By Alexa Santory
A mastectomy, although preventative, can be a massive adjustment for a woman and everyone around her. As women, we’ve been conditioned to attach so much of our femininity and our womanhood to our breasts. Women who have undergone a mastectomy are among some of the bravest, and being able to hear their stories is inspiring. It’s a new challenge to overcome but it’s so rewarding in the long run. Here are some of the best (and most inspiring) ways to feel beautiful after a mastectomy.
Feeling Beautiful After a Mastectomy
For those of you who don’t know, let’s talk a bit about what a mastectomy is. There are 5 types of mastectomies: total, modified radical, radical, partial, and subcutaneous. Each has different levels of invasiveness, like the total mastectomy, which removes the entire breast and the nipple, or the radical mastectomy where the lymph nodes are removed as well. No matter the type, all mastectomies can be very difficult to cope with. I can wax poetic for days about learning to fall in love with yourself again and how you should practice self-care more actively after a mastectomy. After a procedure of this nature, practicing self-care is important, yes, but is it truly enough? Let’s talk about some ways women can feel beautiful and like themselves again post-op.
Reconstruction surgery is rather common post-mastectomy. Breast reconstruction occurs when a woman who has undergone breast cancer treatment opts to have an additional surgery to reshape and rebuild the breast. There are two types of reconstruction surgery: implant reconstruction and autologous (“flap”) reconstruction. The implant reconstruction involves inserting an implant filled with saline or silicone gel; similar to the type you’d get for a breast augmentation procedure. Autologous reconstruction involves using tissue from a different part of the body, like the thigh, back, or tummy, to reconstruct the breast. After a mastectomy, breast reconstruction can help renew self-confidence and make a woman feel better about her appearance.
Living a Healthy Lifestyle
The body has just gone through pretty intense stress and some major changes. That’s why it’s important to refocus on your health and living a healthier lifestyle after breast cancer treatment and a mastectomy. It’s been found that breast cancer patients who consume more refined sugar, red meat, and bad fats have a lower have a lower survival rate. A balanced diet is always important, but post-op it’s necessary.
A healthy diet full of phytochemicals, protein, antioxidants, and soy will help restore nutrients lost during treatment and surgery, and they can also help prevent cancer from returning. Phytochemicals are plant nutrients that have been shown to have cancer-preventing abilities. Post-op, your body needs a lot more protein to help fight infection and repair our cells. Antioxidants help fight free radicals that can lead to certain cancers, while soy produces phytoestrogens, which are nutrients that have been shown to protect against breast cancer!
Areola and mastectomy tattoos have become symbols of survival for some women post-op. Areola tattoos are an option for women who’ve had breast reconstruction surgery. Adding a nipple and areola to a reconstructed breast enhances the appearance, draws attention from scars and imperfections, and boosts a woman’s confidence after a life changing procedure. Mastectomy tattoos are a badass option for people who wish to use their new body as a canvas. Instead of opting for breast reconstruction or living with their scars, some survivors choose to tattoo their chest area to cover the scars, or essentially showcase their strength as breast cancer survivors!
Reaching out to other survivors and joining support groups is an excellent way to deal with the changes during treatment and post operation. Hearing testimonies and stories from other survivors and patients can help put things into perspective, strengthen your support system, and make things feel a little less hopeless. It’s always important to have a strong network of people by your side during a time like this, but having people who are at the forefront and know exactly what you’re feeling provides patients and survivors with greater clarity and understanding. It’s common to feel down and kind of succumb to negative emotions during this process. Surrounding yourself with positivity and support from others who have experienced what you’re experiencing will make things a lot easier. You aren’t alone in your fight!