Clothes Shopping Post-Mastectomy – It’s the Junior High Locker Room All Over Again!

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Clothes Shopping Post-Mastectomy – It’s the Junior High Locker Room All Over Again!

Here’s something that I didn’t expect (and that no one tells you about!!!) post-mastectomy: the fear and anxiety of clothes shopping and more specifically, dressing rooms. Uh huh. Please allow me to explain.

Last week when I was in New York, I had the opportunity to sneak away from work obligations and do a little fall shopping. The cooler temperatures inspired me to try on some snuggly buggly clothes, which under normal circumstances would be a Silver Lining. However, trying on clothes is not what it used to be. No way, no how.

I think that I’ve mentioned here that one of the Silver Linings of my reconstruction is that I don’t always have to wear a bra. Nope. My “girls” are perky and need no assistance in maintaining their shape. Now, every once in a while – when I want to feel feminine or wear a sheer shirt – I do wear some kind of undergarment. But this is a special occasion.

When clothes shopping there are often very strange circumstances when salespeople knock on – and then enter – a dressing room without expressed permission.  I’ve never understood this. When I worked at Ralph Lauren (eons ago!), I would never in a million years even consider this. I mean, really, walk into a room while someone is UNdressed?  It happens. In fact, some folks don’t flinch at this notion.

So, not wearing a bra everyday means that when a salesperson knocks on – and then enters – the dressing room, I nearly have a panic attack…because I am naked from the waste up and my “girls” are uncovered. I usually manage to do a duck-and-cover while simultaneously screeching, “I’m okaaaaaaaay.  Pleaaaaaase close the door!” Cue the heart palpitations. Talk about serious – and I mean SERIOUS – anxiety.

In an instant, I feel as though I am transported back to that awwwwwwful Junior High locker room – when everyone practically changed their clothes inside the locker to avoid being seen.

I’ve had this happen to me before, but for some reason, this week I was extra sensitive and had an acute awareness of my emotional reaction (panic!) to it. As I was having heart palpitations, I asked myself:

Why didn’t you just tell the saleswoman that you had breast cancer? …because then she would never enter!

Well, because that would mean that I’d have to talk about it. And open up a whole can of worms. Or freak her out. Or…I don’t know what. All I wanted to do was try on some clothes in peace and quiet. Instead, I found myself completely ver klempt and left the store without buying a thing (which was a Silver Lining for my bank account!).

For future shopping excursions, here are a couple of solutions that I think will help:

  1. On the days that I am going clothes shopping, I will wear a bra so that in the event that an extra intrusive salesperson comes in without permission, I am “covered” – literally and physically.
  2. Before even going into a dressing room, I will say to each and every salesperson, “I’d really like some privacy while trying on these clothes.” I’m not going to “should” on myself by feeling like I need to talk with anyone about my situation.

Golly, FBC (f-bomb breast cancer for new readers) remnants are always seemingly right around the corner. When confronted with these remnants, I continue to remind myself that I have a choice about how to respond: from a place of fear (or sadness) or a place of Silver Linings. I continue to encourage myself to choose Silver Linings.


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  1. says

    I had this happen in a mastectomy boutique – of all the places a women might be more sensitive to another's privacy! But she busted right in, happy as a clam and chatting away as she fixed my bra/prosthesis.

    My real junior high moment comes in the change rooms of spas, pools, etc. I find myself back in the changing rooms, because I'd rather just not bother with the breast cancer looks or conversations. ~Catherine

  2. Cindy says

    So admire your courage and positive attitude. I am totally attracted to your blog for its beauty. As an interior designer I am always looking for beauty. I grew up in Lompoc, but have lived in Orange County for many years. I am moving back to Santa Barbara County and feel so uncertain about all the change.

    This is probably super silly, but reading your blog and knowing you live in Santa Barbara is helping me feel better about the move. I love your message about finding the silver lining in life's challenges–it transcends health challenges.

    • says

      Oh how wonderful, Cindy! Thank you for your kind words! Santa Barbara is the MOST welcoming and beautiful and warm town (are you moving here or back to Lompoc?). You will love it! Best wishes!

  3. Lisl says

    oh girl! don't I know, plus I have extra scars from tubes, etc…and it stresses me for anyone to see all that! It's not as much fun as I thought it would be.

  4. Kim C says

    Having had another form of cancer which left two big scary scars on my tummy – enough to freak out any salesperson! I commend you on this post and loved the last paragraph!!