Bra Wars

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, rebel forces riding vicious paclitaxels have won their first victory against the evil triple negative cancer.

During the second battle, a team of magical fairy doctors removed the entire battle ground, rendering the cancer homeless.

Now the rebel forces find themselves confined to…….The Death Bra!

(queue theme music) Da da da da daaaaaaaaaa

I trying find ways to laugh about bras at the moment. When you’ve had breast surgery you need to wear a bra all the time. There’s a brief break when you shower but it’s not much relief because you have to support your breast with your hand. Lucky my soap comes in a pump pack!

I’m large breasted. After a late start my overachieving body developed such impressive breasts that my high school friends suspected cosmetic surgery. I’ve enjoyed the attention they’ve attracted over the years, particularly those early years when they defied gravity.

I developed a new appreciation for them when I breastfed my daughter. Awesome, clever things, breasts. Even though one of mine has recently tried to kill me, I remain fond of them.

But I have always hated bras.

When you have large breasts, most bras look more like a parachute harness than an undergarment. They also have one thing in common. They all, to varying degrees, make your neck and shoulders ache. So I usually don’t wear one when I’m at home. I have yoga gear with that built in shelf bra made from a strip of elastic and some polycotton. These do nothing for your cleavage but they are really comfortable and you can bend your body in all sorts of directions without fear of popping out the front of whatever you’re wearing. I also have some heavy duty exercise bras for those times I feel like lifting weights or doing more vigorous floor exercises. I do not run. Not ever. Nobody over DD should ever, ever run.

I have ‘going out’ bras that have underwires. These give me a nice shape and they’re great under evening wear but after about three hours I either need to go home or increase my alcohol consumption. They dig at the shoulders and rub under the breasts. I’m very skilled at taking these off in the car without getting undressed. The first time he saw me do this my husband thought it was some kind of magic trick. Undo the back, pull the straps down over each arm and then pull the bra up through the neckline of whatever you’re wearing. Ta-daaaa.

I have bras that I think of as my ‘every day’ bras, but if I can get by without wearing them every day I’m a much happier woman. These are what I used to call ‘granny bras’ when I was younger. No wires, mostly cotton and reasonably comfortable compared to most kinds of bra. They don’t have the lift of my going out bras but they tame the bounce and somewhat counteract the effects of gravity if I want to go shopping or out with friends during the day.

When it comes to holding my breasts up I like to rely on my chest muscles. Don’t believe the myths about breast feeding. I’m 52 and my breasts still sit well because of all my yoga and the weight I carry around the garden when I move mulch.

When everyone was talking them up I bought a couple of those ‘ah bras’. These are a seamless, pull on job that’s now being sold in most of the chain stores under different names. It’s essentially a shaped crop top. Some of my smaller-breasted friends are big fans. All they really did for me was to flatten out my nipples. The only point seemed to be having no point. There’s not a lot of lift in them.

My small collection is enjoying a workout at the moment. The main aim of post-surgery bras is to prevent drag on the wound. Most people have their wound on the outer, upper quadrant of their breast. If you look at a breast and divide it into four quarters, that’s the top quarter closest to your underarm. Finding a bra to support this part of your breast is relatively easy. My surgery was on the inner, upper quadrant. It’s still up the top of the breast but towards the middle. Have a look at most bras and you’ll see that this is the part of the chest that’s usually either pushed up or cut across by a bra. It’s been a fun week!

So far the biggest surprise is that my going out bras are probably the best bras for the job. I’ve solved the strap problem by using two of my sweat bands from the gym and tucking them under the straps, but only around the house. This look is a little too ‘out there’ for the local shopping centre, so I use folded hankies. It seems you can buy padded things that fit under your bra strap but, as I’m treating this bra-wearing as a short term sentence I’m not investing in them.

My other trick has been to wear the bra over a cotton singlet. Nice. I was going to get my husband to photograph this attractive look and caption it ‘Madonna gets older’ and then I remembered she’s about my age. The advantage of wearing a singlet under a bra is that you don’t get rubbing around the bottom edge and it helps to cushion the straps. It’s the middle of summer here so this tactic is restricted to cooler days and nights but it’s worth keeping in mind. It would also be useful if you had a dressing that might leave marks on your bra.

At night I’ve discovered that two ‘Ah bras’ can do what one could not. I’ve bought some that are in a larger size and I put one of those on first. Then I put a smaller one on top of it. My other option is an exercise crop top style bra with a nice high front on it. Fortunately, (thanks to yoga) I’ve got a good range of movement, so wearing something that goes on over my head isn’t a problem. If you’ve had surgery that compromises your arm movement then neither of these will be much use to you.

I’ve tried the front opening bra that the breast care nurses provided. These are donated by Berlie to breast cancer patients all over Australia. Bless them. Unfortunately the front of it sits right across my wound.

When my shoulders get really sore I’ve figured out a way to use a long strip of stretch cotton as an alternative. I wrap it across my breast and over my shoulder. I wrap the tail around both breasts and then up my back and over the shoulder where I tie it off. You wouldn’t wear this out in public but it’s a great way to give my shoulders a rest while I watch television.

My main post-surgical tip for bras is to have lots of choices. If you can’t pull things over your head then learn to do what most big breasted women have always done and put your bra on backwards. There’s a reason we do this. It’s much easier to lean forwards and ‘drop’ your breasts into a fastened bra than to try to get them positioned well while doing it up behind your back. (For male readers, this method does involve us turning the bra to face the right way after it’s been done up. Just so you’re not imagining me walking around with my bra on backwards.) Having lots of bra options will mean you minimise any pressure points. You’ll probably still get some rubbing and soreness but at least you’ll be spreading the pain.

My other tip is to go overboard on the support. You’re trying to prevent your wound from pulling. That’s important. I’ve been putting a tight fitting singlet on over whatever bra I’ve decided to let torture me. I’m also holding onto my breasts in the car, particularly going over speed bumps or through pot holes. (Don’t worry. My husband is doing the driving.) I’ve also found that leaning forwards when I get out of the shower helps alleviate any pressure on my wound. I still support it with one hand or the other most of the time, but leaning forwards when I change hands helps, and I can now dry myself. My husband was very happy to keep drying me off but it’s nice to be independent.

It will be a week tomorrow since I had surgery. I’ve spent the week taking it very easy, doing my physiotherapy exercises and some light household chores. I’m feeling well and I’ve only had moderate discomfort from the surgery. This isn’t strong enough to call ‘pain’. I’m fortunate in not having to deal with drains and my surgeon used a waterproof dressing and dissolving stitches so showering is straight forward.

This is supposed to be a ‘horror week’ for breast cancer patients because I’m waiting for pathology results. I think it’s much less of a drama when you’ve already had six months of chemotherapy and you’ve already seen your tumours shrink. I’m feeling confident of a good result because I’ve already seen evidence of a good result. I’m hoping for a full pathological response and I’m also ready to take on whatever comes next if I don’t get that response.

And I’m starting to plan for radiation therapy.

The fun never ends!

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One thought on “Bra Wars

  1. Loving the bra blog – even without surgery to my boobs I relate to everything you say – in the house I also go bra free, as soon as I get in from a trip outdoors “Off IT Comes” Paul says as he sees me pulling the straps down my arms then whipping it out through the centre. I wish I was a 38 double nipple and then wouldn’t have to wear one xx

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