It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie breast implant-filled bikini

Hey y’all! Long time no write. Between work, travel, and training for my upcoming Hadrian’s Wall walking holiday in the UK for my mom’s 60th 30th birthday, it’s been a very busy summer.

In July I had the pleasure of spending almost a week in Hawaii on the island of Kauai for a friend’s wedding. Prior to my trip, I embarked on every girl’s worst nightmare: bikini shopping.

Bikini shopping has never been a pleasant experience for me, but it was with an open mind (and a sense of humor) that I headed into Target. I browsed the racks for 15 minutes, and then, armed with eight or so bikinis, made my way to the fitting room.

It was a disaster. Everything about every bikini was dreadful, from the styles to the colors to the awkward hanger marks. I knew I’d have to call in the big guns: Victoria’s Secret.

I’ve been a fan of Victoria’s Secret bikinis for quite a few years, since they are some of the more supportive bikini tops on the market, but coughing up the $75+ for a matching top and bottom set has always been a bit difficult. This time was different, however. With a Hawaiian vacation on the horizon and a new set of boobs to flatter, it was worth the splurge.

I settled on a teal top and bottom bikini set. I was quite pleased with the choice because the top is supportive without being overly padded. I’ve worn the bikini quite a few times since buying it in late June, including at the beach and at the lake, and it’s been great.

The other day I was skulking around Facebook when I saw a picture of my fellow previvor Carly celebrating her birthday in Las Vegas. She looked AMAZING in a light pink bikini. I clicked on the image for further inspection and realized it was the same style bikini top as my teal one from Victoria’s Secret. We exchanged messages about the top and agreed that it’s the perfect bikini top for breast implants.

This realization prompted me to try on all of my other bikini tops, for a comparison of the various styles. My bikini top needs are quite different now that I have breast implants instead of “real boobs.” Before I was concerned with getting adequate support, now I’m concerned more with coverage. I was a bit surprised to see how things fit.

Here are my thoughts on the styles–hopefully they will help other post-mastectomy and post-reconstruction women find the perfect bikini tops:

I wore this bandeau bikini in Hawaii, but it was much better suited for lounging on the beach than swimming.

In high school and college, I always wanted to wear triangle bikini tops but they were never supportive enough for me. At least they work better now!

Too…much…cleavage.

I tried on the mastectomy bikini top my mom made me last year just for kicks. Last summer, my number one bikini concern was finding something that could hold and disguise a waterproof prosthetic.

This bikini top + Rachel = Goldilocks when she finds Baby Bear’s porridge…justttttt right. This is the Victoria’s Secret bikini top Carly and I both bought. I am definitely going to look for more in various colors and patterns. Here’s what it looks like from the side, with the cheeky low rise bottom (side note: Victoria’s Secret, I am totally open to sponsorship =D):

I’m fortunate that there is still at least one month of warm California sunshine to enjoy this summer, so my favorite bikini will be getting a lot of love.

What do other post-reconstruction ladies think of bikinis/bathing suits? Do you have any new favorites?

Update: Just ordered two more, in yellow and paisley. Dad, if you’re reading this…they were on sale. A LOT.

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Graduation, my return to work, and a bikini top!

Wow…what a weekend!

On Friday I graduated from USC. It seems like only yesterday my parents dumped me in my freshman dorm with a pile of stuff, and now eight semesters, 128 units, a few scholarships, and quite a few dollars later, I am officially a graduate!

Here’s just part of that pile of stuff from my freshman year. I think I cut out that picture of Michael Phelps and put it on my binder.

Graduation, or the Dementor Convention as I like to call it, was a long affair. The first half was the main ceremony in which the graduates were recognized “en masse.” Christiane Amanpour was our commencement speaker. She did a good job, though the speech could have been a tad bit shorter. Honorary degrees were bestowed (if you donate enough money, you too can receive an honorary degree from USC!) and we heard from the valedictorian (“Well I didn’t vote for you!”). At the end all of the dementors (read: graduates) were shooed away to their satellite ceremonies.

I dun gots me an edumucation!!!!

My satellite ceremony was held on the football practice field. Since the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences is so big, we were split up into four random groups by major. My major, Narrative Studies, is really new and no one knows about it (I think there were like, five of us graduating with that major) so we were clumped in with the English department.

The satellite ceremony was short and sweet, even with the reading of each graduate’s name, so we were done by 12:45 pm…just in time for lunch! My parents and I piled into the car (which Mom had sneakily parked in a NON-EXISTENT SPOT, that trickster) and headed for Canter’s Deli…om nom nom!

