I’m not one to avoid going out if I don’t have make-up on. I quite often throw on a coat over my PJ’s and slide in to some big boots to drive my daughter down to school. I’m just waiting for the day that I, for some unforseen reason have to get out of my mint green mini-van at the school in front of professionally dressed parents in my old, well warn PJ’s with a pattern that resembles lucky charms.
The day is coming. And I am prepared. Seriously.
But here’s what I’m not prepared for. Ever.
It strikes a fear in me like no other.
Are you ready…..it’s THE LOCKER ROOM. Yes, the locker room.
I feel a bit like I’m back in 5th grade and you start to hit puberty and you realize you are changing, but aren’t sure changing is really ok, so you dread being naked in front of 20 other girls after gym class.
It’s that kind of fear.
Now, I’m not so fearful of the normal women’s locker room. I don’t fear damaging anyone for life when they might see my scarred and nipple-less breasts, but I do worry about the shock factor. Like, whao….I was not expecting that. Because frankly, lets just be honest here. Breasts without nipples is a bit scary.
Even I was scared after my initial reconstruction. It just looks, well, different.
But here’s what really gets me nervous. The locker room at the water park in town where I take my kids, that’s what makes me nervous. You see, my children are used to seeing my body. But other children aren’t. And there are no family changing areas there and no curtains to hide behind. Just me, the locker room and young children all curious and wondering why I look so different. I caught a teenage girl staring the other day. And I’m quick. Super quick. You’ve not seen someone change from a bathing suit to a shirt as fast as I can. The problem lies in how wet the shirt gets.
So the other day I came in to this locker room and started helping my kids get ready. And there stood several women from my children’s school.
Lovely. Just lovely.
I am wrapped in a towel, I look horrible, dripping wet, and they are standing next to me chatting. One of them says, “are you an Angling Mom?” I look slowly at this woman and smile a nervous smile, as she proceeds to say “you drive a green mini-van.” Yes, yes I say.
I really want to melt in to the floor at this moment.
I can’t believe the predicament I’m in. I have three children yelling and screaming at me to get their clothes. And my kids, bless their hearts, don’t get it. And Jeremy would get really angry if he thought I was being all self-conscious about my body in front of the girls. So I’m draped in a towel in front of women that RECOGNIZE me. Shoot. What to do. I did what any other laid back mother who recently went through reconstruction surgery for breast cancer would do. I LEFT my children to fend for themselves and I found a bathroom stall to get dressed. Thank goodness my 3-year-old didn’t run off.
I just couldn’t bear to change right in front of these women who may/may not know I’ve had breast cancer.
If I were being really truthful, this really is one of the hardest thing for me to deal with emotionally. It sends me in to a pathetic emotional downer. I dread it before we go and I dread it as we leave. It takes me a day or two to recover.
Until the next locker room trip.
But like everything else, I will not let fear keep me from enjoying life. I will conquer the locker room for the sake of my children’s water park adventure. But man, am I so tempted to skip it.
Can any other breast cancer survivors relate. You’ll make me feel SO much better if you tell me you can. Or better yet, overcame your locker room fear.
I stumbled across your blog, via someone else’s blog… you know how that happens. I ached for you as I read about the locker room. May God give you the resources you need to protect your privacy. May He give you other ladies who will watch your children so you can heal thoroughly. My husband lost his right eye to cancer. He has no eye, no eyelids, nothing. It’s right there, on his face. So he wears a black patch and little kids call him the pirate and women think he’s a hunk and men think he’s been in the war. I think he’s awesome and I think you are too. Survivors rock!!! You keep doing whatever you have to do to get where you need to go… with no apologies! Bless you!
The woman who sat next to me at the onsen last night had scars from breast cancer. I caught a glimpse, but didn’t stare.
I was proud of her for courage to be bare in front of others at the bath!
