For many women, breast reconstruction will be psychologically and emotionally beneficial. It may turn out to be an incredibly positive decision and the benefit will be felt for many years, not only for the patient but also for their close family and friends, as they see their loved one once again comfortable in their skin.
In a breast cancer journey, reconstructive surgery can give a woman back, not only a sense of her feminine self, but also control. It\’s about looking forward and that in itself can be very healing. Many women will come out of breast reconstruction on a bit of a high, they may be in better shape than they have been in for year and have a strong sense of starting over again.
The increase in confidence felt having undergone reconstructive surgery will help women resume their ‘normal’ lives and this will create positive ripples in all aspects of her life.
Whilst all of this is true, it doesn’t mean that it will be emotionally plain sailing. Along the way, there are likely to be ups and downs. It is entirely normal for a women to feel angry, sad and vulnerable following surgery. She may feel a sense of grief, both for her old self and her life before cancer. She may look the same from the outside, but inside there will be changes and this can take a lot of getting used to. Reconstructive surgery can produce amazing results but nonetheless physical sensation and the inherent breastfeeding function can never be replicated and this can often be experienced as a sense of bereavement. If you have elected to have preventative surgery, you may still feel overwhelmed by the decision you have to had to make; you may also feel a sense of guilt that you’ve been given a chance to avoid cancer when others don’t have the same opportunity.
The important thing to remember is that every feeling experienced in life after reconstructive surgery is valid and you needn’t feel alone. Don’t feel guilty if you have your less than ‘pollyanna’ days about the process. Your hospital care team (try your breast care nurse) can often put you in touch with counsellors and there are other organisations such as www.breastcancercare.org.uk who can put you in touch with other women who are in the same boat. Most cancer charities such as Macmillan, will also run message boards and chat rooms where some women find support and in the coming months, we will be setting up our very own BRA community.
Finally, here at the BRA Foundation we want to stress that we don’t advocate breast reconstruction for everyone. Regardless of what path you choose, we find all women in this situation to be strong, courageous and beautiful, regardless of the shape of their chest. And undoubtedly your loved ones will think the same.