At Canter’s we grubbed on everything in sight. I did stay true to my vegetarianism by avoiding the corned beef, but it was difficult. Corned beef from Canter’s is sooooo delish. During lunch we were interviewed for a Travel Channel show called Food Paradise. Apparently they are producing an episode about famous delis, and anyone who knows my father knows that he is a deli EXPERT. They got quite a few good sound bites from us.

My graduation dinner was on Saturday evening at Baleen, a restaurant in Redondo Beach. What a great event…my mom did a terrific job organizing it. There was so much food and everyone had a fun time. On Sunday we celebrated Mother’s Day with a family brunch and then some nice long naps. I gave my mom a Magic Bullet, the most sentimental and heartfelt gift EVER.

And the award for Greatest Mother’s Day Gift EVER goes to…

Today was my first day back at work. I work as an Associate Editor at Demand Media in Santa Monica, if anyone was wondering. I feel like I’ve had quite a few first-day-backs recently. I was actually excited to return since I’ve been pretty bored at home…but of course the Internet died around 2 pm and I had to go home early since I couldn’t get anything done without teh Interwebz! Hopefully it doesn’t crap out again tomorrow and I can actually get stuff done.

Now, I’ll address what you’re all dying to hear about: A BIKINI TOP. To be specific, MY NEW BIKINI TOP.

That’s right…I, Rachel Joy Horn, the boobless wonder, purchased a BIKINI TOP. That I will be WEARING. THIS SUMMER.

“…WHAT?!” I know, you’re shocked. Believe me, I was too. During the pity party I threw for myself after my tissue expander was removed I vowed that I would NOT appear in any sort of bathing costume this summer. It would just be too embarrassing and ugly, I thought. Instead I would wear a ridiculously oversized t-shirt like the fat kids wore during summer camp, because that would not draw any unwanted attention to me whatsoever.

Well, things changed when I started wearing my cotton prosthesis. I realized that I could trick the world into thinking I still had a left breast. So on Saturday morning I bravely ventured into Target’s swimsuit section, ready to break that vow.

I pulled out every bikini top that had adequate coverage (e.g. not triangles) and good straps. My mom, the expert seamstress, gave me guidelines for what kind of top would work best to support a prosthesis. I had brought one of the cotton forms with me and tried it on with each bikini top. At last I zeroed in on the perfect top: it had thick straps and a sturdy hook in the back, and it provided good coverage that could hide the prosthesis.

My new bikini top…yeahhhhh!

My job now is to actually find a waterproof prosthesis that my mom can sew into the bikini top. She said she could just use one of the cotton forms, but my concern is that I will become a human sponge. I’d rather find a gel insert that doesn’t absorb water. Does anyone have suggestions?

 

Calming down and getting on with life

Well, immediately following my previous post I lost eight pounds. I guess that will be my secret to weight loss…bitching on my blog!

I’m also happy to report that on Friday evening, Jeani told me to stop taking the Clindamycin antibiotic because the culture from my infection was only responding to the Doxcycline. This was good news because man, was that Clindamycin harsh! I know you all are completely over reading about my digestive patterns, but I’m pretty sure that the Clindamycin was what gave me such bad diarrhea.

Eating a real meal again is so wonderful! Om nom nom!

Not wanting to repeat the Crazy Drain Incident of 2012, I decided to lay low for the weekend. No walks or exercise, just hanging around the house being a lazy bum. I watched lots of movies and TV to the point that my eyes hurt. And let me tell you, all of that hard work paid off, because on Monday morning I got my drain removed!

What a great appointment. Really. Is it sad that a follow-up with Dr. Festekjian can make me so happy?

First he removed my drain. Then he removed my PICC line! AND he gave me permission to swim this summer!!! He said that my infection looked to be completely cleared up and that the following week he would remove the stitches on my left breast. He also did a fill on my right tissue expander, bringing it up to 475 ccs.

I’ve been going back and forth on the question of what to do with my right tissue expander: should I just let it be until I get my left tissue expander replaced, or should I keep getting my saline fills? What do you all think? I’m curious to get the visual on my chest’s potential size, but I don’t want to make this flat-on-one-side situation even more awkward.

I had him do a fill on Monday because the prosthetic boob I’m using on the left is too big…I want to even things out with the right side. It’s just a soft cotton-stuffed pillow shaped like one of the “chicken cutlets” you might use to add a bit of va-va-voom to your cleavage. It came in a pair with the mastectomy bra I bought before my surgery. I didn’t think I’d be needing either prosthetic…good thing I saved them!

Notice the prosthetic boob poking out there! And yes, my iPhone case is a photo of Madeline.

