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How Breast Cancer Has Changed How I See Myself


I feel like my identity has changed since I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. I’ve become profoundly changed, not only my physicality although that’s significant, but my psyche as well. My thoughts are consumed with breast cancer, wanting to know more and how that will effect my future. Initially I had thought that once I had the mastectomies it would solve all my cancer issues in one fell swoop, but the fact that I will have to take post operative chemo drugs for years if not decades is on my mind in ways I hadn’t anticipated.

Going in public and feeling self conscious is different for me. I suppose back when I didn’t want to wear a bra I was self conscious because of my old flopping boobs, it was evident to the most casual viewer that I wasn’t wearing a bra. That used to irritate me to no end, because men can walk around with their moobs and distended bellies all without a care in the world. I don’t think they ever thought twice about how they looked, whereas women always had to consider if their look would be offensive. The misogynistic inequality of it all rankled me to no end.

And now with my Pooh belly and no tits I’m aware of it all the time. Maybe it will lessen as I grow older and more used to my new reality. I honestly don’t think very many people will even notice, let alone pass any sort of judgment, so it’s more in my head than reality. Then there’s that this is the closest I’ve come to facing my own mortality. Will cancer eventually kill me?

I get lost in all these feelings, which are valid and real, but I don’t want to spend this amount of time in them. I acknowledge this reality, it’s not like I am suppressing these feelings but at the same time I don’t want them to define me either. I am more than this, for certain.



  • moderators
    moderators Posts: 8,185

    @annieincognito thank you for sharing this very profound post. Yes, we are often our worst critic. Cancer changes us, physically and emotionally, and it can be a real challenge to stay above the less positive thoughts. It can force us to re-prioritize. We're all here for you, and appreciate your open dialogue about all this! Sending you gentle hugs, Your Mods

  • annieincognito
    annieincognito Member Posts: 4

    I guess it was all the waiting and not knowing that motivated that post. But I had the best news any of us can imagine…. I'm cancer free and I do not have to take hormone blockers. I was diagnosed with DCIS the end of March and had a double mastectomy April 15. It was a whirlwind but I trusted my surgeon and her very delightful team. Two weeks later I had my drains removed and yesterday May 21 I had my follow up visit with my surgeon and the chemo doctor. My surgeon said I can resume normal activities and my scars looked like they were healing well. I have a bit of swelling still and I still wear a tight binding sports bra. She recommended massaging the scar tissue and she said she'd see me next year. Then the chemo doctor said since my margins were clear and there was no invasive cancer in either the breast tissue or my lymph nodes I didn't need to take the hormone blockers.

    All this means I can resume my normal life. I don't need to read more research or obsess about breast cancer. I'm free to move forward and I'm hoping this is the outcome for all of us.