Creating body confidence after breast cancer surgery
How a partial prosthetic and well- fitting bras and swimwear gave my client Sarah her body confidence back
Over the last 30 years I’ve fitted thousands of women. Though I work with women of all ages and stages, I’ve always found that fitting women who are post-surgery due to breast cancer is particularly rewarding. Many women contact me for post-surgery advice and fittings, and I run a regular clinic at a London hospital where I fit with prosthetics and advise on bras and symmetry post-reconstruction.
One of my private clients, Sarah, has agreed to share her story with you.
Breast cancer diagnosis and treatment
Sarah was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer in February 2016, at the age of 27. Six weeks later she was told she had the BRCA1 gene mutation. She underwent chemotherapy first, followed by a double mastectomy with TUG (transverse upper grasilis) reconstruction and then radiotherapy.
Complications and their impact
After surgery, Sarah’s right side was much smaller due to radiotherapy and losing tissue during an infection. She then had two rounds of lipo refill, where fat was transferred from her legs to her breast to try and create symmetry. The first time, Sarah’s body reabsorbed the fat. The second round took a little better, but Sarah’s breasts are still not the same size. This uneven shape has impacted on Sarah’s overall confidence and affects what she feels comfortable wearing.
Sarah’s lingerie wish list
Sarah wanted to find non-wired bras which were both pretty and functional. She also wanted a T-shirt bra, as well as swimwear to wear on an upcoming special holiday. All had to offer symmetry.
Breast cancer does not mean that you have to buy a certain brand or style, so I make sure I always think out of the box and offer my clients a full range of design and fit options.
I began by fitting Sarah with an everyday bra; concentrating on getting the right fit on her fuller side first. I then worked on her smaller breast side with different partial shaped prosthesis, trying a few different shapes and moving them around in the bra until the shape matched Sarah’s shape on the other side.
When fitting partials, it’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to place it. You can try it upside down, the right way around – the choice is yours. I fitted Sarah with an Amoena Balance Natura partial prosthesis and placed it lengthways to create the symmetry we were looking for.
The real fun starts!
Now it was time to have fun and start trying different bra shapes. This was a great success as not only did Sarah try styles she had not worn since before her surgery, but she also experimented with different colours.
Here are some of her favourites which worked for her shape:
- Amoena Lara Satin T-Shirt bra with pockets: this is lightly padded and seamless which works perfectly under T-Shirts
- Triumph padded Body Make Up Soft Touch bra thanks to the deeper under band it ensures the partial prosthesis will stay in place
- Adidas Primeknit FLW sports bra with removable pads: we removed one of the pads and replaced it with the partial prosthesis, so it’s perfect for Sarah when she’s at the gym
- Wacoal Embrace and Wacoal Lace Affair for a fancier option (which Sarah said made her feel sexy) she tried these all-over lace options with a deep under band. They felt secure around Sarah’s body and offered her support. She couldn’t decide which she preferred and bought both
Then came the swimwear challenge. Sarah wanted a bikini which was non-wired and in a youthful style. Sarah is curvier on her lower half, so I suggested mix and match styles which would fit well and wouldn’t skimp around the bottom. I also recommended some padding in the bikini top to hide the nipple area. Sarah then decided that she would sew an additional light bra pad on her smaller side which would create symmetry for swimming
Seafolly non wired bikinis looked amazing on Sarah! She choose:
- Modern Geometry Tropical Vacay Bralette: buying the top only and using the bottoms from her other bikinis
- Electric Blue Size 10 top and size 12 bottoms
- Bandeau Twist Band Bikini black size 10 top and size 12 bottoms
I wanted Sarah to remember how to position her partial prosthesis, so I took some photos with her phone that she can refer to when she’s back at home.
Smiles all round
Sarah shed some tears of joy with her new shape and said she felt body confidence she’d not felt for some time.
After the fitting, I had that lovely feeling of knowing I’d made a difference. Sarah was smiling when I said goodbye to her and that really made my day.