Bet you thought I had all the answers after over 5 years of dealing with mastectomy, right?  Nope, still studying, still inventing, and once everything finally works, things change and I have to start over.  Though, for the last few years, I had it down pat with my bra size and style, form size, etc... UNTIL deciding that I'm finally ready to go back to the larger bust size I had before mastectomy.  Easy, right?  Not so much.

Right after the bilateral mastectomy surgery, I chose to be a smaller size than I'd been before, to reduce the weight on my shoulders.  The smaller size forms looked alright, but for my height and body shape, the C cup I'd chosen to fill was really a little bit small.  When I gained weight after chemo, it'd gone down to a B cup in the next set of bras, because when bodies get wider, fake breasts don't gain any weight, so you go up a band size, go down a cup size.  Sigh....

After accepting that I'll never again be the thin size I was until my late 30's and a B cup just didn't do it for me at 55, especially since I'm close to 6 ft. tall, I went to my mastectomy fitter last week for new silicone forms and new bras, thinking that maybe by NOW, forms would be lighter-weight and bra styles would fit better.  No, and no.  Not for us 'bigger girls' anyway.

Oh they LOOKED spectacular!  Really, they did, in the fitting room.  For the rest of the day while doing errands, I was enjoying the warmth and feel of them instead of the cooler microbead forms I normally wear.  Having that natural fluid 'swing' feeling of breasts when you walk, is something you don't really have with microbead forms.  However, as a few hours passed, I noticed how tired I was getting, and things didn't seem to be fitting so well.  I felt, well...floppy...and when I got home, I realized why.  My beautiful new larger cup bra was caving in, rolling over, sliding around, and now looked pretty awful. 

The new style of teardrop shaped silicone forms I had been so excited about, were turning sideways from their own weight.  When I took it all off, the agony started!  I'd forgotten how silicone pushes against the nerves enough to sort of deaden the pain they're causing.  My underarm on the side where lymph nodes were removed, continued to hurt all night and was still hurting the next day.  For the last few days, I've gone back to my old bras with my old microbead forms, and sulked.

Today, I made a pair of microbead forms in the new size, and decided it was time to start to work on making this new size work.  It was after completing them that I realized that the new bras were a little too large in the band, and there was WAY too much fabric in front around the edge of the cups, so that's why the silicone form had crawled around.  The fabric used as a mastectomy pocket was a cottony feeling loose stuff that did nothing to hold the form in place, either. After it's worn awhile, that fabric just becomes a perspiration-dampened wrinkly overstretched mess.   Just goes to show, that bra manufacturers STILL don't have a CLUE about what kind of materials to use in their bras.

First of all, have you noticed how in advertising the cottony fabrics are called 'absorbent' as if that's a good thing?  It's absorbent all right, and never dries out while you're wearing it scrunched up behind your mastectomy form.  Swimsuit spandex fabric dries out at least, and doesn't 'grow' with dampness the way stretchy blends with cotton does, that's why the spandex stuff is used in swimsuits, it dries fast when we get out of the water and doesn't stretch out of shape.  Sheesh....

To make this bra work, I'll have to cut a triangular shape from the sides to reshape it so the new teardrop shaped silicone form won't have room to turn sideways, and remove about 3/4 inch of fabric from underneath the cup, next to the band, so it'll support the form better, and then cut out the useless cottony pocket fabric and replace it with a heavy-duty spandex swimsuit fabric, and THEN, the bra should look right and might possibly hold the silicone forms to wear occasionally to church or for special occasions that only last two, maybe three hours, without suffering any lasting pain.  It should work out fine for the microbead forms after that, as well.

None of this is my mastectomy fitter's fault, they don't make the bras, or the forms, all they can do is fit us as we stand in their shops with what's available on the market to fit the average person.  It all fit and looked great IN THE SHOP!  It only started collapsing with perspiration and an afternoon of reaching, stretching, etc... while shopping, and entering and exiting the car, etc...  Since I've already worn and washed the bra, and know what to do with it to fix it, I'm keeping it, but it made me SOOOO frustrated that I just wanted to tell somebody!  It occurred to me that as frustrated as I am with the situation, those of you who don't sew, are probably even more frustrated when this same thing happens to you.

It makes me wonder what everyone else does, and if they feel as down as I do when it seems so impossible to get something that fits and wears well?  Although I now offer ten different sizes of microbead forms that can help relieve some of your PAIN from silicone forms, what do you do when you've gotten bras that are just not shaped right to HOLD forms correctly? 

I mean, my old bras (that fit so well) were from the SAME COMPANY that made these new bras, in the same cup style, but when they sized their patterns for the cups upward, they just drafted the pattern up without considering that when a plus-sized person who's had mastectomy doesn't go up proportionally around the chest the same way as a plus-sized person who hasn't had mastectomy.  I'm betting that a lot of you who wear 2X and up have found the same problems.

Maybe I'd not have realized what the problem was either, if I hadn't recently read a fitting textbook (written by a former Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) teacher) for plus sizes that mentioned that clothing patterns couldn't just be drafted larger and fit well, like the retail garment manufacturer's do.  After all, our shoulders don't get wider when we gain weight, so if the size of the pattern is just enlarged incrementally all over to fit our larger bustlines and waistlines, then the shoulders get wider and wider.  Sound familiar?  How often do you buy clothing larger enough in the waist and bust, only to find that the shoulder seam hangs half way down to your elbow instead of sitting at the top of your shoulder where it should?

Makes me wish I were younger, I'd have loved to go into manufacturing clothing that really did fit plus sizes, and that includes taller people, AND those of us who've had mastectomy in particular.  When I was what everyone called 'skinny as a bone', I still wore a size 12 to 14 because I am so tall, that's what it took proportionally.  I might have LOOKED bony, but, well, tall and bony, lol...so I even THEN had to remake some garments... and now, let's just say I'm NOT bony!  When trying on clothing off the rack, most often I just put it back and walk away, feeling disheartened and frumpy.

Anyway, don't give up, I'm not!  For those of you who sew, I plan to put a photo-tutorial up at some point when I cut up this mastectomy bra and remake it.  Maybe it'll help some of you who, like me, are not bony teenagers anymore, but would still like to look good while wearing your mastectomy bras.  Especially for those of you who are 3X to 5X and have bought my microbead forms before, I hope your bra styles have worked with them better than mine worked with either my new silicone forms or my microrbead forms today. 

Even if you don't want to take bras apart to remake the cups to fit better, just pull up the fabric in those pockets in the back and hand stitch a big wrinkle in them to make what's left fit flat against your body, and that'll do a lot to make your cup sizes fill out forward better with the microbeads.  Won't totally fix it for silicone forms though, sorry.... those things will still wallow around from their own weight.

Thanks for listening...and I'll now quit feeling sorry for myself, lol...  Time for me to 'get over it' and go back to finding workable solutions of some sort.  After all, most problems can eventually be fixed somehow, given enough time and effort, and tomorrow is a new day!