I like to ponder on fashion and style and how it changed with cancer. Has my sense of style changed? You bet. In fact it is still changing. Some things are surprising for me and it is a good thing to see once in a while and think about it as a part of a whole attitude shift.
I am 43 and live in Prague, Czech Republic. For work, I used to be a music journalist and DJ. Now, I run a website about culture and fashion, however I still DJ at a local indie station. Prior to being diagnosed with cancer at age 39, I used to DJ in clubs but now I am less able to stay up all night. That is fine with me.
The Good Old Days
I used to wear rock/goth things when I was young. I dyed everything black as a teenager (in a communist country, you had to do DIY projects if you wanted style). It was a part of life and not a bad one – I learned to sew, crochet and knit. After the revolution, we got normal clothes and can buy our punk T-shirts in H&M or Asos – I am not sure I am happy about that, but they sure are cheap!
Until about age 30, I wanted my clothing to express how I felt about music and culture in general. Later on, I got a more serious job and felt like a middle aged, responsible woman, so I started to dress more ladylike. But it did not work out, the job was not good for me and the work slacks were not what I liked to wear. I went to work for a rock magazine and then began freelancing which meant total freedom of choice when it came to clothing.
Around age 35, I decided to give away my band t-shirts because I was “too old”. Admittedly a bad idea, I started buying and wearing them again. The only thing that remained from my “serious lady period” was that I aimed for higher quality items like shoes, sunglasses, and handbags. However, I still prefer to spend my money on records or travel than designer bags.
And Then Everything Changed
At 39 years old, I was diagnosed with cancer. My body shape changed several times from G cups, then one G cup and one nothing, then two nothings, and then 2 reconstructed A cups. I also gained weight and my liver was enlarged from treatment, causing me to have a bigger belly. Other things changed too, naturally impacting the way I dress. I enjoy my clothes now more than I did before, although in my opinion, I look way less pretty and way older than before cancer. I cannot be bothered to dress for others – I dress for my good feeling. I had never used much makeup and now I usually use mascara and lipstick and off I go! Still cannot understand how some jobs require women to wear makeup. Yikes! I am not a tomboy but wearing makeup because someone else said so is an unfathomable concept for me.
I like what I wear now. I enjoy my band T-shirts with renewed passion. I have several sweaters I knit for myself and work on some others. Knitting helped me a lot and is still helping me – it is calming and pleasant. Love my hoodies. My job means I sometimes get free sneakers or hoodies and I am grateful for them.
I wear more colours, although I still prefer clothes that are usually not patterned and darker. I wear crazy gloves and socks, mostly hand knit, though. And I buy the best yarn because what if I am dead before I knit my next sweater?
To Bra, or Not to Bra
This is regarding my whole body, but what has changed is, of course, mostly my chest. I do not wear a bra on most days, and consider it a VERY good change. I had really, really, huge breasts and could not find bras that would not be unpleasant to wear. The few ones I did were really horrible looking, but I still wore them – and even the softest ones left craters in my shoulders. My surgeon says not to go always without bra but to be honest, I rarely wear them. At home, when it is warm, I wear sleeveless t-shirts. No more huge breasts, just small, practical ones. Yes, I sometimes get pain, some parts are numb, and there is scar tissue. It took several surgeries and complications just to get here – main thing is, there is no evidence of cancer, and I got rid of excess things I did not really like. I had always been afraid to go to a hospital for a reduction surgery (the theory behind this being, do not cut into healthy tissue just for vanity). I feel it ended well and my clothing and lifestyle choices reflect this.
Even these fabrics are more comfortable than before! Cotton and wool. Cashmere socks. Not a polyester slack in sight. SIGH!
Still, I cannot wear many things I might like. Hot flashes mean no high necks on anything. No artificial fabrics. Scarves only for outside when it is cold. Sweaters are mostly cardigans as they can be easily removed when a crazy hot flash comes on. I had to get used to these things, but honestly, it is all doable. Knowing that my parents grew up in such poverty, I still feel like a Rothschild descendant when I look into my closet. I did have to give away several things with bigger v-necks because my breasts were trying to escape and I am partially numb in that area. Since my clothes are usually inexpensive, it was not something I gave much thought to and now maybe a homeless person has a t-shirt she maybe likes.
My New Normal
At 43 years of age, I do not feel sexy or beautiful, but I feel somehow content. I survived cancer, I wear what I like, and I do not have to wear bras. That is good enough for me! Might work on my shape more, but at this moment this is the best I can do. I want to get used to all of these new things and feelings. I try my best to be healthy such as walk a lot, eat vegetables, and good meat. I use natural cosmetics, do not smoke, and have alcohol only rarely. I have no refined sugar and watch my salt intake because treatment left me diabetic. This will have to do for now, and improvements can follow as I gather strength. For now, I am still on hormonal pills that are pretty crazy with all of the side effects. Now I am preparing for another surgery as a result of this.
Besides, who says I have to do everything at once? Just let me knit in my punk t-shirt and do not judge me.
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