Lois Hjelmstad

Lois Hjelmstad.com

Compassion and courage for the times you need it.

How do we restore our body image? Prosthesis? Reconstruction? Bags of rice? Today I want to share a piece from Fine Black Lines:

A Reflection on Friday Mornings
I have always loved laundry days, even on vacation: the hum of the washer and dryer, the fragrance of freshly washed clothes, the joy of patting the neatly folded stacks—the feeling of being connected to women across the centuries.

And I have always loved trying on clothing, assembling new outfits, coordinating color and texture, smiling at the reflection in the mirror, like a little girl playing “dress-up.”

Friday after Friday I struggle to get it right. The swelling, tenderness, and permanent nerve damage under my arms make me reserve the mastectomy bra with the beautiful $600 silicone mounds for special occasions like the wedding of a son.

Something within me rebels at hanging an uncomfortable harness on my frame—just so I can put something uncomfortable into it, so that I can feel that those around me are not uncomfortable being reminded of my mortality.

I went braless, breastless and fluffless for about two months while the initial healing took place. I’d look in the mirror and think, “I don’t look so bad—no one can even tell.” But one day a photograph made me realize that the flat chest wasn’t as unnoticeable as I had hoped. I resumed my quest for a solution.

Currently I wear my own invention—little pockets which I sewed on the inside of an undershirt and fill with $4 falsies. It was more difficult when I had one natural breast to try to match, but sometimes now I forget exactly where the imposters should be placed.

The image in the mirror passes inspection. But the image of wholeness in my mind dissolves again and again. Will the image in my mind ever match the image in the mirror?

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines ©1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

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