My graduation is on Friday. I was really on the fence about attending. When I first went back to the hospital following my infection I was pretty pissed about missing some senior events (Fountain Run, sorority formal). During that week of moping I tried to talk myself out of going to graduation, citing that I “missed everything else” so “why bother” going to graduation? Danielle brought up a good point, however: it’s my graduation. I’m never going to graduate from USC as an undergraduate again and though it might not seem like a big deal now, would I regret it in the future if I missed it?

OK, so she’s right, and she convinced me to attend my graduation. What I then had to worry about was my graduation dinner the following evening. What the hell would I wear?!

Dressing for my small boobs was hard (see Shopping for the Post-Mastectomy Patient). Dressing for a boob on the right and nothing on the left? OY VEY! Obviously I’m going to be using the prosthetic, but that still presents challenges with dressing. I need a dress that will enable me to wear a supportive bra to keep everything in place. It can’t be low-cut and it either has to have very thick straps or it has to be tight for a strapless bra.

After visiting what seemed like every store at the Camarillo outlets, I finally walked into J.Crew and found heaven in the form of a pink strapless dress. It’s tight enough to support a strapless bra and a prosthetic, and the fabric is thick enough to hide awkward lines or lumps from that bra combination. I feel like a ballerina when I wear it because of the color!

Hey…wait a minute…I thought you were missing a boob?!

So now it seems that things have calmed down around here. Having my tissue expander removed last week really felt like it would be the end of the world–at least the end of MY world. I was dreading summer, especially living in Southern California. But now I realize that hey, it’s just one summer. One Ugly Summer. I can deal.

Now, for all those who are wondering what I ACTUALLY look like, sans prosthetic…here are some fun pictures! Isn’t my bra great? Freakin’ optical illusion.

P.S., if you’re reading this: HI DR. KARAM!!!

 

Shopping for the Post-Mastectomy Patient

Let me start this post with a warning: Dad, you might not want to read this. It’s about me…shopping…for clothes. (“But why do you need more clothes?!” I can hear the groans from miles away.)

We’re more than halfway through April and I live in Los Angeles. Temperatures are steadily rising, and twenty-somethings are shedding their winter coats. It’s officially sundress season. And let me tell you, I need a new sundress—desperately. My current collection is becoming old, worn, and ill-fitting. I want a dress that is long enough to wear to the office, but that isn’t overly formal.

I received a few gift cards for my birthday, so on my lunch break yesterday I ventured to the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica to hit up the haven of cheaply priced colorful goodness known as Forever 21. I love Forever 21. Every time I go in there it looks different. There is so much selection and it is so inexpensive. It’s the perfect place for getting out of your fashion comfort zone.

After twenty minutes of rack-searching, I headed to the fitting room with six sundress options. The results? UGH.

Shopping after a mastectomy sucks!!!!

Dresses that would normally work for me, such as an empire-waisted frock, look awkward now. I can’t fill out the top of those dresses, so I have to try a smaller size; but when I go smaller, my hips and tummy don’t fit!

Trying out a style with less support around the bust doesn’t work, either: having smaller breasts makes everything else appear bigger, so although I may fit into a dress, I feel fat in it.

These are three of the Forever 21 dresses I tried on yesterday. I liked the one on the right the most but still didn’t buy it.

There were two dress options that were EH. They didn’t look bad on me, but I wasn’t in love with them. In the end I left dress-less (though I did buy a really cool soft bra!). I didn’t like the dresses that much and Forever 21 clothes tend to shrink, quickly taking them out of the office-appropriate zone.

But I still really want a sundress! So now I have a dilemma: do I go to a nicer store such as J.Crew and buy a more expensive dress now, or just wait a few months? The problem with buying any dress or top now is that it might not fit me in two or three months when I get my silicone implants. At the moment, my tissue expander breasts are probably around a small B cup. Tomorrow I get my second saline fill; they will probably become a large B cup. Next week they could be a small C…and you get the picture. I’m probably going to end up with something that looks like a D cup (about my size before surgery).

It’s frustrating. I like to shop, but I need to be fiscally responsible. It doesn’t make sense to blow money now on items that might not work in a few months. But…meh! I want a sundress!

I think the key to shopping successfully after a mastectomy but before the final reconstruction surgery is to look for more loose and relaxed styles that one can “grow into.” For me, tight items will look awkward now and will definitely not fit in a few months. I want to avoid dresses that are too shapeless, such as large smock or sheath styles, because then I might feel frumpy and look like I have something to hide. I think that an A-line style with a belted drop-waist could be my best solution.

What do you think? Any suggestions?