December 07, 2023

Hiding Missing Body Parts or Covering Baldness?


It isn’t couth, compassionate, or politically correct to ogle over a woman’s breasts, whether they come in a pair or not.  Standing around the food table at a house party last night, I tried but couldn’t help steal glances.  I loved that the woman across from me had the audacity to walk through the world with a cute boob on the right, and a pancake flat space on the left.

The woman with a mastectomy and no prosthesis turned out to be S.L. Wisenberg.  She’s the author of The Adventures of Cancer Bitch, a book I have seen on the shelf next to my book in many stores.  We spent most of the evening by each others side talking about exercise, book readings, cancer fundraising, pink washing, and more.  I adored her immediately.

I learned that during cancer treatment, she nixed bandanas and wigs, walking through the world bald with ‘U.S. Out of Iraq’ written on her naked skull.

I’ve never been faced with the decision of prosthetics or head coverings.  Nobody can tell that I’ve had my thyroid and 66 nodes removed.  My scar is so faint doctors often have to search for in during check ups.  And while my hair has thinned significantly, radio active iodine does not cause baldness or hair loss associated with other cancer treatments.

I don’t know what I would do were I forced to part with my perky boobs or my hair.  And it isn’t my place to speculate on such decisions.  I have learned that with cancer, you never know what choices you’d make until you are faced with the reality for yourself.  Since I cannot speak from experience, I’d like to hear yours.

Have you lost a body part, become disfigured, or lost your hair due to illness?  How did it impact yourself image and what choices did you make about reconstruction, prosthesis, and baldness?  Have you ever met someone with one breast who did not get reconstruction and chooses not to wear a prosthetic boob?

Read more about adapting to a new body image in Everything Changes: The Insider’s Guide to Cancer in Your 20s and 30s.

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