Swimming can be great exercise following a mastectomy or lumpectomy, but returning to the pool after an appearance-altering surgery is hard for some women on MyBCTeam. Whether or not members have had breast reconstruction, putting on a swimsuit can raise difficult feelings about the ways breast cancer has changed their bodies. Even though it’s hard, members encourage each other to find ways to enjoy their trips to the pool or beach.
Some women on MyBCTeam report that swimming helps their recovery from surgery. “I have found a great way to help with chest tightness and stretches six months post double mastectomy, no reconstruction. Swimming!” a member shared. “It’s made a world of difference.”
Another member rejoiced that she’s able to return to her favorite exercise, “Today I went swimming and I can actually do laps again!! My form is lopsided (nerve damage from mastectomy), but it's fun. I feel grateful that I can do this stuff again.”
While swimming can feel great, the prospect of putting on a bathing suit is upsetting for some MyBCTeam members. “Body image is hard,” commented a member who underwent a double mastectomy without reconstruction. “I go to the gym and I feel so insecure.” “I am just uncomfortable with my body shape,” another member agreed.
Difficulty finding a swimsuit that fits their post-surgery body can add to members’ insecurity. “No swimming suits fit😬,” wrote the member who had a double mastectomy. “I just wear an exercise bra and tight shorts. So much for my sexy body.”
Another member despaired, “I'm looking to buy a swimsuit for this coming summer season and I'm already beyond frustrated at trying to find one. Do they not make attractive suits for ladies like me who haven't had reconstruction and aren't into using prosthetics, who wish to look pretty, feminine, and still be confident?”
Some women have more success finding swimsuits that make them feel beautiful. One woman shared a photo of herself with her new swimming prosthesis and specially-designed swimsuit with the caption, “ROWRRRRRR!!”
Becoming comfortable in a swimsuit, with or without a prosthesis or reconstruction, takes time for many women on MyBCTeam. “I wore a swimming boob the first couple of times I went swimming,” a member wrote. “Now I just go without it. I feel a bit uncomfortable but my husband tells me to think of it as a ‘teaching moment’ if anybody asks.”
Support from family and MyBCTeam members helps women who’ve undergone breast cancer treatment become more comfortable with the physical changes they’ve experienced. “When we were at the beach I was so nervous about having a swimming suit on due to the fact you could see my scars,” one member wrote. “My daughter said be proud of them. It shows that you are a fighter and a survivor of breast cancer. She has really helped me through this.”
A MyBCTeam member encouraged her teammates with a similar message, “My scars are part of my story and so far survival. Our breasts don’t define us anymore than the size of our feet do.”
On MyBCTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with breast cancer, members talk about a range of personal experiences and struggles. Swimming after breast cancer surgery is one of the most discussed topics.
Here are some conversations about swimming after breast cancer surgery:
Can you relate? Did you enjoy swimming after breast cancer surgery? Did putting on a swimsuit make you feel self-conscious? Share your thoughts in the comments below or on MyBCTeam.