Catherine Goes Boob Shopping

Today, we’re going to talk about boob shopping. Boob as in a single breast (i.e. a prosthesis). Last week, Zsolt and I decided to finally act upon my long-desired craving for a breast that properly fit my body. Therefore, after waiting and waiting for an opportunity (i.e. insurance) we decided to go for it.

Boob shopping

I call this picture: “Chronically Awkward.” You can see the nerves.

SO! I called up my local mastectomy boutique, aptly named Kelly’s Boutique, and arranged an appointment with Diane Hayes who owns the shop. It’s easy to tell that Diane has her heart in this business. The shop itself is named after her sister-in-law and youngest brother’s wife, Kelly, who lost both breasts to imflammatory breast cancer and later passed away from the disease. Diane herself seems to genuinely thrilled when she can help a woman feel better about her body.

The appointment was made.

Fast forward to the next day, Zsolt and I get on the bus and head to the St.Laurent area. We hop off near the St. Hubert Chicken Restaurant (drool) and cross the road to Kelly’s Boutique.

Now I’ll be honest. I almost cancelled this appointment about six times before actually walking through that door. Zsolt had to talk me down . . . he told me it was okay. Everything would be fine.

Why was I so nervous? I don’t know. I was worried about filling out the insurance since I’ve never done that before in my life, worried about whether I should get a properly-fitting breast form at this point, stressed over something else that had just happened in our lives that I’ll mention another time (sorry that’s so cryptic), and just worried in general. It is my natural tendency to worry.

So we arrive at the boutique, and step into the store.

Sensory overload! Suddenly I went from anxiety to full on “shopping!” mode: There were scarves, hats, BRAS, bikinis, and bathing suits everywhere. The place is PACKED with colourful and varying product. And while I totally avoided the hats .  . . because they kinda make me shiver with memories of chemotherapy, I gravitated to the bras.

Bras. Bras. Bras! Pretty bras that you wouldn’t have seen three years ago when I was first diagnosed. There was one particularly black and purple number I really loved. The price tag was beyond my range, since my insurance doesn’t cover clothing for mastectomy, but I am nevertheless so glad to see that designers are finally catching on. Women want to feel attractive, even after their breasts are taken away.

Okay, so I was playing in the land of bras and bikinis, when Diane’s assistant let me know that Diane was done with her previous client and I could come along now.

Come along where, exactly? (My nerves were rising again.)

We were led to a backroom with a fainting couch (apparently, I’m not the only person who gets nervous) and a full length mirror, and possibly a feather boa – but that could just be from my imagination. Zsolt and I went into the room and waited.

Soon, Diane came in. After a few questions about what I was looking for, (“a boob?”) she said, “okay, let’s see.” So that’s how I found myself, once again, exposing my chest to a stranger. Oh my goodness, if I had a dollar for every person who has seen my chest – I could at least buy 3 pints of Hagendaz ice cream.

Again, I was nervous. But Diane was so professional and so certain in what I needed that the nerves lightened. While she disappeared to pull options, I waited on the sofa wrapped in a slippery bathrobe and took pictures of the place with Zsolt’s phone for this blog post. Then she came back and we looked at her pick.

The BOOB of CHOICE: An Amonea breast form that sticks to my chest!!! We played with the sizes till we found the perfect match, and then she showed me how to stick on the breast. It’s fascinating stuff – and it’s not itchy at all. I was so freaking thrilled with my new boob, I was pushing out my chest for Diane and Zsolt to judge the shape. The two of them (my breasts, not Diane and Zsolt) just looked so very pretty inside that black and purple bra.

Sold! I took the breast.

Do you want to know the very best aspect of this stick-on breast? Well, because it sticks to me and doesn’t sit inside a pocket within the bra that means –

Hold on.

Drum roll.

That means . . .

I CAN BUY ANY BRA I WANT! WoooooHooooo! Bring on the pretty zebra stripes, satins, COLOURS and cheap frills that LaSenza and LaVieEnRose can offer. It has been over three years since I could walk into a lingerie shop and not despise the rows upon rows of unattainable bras representing a part of me that couldn’t be reclaimed. Not without reconstruction, and I long-ago choose never to reconstruct.

