot achieve the seriously uplifted, projected, "hello boobies!" look with them. We need to see more 26-30 bands. It would also just be great if the American lingerie industry would take a page from the UK and Europe regarding standardization of sizes.
BOTB: Anything else you'd like to add about yourself or your search for a good bra?
M: Armed with knowledge from A Bra That Fits, I love my breasts more now than I ever have. The first time I put Cleo Lily on I cried! I am lusting after Polish bras lately but I'm scared to dive in. Finding even one bra that fits well has helped my self-esteem immensely. My nerdy t-shirts fit me again! I don't have to size up in everything for my boobs! (Previously wore a Victoria's Secret 34DDD. No support, my shirts all ended up getting very stretched out. No more!)
However, there are many people both larger and smaller than I am who still experience difficulty finding support that fits. Whoever you are, take time to love yourself. I have multiple surgical scars on different areas of my body. Some people in my life choose to make comments about hiding them. I don't even think they realize they're being negative. I have learned to accept that those surgeries were necessary, important parts of my personal and medical history. They're nobody else's business!
Take care of yourselves. If that means you need surgery for one thing or another to be healthy, pain-free, happy? The scars are just proof that you love yourself. This is the only body we will have. It's not perfect. Everybody hates this or that about their physical appearance. But remember all the things you've done and triumphed over in your personal life. Your body has carried you through that. Find something small you love; eventually you will start finding more and more things to love about your body as you journey through life.