Monday, July 25, 2011


So what are you supposed to wear after a mastectomy? You can’t raise your arms over your head, so pullover tops are out; that means zip-up or button-down shirts are in. Most of the shirts in my closet are body-hugging pullovers with a lower neckline. (I never noticed that before. Funny, the things that pop up when your boobs are getting lopped off.)

I figure I'd better stock up on a few easy-on/off shirts. You know, just a couple of things to make me look presentable post-surgery. (As much as I’d like to wear my bathrobe to my plastic surgery appointments, I don’t think my husband will let me out of the house in it  — even though it’s the spa robe he bought me for Christmas, in the most dreamy shade of pale sage green.)

(copyright 2011 TheBigCandMe)
And so begins My Shopping Spree from Hell.

Since there's no need to spend a ton of cha-ching on these interim clothes, and because I still want to look quasi-cute, I head over to Nordstrom Rack. I comb through the store with all the determination of a tried-and-true shopper in search of a sale, leaving an audible trail of hanger click-click-clicks in my wake. I focus specifically on shirts and sweaters with buttons, snaps and clasps — though patterns, ruffles and layered materials also come into play. My strategy? Find anything that will distract the casual roaming eye from the fact that my chest is literally under construction.

The shirt selection is actually better than I anticipate, and this strikes a pleasurable (and familiar) chord in my psyche. There really is nothing quite like retail therapy. I’m rather enjoying my little shopping foray. I find myself falling — ever-so-slowly — into a kind of hypnotic trance as I sift through the sales racks. And it's taking my mind off my surgery. Eventually I look down and see an enormous pile of colorful shirts in my cart. Wait. What just happened here? I check the clock on my cell phone. I’ve been in this store for almost 2 hours. Whoa. 

I notice a dull headache coming on, probably because I haven't been drinking any water. My throat feels scratchy and dry. I hear a baby start to cry. Then a woman arguing with her teenage daughter. The noise level is crescendoing. The air feels stiflingly warm. I rummage through my cart and return just about everything I've taken painstaking time to select. I hang my returns in the general vicinity of where I found them and decide to keep seven items. I rush to the checkout and am floored to see there's a long line. Man, I really need to get out of here. 

My eyes start darting around the store, as if looking for a fire exit. A ringing cell phone startles me; a woman answers, talking rapidly in a language I don’t even recognize. I feel a swell of anger building up and just then, the clerk shouts out, "Next!" She smiles. I ignore her (though I do help her take my garments off their hangers).
I pay for the purchase, cram my credit card back into my wallet, grab the bag and make a fast dash for the door. Once outside and away from the crowd, I begin to feel like I can breath again. But I notice the air is still hot and heavy. I open my car door, roll down the windows, slide into the seat and start the engine. And then it hits me.

I am on the verge of having a panic attack. 

This realization floods my eyes with tears. But why so much anxiety? Why am I crying? Is it because I wasted too much time shopping when I should be doing the 100 other things I need to get done before my surgery? Or is it because I spent too much money on clothes I don’t really like, didn't even try on and will probably need to return because they won't fit or will look hokey or matronly or just plain dull?

It literally takes the entire 15-minute car ride home for me to realize what's really going on.

I’ve just been on my first Mastectomy Shopping Spree, buying tangible items to disguise the fact that in less than 48 hours, I will no longer have breasts. Dayum. If that’s not cause for a panic attack, I don't know what is. (The fact that I chose Nordstrom Rack to purchase shirts for my lack of a rack? Well, that's just good old-fashioned irony.)


  1. could actually FEEL your anxiety building as i read your post. will keep you close in thought and prayer during this next phase of the journey...

  2. I love that you were able to end your post with irony and make me grin. My prayers are with you this week and my fingers are crossed that the shirts will all work.


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