But now, with my stick on & not-itchy & not too heavy breast – I can be pretty, and it can done in a way that I can afford.

So that’s the lovely news.

It was a good experience, and I’m so glad I didn’t cancel that appointment.

If you are in Ottawa, and want to visit Kelly’s Boutique, here’s her website with all the needed information:

Scandal and the bikini boob

Earlier this summer as we set to leave England, I spread my bathing suits and bras across the bed (accumulated over about six years) and began to say goodbye. Goodbye slippery pink cups, goodbye plain white t-shirt bra, goodbye your clever push-up, goodbye string bikini top . . . goodbye. Everything went in the bin (or the charity bag, depending on condition) except for my ancient O’Neil red string bikini – and not because I could wear it to the beach this summer . . . cause really, those triangles are small, but rather because of the memories.

Which was, if you consider it, what the pile of lingerie also was – memories. Memories of boobs. And the deed was done, I had myself a good cry.

But today was lovely. Today-today-today I bought a string bikini. Not a bandeau wrap across the chest, those they are nice too post-mastectomy (particularly since I bought two for eight pounds at Matalon, though I think, perhaps the price is reflected in the quality of my butt-in-bikini, which is why I was on the hunt today for a new, discounted, end-of-the-season quality designer suit.).

Oh, I feel so naughty. Girls with only one breast aren’t meant to wear string bikinis. At least, according to the post-mastectomy land of lingerie product catalogues we aren’t. And I can see the point. Firstly, if we could all get away without the false-breast pockets they would be out of business. Secondly, most women don’t have tiny boob(s), and the difference between right and left would be like staring at a single hill in the middle of a plain. Something like that giant red rock in Australia.

But after going shop to shop and not finding any bandeau style, I just said, “screw this” and tried on a few cuts I never imagined acceptable.

Gosh, I’ll tell you what. If I still had both boobs (say I had reconstruction, or old rightie magically grew back), I’d have scandalized Lake Balaton this summer with my risqué so-damn-near-to-the-nipple outfits of string and fling and bikini hotness, it would have been awesome.  And while that hasn’t happened, I have happily noticed that despite having a neat and tidy scar running across my right chest, it is, one year post surgery, less noticeable.

So I put on this striking blue triangular thing (O’Neil has such fine quality suits) where the area isn’t quite so close to the nipple (which is good, because I’m down one of those) and BAM – Sexy bathing suit Catherine has returned from her summer of cheap, Matalon frumping. My ass looks great; my eyes are popping; and best of all – BEST of all – my boob, while looking small, is not strikingly missing.

Okay, if you know it’s missing, than you aren’t going to miss the ‘missing’ness.   (Am I misusing the miss?)

And I know it’s not cool to brag. Hey, my body isn’t 22 anymore, so yes, I’m fully aware of those cellulite jiggles and mystery circles rippling out from my thighs. But fuck it. I feel pretty. I feel like all those stupid bras and bikini tops last May thrown into the bin (or charity bag) weren’t discarded because I can’t wear them . . . they were tossed because I’m a spanking new woman who needs flattering, lovely clothes.

After all, it never hurts to feel good about yourself. And I never imagined a triangle bikini would ever again make me feel so freaking good.

This post is so absurd. I know it’s all ‘me, me, me’ but I’m excited. It’s like being told you can wear miniskirts again after thirty five (not my rule, I took it from ‘What Not to Wear’ so if you don’t like it, please refer to Stacy and Clinton), if you’ve ever been inclined to wear miniskirts – which, to Zsolt’s disappointment, I’ve never been.

Anyhow. Maybe I look just like any girl on the beach. But Zsolt thinks it’s beautiful too, so there you go.

Happy days, and just in time for my trip to Greece. Boyah! Great stuff. Sorry for so much self-indulgence, but I really needed to cheer.

