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Running After Breast Cancer: Boob Shopping

Hi, I'm Katie. I'm many things: a mom, a wife, a professional, an AMR team member, and I'm also a breast cancer survivor. I'll be sharing my story here on Another Mother Runner as I get back into a regular running routine and train for a half marathon. I hope you'll come along. Feel free to ask questions or share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katie wonders if any mother runners have any tips on what to do with post-chemo hair? Hers is at such an awkward stage!

It’s time for surgery #3 of 4.

So when most women get a bilateral mastectomy at the age of 39, most choose to get reconstruction done at the same time, if they are eligible. Perhaps it’s the boob job they always dreamed of, just in a roundabout kind of way. I guess it's a small consolation prize since insurance pays for it! Anyway, after they perform the mastectomy, they put in expanders to literally stretch your skin enough so that implants can be surgically added a few months later. In the meantime, they fill up your expanders slowly with saline until you reach the size you want. A kind of try ‘em before you buy ‘em approach.

My fills have been moving along without complications, thank goodness. When I went in for my final appointment before the implant surgery, the nurse said, “You have to go bigger.” What? I don’t want to go bigger. She said,"You have to!"

And then she brought in a few other nurses to check me out, followed by my doctor. All were there to give me their opinions. As I sat there with no top on, being paraded in front of all of these 25-year olds with their still-perky boobs, I sat there and wondered, “Is this really happening?”

I couldn’t help but laugh. This is my new normal. Modesty goes out the door when you are diagnosed with breast cancer. Everyone and her mother sees you with your top off and it is just something you have to get used to. My girls were in the room to witness the circus because they had the day off school. I can only imagine the amount of money we’re going to have to spend on therapy as they grow up.

My surgery is scheduled for April 28 and I can’t wait to get these expanders out. Running with expanders is challenging - but it really hasn’t been that bad until recently. Now that my boobs are full, they rub up against the infusion port on my arm and it's a little uncomfortable. Plus, as Coach MK recently pointed out during a run, I need to start compensating for the extra weight on top by building my core strength. Oh, and I should probably get some new bras, seeing as how I’ve never really invested in good ones before. I’ve always grabbed them at Target, along with the diapers and fruit snacks on my list.

Fellow BAMRs, do you have a favorite running bra? How have you dealt with changes to your chest size, either due to pregnancy, breast cancer, augmentation or other surgeries? Help a sister out!  

Want to catch up with Katie's story? Click here.

9 responses to “Running After Breast Cancer: Boob Shopping

  1. I had a lumpectomy and full lymph node dissection about 8 years ago and have found, through trial and error, that the best jog bras have a little less support than I used to. I wrongly assumed I would need MORE support but found that I needed my body fluids to flow more and that actually LESS support was best. The good thing is that now I can just wear the cheapo ones from Dick’s Sporting Goods rather than the high end ones from the specialty running stores. Best wishes for all your running miles.

  2. Hi Katie, A year ago, I was where you are now (though I had a unilateral mastectomy). I can completely relate to your being ready to be done with the expanders! I had a constant bruise on my inner arm from rubbing against the edge of the expander. Ugh!
    I want to reiterate what a few others have said about holding off on investing a bunch in new bras. You will probably find that your needs change as the scars heal and your muscles adjust. Stick with inexpensive to start so you don’t feel stuck with ones that don’t feel good.
    You will probably find that your sports bras are more for show than support since your pecs hold the implant in place. So that’s good news – you don’t have to spend as much on them!
    And finally, if you have one anywhere nearby, I highly recommend going to Nordstrom to get fitted for new daily bras. They can fill out all the paperwork for your insurance and they process the purchase tax-free as a medical expense. Plus, they are just really good about fitting those of us who have gone through this. I didn’t think to go there until about 4 months after my final surgery. It was such a relief to be treated so well I actually cried in the arms of the woman fitting me.
    Good luck to you!

