When Cassie got breast cancer in her thirties, it changed the way she saw herself. She talked to us about the ways she’s helping herself and others regain confidence.
My diagnosis came as a complete shock
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2017 at the age of 34. At first, I assumed it was just a cyst as I’d had those before, but I went to the GP when it started becoming painful.
Shocked doesn’t even come close to describing how I felt. When I was given the news, I felt like I was watching them tell someone else. It took time to really sink in.
Body confidence isn’t just about how you look
My body confidence was definitely impacted by breast cancer. I went from a body I recognised to one which is completely different in a very short space of time.
The surgery left me with one breast and scars, the radiotherapy left me with three small tattooed dots, and the hormone therapy has meant I gain weight easily, which I never did before. I felt that I needed to hide my body away.
Body confidence isn’t just about how you or others see your body, it’s also about how much you trust it. After mine gave me cancer, I felt a massive loss of trust.
I’ve only ever had small breasts anyway, but I always loved to wear nice padded or push-up bras to make the most of what I had. After surgery, I could no longer wear those. Plus, due to weight gain following treatment and ongoing hormone therapies, my old clothes no longer fit.
Having just one breast means that most clothes don’t fit correctly. I tried wearing a prosthesis but it wasn’t for me, so I had to completely rethink my wardrobe. I went from wearing low-cut or tight tops to baggy tops and jumpers.
But then I realised that I didn’t need to hide away.
I worked hard to rebuild my confidence
In 2019, I decided to do a boudoir photoshoot. I had done one years earlier and really enjoyed it, and I thought it would help me get used to how my body looks.
With the assistance of a lovely lady in Victoria’s Secret, I found some nice lingerie that didn’t look ridiculous with only having one breast and went for it. I explained my situation to the photographer, who was amazing, and I absolutely loved the pictures she took. It was a fantastic experience and I would recommend it to everyone.
Even before that I point, I was working hard to build up my body confidence in other ways.
While undergoing my chemotherapy, I couldn’t go to my job as a business analyst because it involves lots of travel. However, I was keen to get back to it as soon as I could after surgery, and so I worked through radiotherapy.
I also managed to get back to my hobbies a couple of weeks after my mastectomy, including horse riding: something I really missed during chemotherapy.
Less than five months after finishing radiotherapy, I climbed Ben Nevis. I’d never done this before and wasn’t that fit, but I needed a challenge. I did it with a friend who also taught me to play the violin, so we took violins and played at the top in the rain and low cloud.
We raised over £600 for Breast Cancer Now in the process, but for me it wasn’t about the money. It was at this point I started to realise that I didn’t need to be afraid of my body.
I want to help women feel more comfortable
I still struggle to find nice bras suitable for someone with a single breast. I don’t understand why they aren’t available in high street stores.
Women after breast cancer treatment don’t necessarily want a section in a shop with a big sign saying ‘breast cancer patients must shop here’. What I would like to see is better training for staff members in these shops who can then give informed advice to women who have had surgery.
I’m currently in the process of preparing a series of videos exploring the kinds of clothes that would better suit women after breast cancer treatment, which I hope will help women to feel more confident shopping. I’d love to hear from some shops on what they think about this, and talk to them about how they can better help women in this situation.
Top tips on what to wear after breast cancer surgery
For women who are self-conscious about how to dress after surgery, especially if it’s for a special occasion, there is some advice I can offer.
If you have a single breast or have had a lumpectomy that has caused a size difference between your breasts, you would be best going for a patterned top or dress to detract attention. Don’t wear something too figure-hugging if this makes you feel uncomfortable, especially as it can appear baggy on your smaller side.
Underwear-wise, if you want to go for something a little prettier, don’t necessarily go for post-surgery bras; in my experience, these are not the most attractive. Try bralettes instead. If you wear a prosthesis, you can use it with most types of bras, and you can even sew in a pocket to hold it in place.
Most importantly: if you have recently had treatment and haven’t yet delved into wearing new clothes, go and try things on. Don’t just pick things off the rack that you always bought – try something new. You might be surprised by how it looks.
If you have had breast cancer and are struggling to adjust to life beyond a diagnosis, we have plenty of information and resources to help you.