And to top off this lovely day. Zsolt found a brand of clothing that suits his tall, lean frame and actually makes him look like . . . like a man. Like, a hot man. Like I could just grab him with both hands and sweep him away to never, never land. His outfit, in my opinion, is money well spent.

(Whew! Just had a wee scare. I had dropped my computer-drawing pen and thought it fell behind the radiator, so started groping the ground underneath and stuck my hand right through a thick spider web. Gross. Thankfully, with a second look, the pen actually only fell behind the computer screen. But still, my hand is totally grossed out. And I bet the spiders aren’t too pleased either.)

Dressing for the boobies

Once upon a time I bought a dress online from H&M – a cheap red dress that I wore once to a Christmas party, and may never wear again. I say ‘may’ because ‘maybe’ next Christmas I’ll start feeling festive and  try it on once more. But honestly, it kinda reminds me of the chemo days, so thinking about it as I write, it’s probably better to send that red number along to the charity shop as a donation.

Anyhow – not my point.

Ever since ordering from H&M, they’ve been assailing me with magazines. Every other week I receive a magazine about their new spring line, new summer line, new home line.  This morning the delivery boy dropped off H&M’s  ‘Shades of Summer 2011’ and I’m just cracking into this baby.

Thankfully, magazine browsing somewhat satisfies my craving for new clothes. Somewhat. And I pour over these pages as though if I stare hard enough, the fashion will materialize from thin air into my apartment. I wish!

I’m noticing a lot of loose tops, which bodes well for my post-mastectomy figure. If you’ve had a mastectomy and don’t want to wear an overly structured bra every day (and if you have a small breasts, because I doubt this would work with a larger cup), then it’s somewhat easy to pull off the sans-boob look with the right clothing.

For example – sans boobs: Tube tops are OUT.  Bandeau bikinis are IN.  V-necks are GREAT. Plain t-shirts are OBVIOUS (obvious you’re missing a breast). Patterns, flowing material, and asymmetrical cuts are the best. Apparently crochet tops are back? But I don’t think that looks good on anyone, boobs or no boobs.

Talk about body image battles. If a woman can go without her breast and still feel sexy, then you’ve got to admire that. There are times when I feel like there’s been no change. Small or no boobs, the figure is still androgynous. And when I throw on my pink sun dress with those oversized shades and white flip flops, damn – I do feel sexy.

But then, I totally get why women wear prosthesis breasts. If you have B and above curves (which most women do) a missing bump will become far more noticeable. I’ve seen bras designed for the Amazonian woman (one cup only) and some really nicely structured clothing to hide any unbalance (or even the total absence of breasts). Actually, ever since my trip to the mastectomy shop, I’ve been taking my floppy falsie out on the town, and the response has been surprising.

So I’m out and about meeting friends, going to work, whatever, all while wearing my spare boob. And here are the comments:

“Oh, cute top.”

“I like your shirt.”

“Is that new?”

1) They are cute tops. 2) I am glad people like my taste. 3) No, they’re not new. They’re way old, and I’ve been wearing them every other week for the past nine months.

BUT – I haven’t worn them with my boobs on.

It’s so absolutely fascinating that as soon as I put on two breasts instead of one, my tops become all the more attractive. Maybe it’s because they’re cut for the typical women’s shape? Maybe it’s because my new mastectomy bra makes the girls pop out to their best advantage? Maybe people feel awkward when they notice my chest isn’t shaped as expected, and so look away before noticing how cute I’m dressed?

Maybe, maybe, oopsy daisy.

Anyhow. For this reason I’m starting to reconsider the idea of mastectomy lingerie. I love the bras we obtained two weekends past. And have my eye on purchasing a couple more before leaving the UK. There is this provider called ‘about a girl’ who I’m becoming curious about. They have silk mastectomy lingerie, and the stuff looks quite – dare I hope? – sexy. I’m thinking of making a pilgrimage to their store (because when it comes to mastectomy clothing, you generally have to make a long trip or order online) and see what’s what.

Anyhow, that’s me and my cup of tea – pouring over this morning’s junk mail, an easy start to an easy morning.