    Hi Katie, A year ago, I was where you are now (though I had a unilateral mastectomy). I can completely relate to your being ready to be done with the expanders! I had a constant bruise on my inner arm from rubbing against the edge of the expander. Ugh!
    I want to reiterate what a few others have said about holding off on investing a bunch in new bras. You will probably find that your needs change as the scars heal and your muscles adjust. Stick with inexpensive to start so you don’t feel stuck with ones that don’t feel good.
    You will probably find that your sports bras are more for show than support since your pecs hold the implant in place. So that’s good news – you don’t have to spend as much on them!
    And finally, if you have one anywhere nearby, I highly recommend going to Nordstrom to get fitted for new daily bras. They can fill out all the paperwork for your insurance and they process the purchase tax-free as a medical expense. Plus, they are just really good about fitting those of us who have gone through this. I didn’t think to go there until about 4 months after my final surgery. It was such a relief to be treated so well I actually cried in the arms of the woman fitting me.
    Good luck to you!

  3. Favorite running bra: Jubra Lee
    I had a breast reduction several years ago and think it was the BEST thing EVER!! I would caution you to not let them talk you into bigger boobs than you are comfortable with. I really wish I hadn’t let my doctor convince me that Bs would be to shocking of a difference. Cs are a bit bigger than I would like now that I am more athletic. BUT……oh my gosh how exciting it was to be able to buy my bras and my panties at the same place! And even ones that matched!!!!
    I have a friend who recently went through cancer treatment, mastectomy, and reconstruction. She didn’t do the saline thing to make room. Whatever she had was hard. I know because I have spent the past several months feeling her up every time I see her! Gotta find some fun in the situation, right?

  4. So I can’t relate to having breast cancer, but I can relate to having bigger-than-you’re-used-to boobs. I’m currently breastfeeding … my boobs went from barely A to D. YIKES. I used to buy bras off the clearance rack, so I was in new territory. Friends recommended Victoria’s Secret, and I chose the Ultimate bra – loving it so far! They were buy one get one half off at the time, so the impact to my wallet wasn’t so bad. Hope you find one that works for you!

  5. Thank you for sharing your story! My sister, breast cancer survivor, not a runner, wishes she had not gone as big as she did. (Her husband was along at the selection.) Can’t they show you pictures of what the various sizes would look like on your frame? We live in a breast-obsessed culture. I always recall how ungainly my boobs felt when I was nursing my son– bigger might not be better.

  6. Hi Katie. With regards to good bras: I just got the “Glide and Stride” bra from Lululemon and I really like it. I am a 34 C/D so bras from Target have never cut it for me. It’s a bit expensive but is really comfortable. I would recommend trying it on in the store as I actually needed a size smaller than what I typically wear. Best of luck with your surgery!

  7. Katie, thanks for sharing your story. I can tell you are an amazing woman, as so have faced this adversity with such an incredible atitude. I have been feeling a little low heading into these last few weeks of 1/2 marathon training, but your story reminds me that I have so much to be thankful for, especially my good health. Iook forward to following more of your journey…

  8. Hi Katie! As always, your writing resonates with me. I agree with Beth, go bigger than you think (esp. with expanders). The “real” fake ones will seem smaller than the expanders, trust me on this. Funny about compensating for the extra weight on top – I hadn’t thought about that but it’s so true!!! Good luck with your exchange surgery, it will be a piece of cake compared to the bilateral mastectomy. And thank you, as always, for sharing.

  9. Katie, I just read your story! I have a couple of your other posts too. I too am a mother runner, wife, co-worker, friend, and breast cancer survivor. I say go bigger too. They will sort of settle into you= body a bit. If was 4 years this month that I had my last reconstruction surgery. It will be 5 years in August sine I had my mastectomy. Actually I don’t recommend you buy any expensive bras until a few months after you are done. I actually used to buy expensive on÷s but now I dont need a lot. Also, ask you plastic surgeon but insurance will likely pay for some bras. I found it hard to go back into an underwire. Feel free to contact for more.

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