While most of us have imagined what we’d look like with a little nip/tuck here or there, its unlikely your thoughts pre-cancer included nipping a lump from your breast or tucking in where it had been removed completely. With most treatment for breast cancer including surgery of some form its unlikely your body image will come away from this experience unscathed either.
Individual experience varies greatly, for some the liberation of a flat chest after living with large breasts is a welcome change whereas others find looking down to a constant reminder of what you’ve lost to be very traumatic. Acceptance is the key to rebuilding your self-esteem and this takes time and patience. You may be fine to look in the mirror or show others your new body but its also perfectly normal to not want to be seen topless or even look yourself. Just do what feels right for you and ask for help if you feel it’s affecting your life or becoming a problem.
Looking at photos of other women with mastectomies can break down some barriers and it can help to check out someone else’s scars in person and compare if you ever get the chance should it come up in conversation. A surprisingly common response to your new post-surgery body can be that it looks a whole lot better than the peculiar shark-attack scars you’d imagined.
While you eventually have to come to accept you’re never going to look the way you did before surgery – its comforting to know that a) the cancer has now gone and b) there are great options available to us young things to once again have something (other than socks) to fill your bra.
Oddly enough – the whole process of having breast cancer can give you a newfound respect for your body or an acceptance that you didn’t before have about your legs/feet/thighs/buttocks/ears/nose etc. Yes it’s a shame it can take cancer to feel this way about yourself, but its much better now than never. The sickly saying was right all along… cancer really can be a gift (albeit akin to a novelty hand-knitted jersey or quilted toilet roll cosy – one you don’t need and would much rather not receive!).