I have two major scars – one my torso from the removal of a huge uterine tumor, and one on my right arm from a tumor. (The one on my arm looks like I was an IV drug user and had a blown vein… and yes, people have asked!)
Be it stretch marks (got some of those, too!) or scars from surgeries or wounds, they are part of who we are. I’m proud of surviving each one, and the story behind it. When people ask about them, I take a deep breath and remember I was bought for a price by one who was wounded and died for me. It is an opportunity to share the story of my scars, and the trust I put in the Lord to get me through the circumstances by which they were acquired.
Hugs to you!
Sarah Joy Albrecht
Twitter @mrsalbrecht 😀
The first time you showed me your scars after your mastectomies I was very interested, I had never seen this before. I think I was curious in part because this is something women do think about and wonder what it would be like. That day you calmed my fears, I was relieved to see they were just regular looking scars. I thought you looked pretty good.
After your reconstruction surgery, once again I was impressed. Your breasts looked like two soft pillows. I see your scars as a reminder of a hard fought battle that you won. I admire you! I’m not going to tell to undress in front of everyone in the locker room. You need to do what makes you feel best. However, I will say that I believe most women would be proud of your courage, not offended. Breast cancer is for the most part, a war fought by women and we are proud of our veterans. We are thankful for each survivor of those who have fought this war. Your numbers give us strength and we are sincerely an awe of you.
Jen, I’m not a cancer survivor, but would it make you feel better to know that I would’ve felt awkward in the best of times if I had been about to change and had suddenly come face to face with a group of people I knew in my changing area?
I realize your anxiety is rooted in something other than a lifetime of locker room dread, but I think it is worth mentioning that 1.) lots of people don’t like changing in front of others in the first place, and 2.) there’s nothing whatsoever wrong with desiring some privacy and dignity in the locker room, though that may seem oxymoronic. Many people who don’t bear your battle scars are mortified at the thought of being exposed to what seems like the whole world.
Try to cut yourself some slack. There’s nothing whatsoever wrong with regrouping in a bathroom stall. If you eventually get more comfortable in dealing with gawkers (and really, how rude is that?!), good for you, but please know you’re far from being alone in your locker room angst.
Wow ladies, thanks so much for the encouraging words. Kathie….thanks so much for telling me about your hubby. Having cancer effect the face must have been so difficult! I bet he does look really cool with that patch tho! Sort of Pirates of the Carabean-ish:). Love that! I will try to be brave and I’m hoping with each time I get more comfortable and less self-consious. Thanks for all the great thoughts!
Jen – after reading this post and all the comments from these wise and wonderful women – I feel like I’ve had time in God’s presence. Thanks for sharing your journey with such honesty and grace.
You know, I’m used to scars, seeing them, on others, it doesn’t bother me. When my mom was 2, her arm went into one of those wringer washers, the old fashioned kind. She almost lost her arm. It was 1948. She was lucky to have been able to save it. She had these weird scars all over her arm. They looked like stars or snowflakes. When I was little, I thought they were kinda pretty. My husband has a huge scar on his chest running all around his pectoral from having a calcium deposit on his sternum removed.
However, seeing scars on me, is so weird. I had a radical mastectomy, so my scar runs from my right breast clear over to under my armpit. It’s huge. Like you, I’m afraid of what people will think, how they will feel. Even with my baldness from chemo, I wore a wig everywhere so that I wouldn’t get the pity stares, you know, aww, she has cancer. I didn’t want anyone to feel bad for me.
I’ve never thought about the water park, though. I’ve thought about how I will wear a bathing suit, with one real boob and a fake one. How will the cleavage look, or since I only have one, is it just clea? lol! When I bend over will the wet suit gap and everyone see my nothing?
Oh well, what can you do. We are survivors, we had battle, these are our battle scars.
God Bless you! And, btw, I would have done the same thing, ran into a stall to change!!
[…] My locker room phobia. I reason in my head that if I have a nipple I won’t scare anyone who might glance my way […]
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