Deciding what to wear most days can be a challenge for a lot of women but following breast cancer surgery it becomes a bit of a nightmare. Strong psychological associations with clothes you loved before surgery are just not suitable to wear because they are too tight, too revealing or simply just uncomfortable. They become a constant reminder of what was left behind. So much so for me there were some clothes that I associated around that time that I have never worn again. Nonetheless I am not advocating throwing out all your clothes and buying a whole new wardrobe, unless you are looking for a good excuse!.
During a time when we are sensitive about body image it is important to dress well and feel good about ourselves. There will be tracksuit days as I call them, but those are the days when we have no plans for leaving the house. After my first diagnosis, my treatment plan also included radiotherapy. Rather innocently, I went to have my chest “marked” as planned, but made the mistake of wearing a v-necked blouse. I later met a friend and noticed that she kept looking at my chest. I then looked down and “quelle horreur!”, my “marks” were plain to see! Since then I have always been conscious of what to wear when attending hospital.
I decided for my chemo days that I was not going to go for the “chemo dressed down look”I planned on wearing comfortable clothes but not tracksuits. I layered my clothes to allow for alternating sensations of feeling hot and cold. I also brought a light scarf, which was a bit like a “blankie” to me and was used to wrap around my neck, another time became a blanket or even a pillow one day.
If you have a port-a-cath, choose a top with easy access that can be accessed from the chest without exposing yourself. Loose sleeves help too if getting a peripheral intravenous catheter. I wanted to swim during my treatment , and after my experience with my drain after surgery, chose to have a peripheral intravenous catheter each time. Not so good for my veins though and even today some are still fibrosed. If I ever need chemo again I will have to have a port-a-cath fitted. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen anytime soon!
I also learned to wear trousers mostly just in case the doctors wanted to examine me so that I wouldn’t necessarily need to completely undress thus preserving some dignity. Go for clothes that are easy to quickly undress and dress, avoid buttons or fasteners as they may become a problem later on if some side effects materialise from the chemotherapy.
It is a completely personal decision whether you choose to wear a wig or not. When buying headscarves consider your wardrobe so that they actually match.
Remember your skin tone will probably change during treatment and you may alternate from having a flushed face from steroids or looking ghostly pale due to constant nausea. I wore BB cream daily all through treatment. I found it light for my newly sensitive skin.
Of course, at the end of the day, it is a very personal choice what you wear, but my mantra is if you look good on the outside you actually might feel good on the inside…