Locker-Room Phobia

(submitted by clergygirl) 

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.

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7 Responses to Locker-Room Phobia

  1. Laurie says:

    i can completely, totally and utterly relate. this is a brave and beautiful piece.
    i have not had reconstruction but i feel the same way about my mastectomy scar and lop-sided physique. and the way the scar can peek out the sides of even the most modest bathing suit.
    but like you – trying not to let the fear stop me from getting out and living my life. harder some days than others.

  2. sprucehillfarm says:

    Aww I know how you feel! Even though I have tattoos I still see the scars underneath. I would not want to undress in front of someone i know from mu kids school either!

  3. Holly says:

    I have a ton of scars from Cancer surgeries and other surgeries.. And I wear my scars with Pride. My scars are visible every day as my cancer was in my neck. The pressure of any kind on my neck really bothers me.. so I don’t cover them up. Usually starts great conversations. I think most people think that the scars are from an accident or anything but cancer.. as i was 29 (now 34) when i had all my surgeries. Then when i go to the gym, (which is often, as i just finished a marathon) I have even more scars across my abdomen from other surgeries. People are surprise when they see how scared I am, and ask how? When i tell my story, i view it as one more person i have convinced to go get a physical or one more person to fight for health and wellness. They are my battle scars.. And i wear them with Pride.

  4. whymommy says:

    Yes. I don’t even like to wear bathing suits, as my shape is so different (and I don’t wear a prosthesis).

    In fact, I was at a professional conference this week and was asked not once but FIVE times “When is your baby due?”

    And of course I can never have a baby again.

    But without breasts, and with no fat cells left in my upper chest, my little tummy looks huge.

    Yes. I’m self-conscious sometimes. But I try so hard not to let it bother me….

  5. Hedgie says:

    Absolutely I can relate to this! I think of myself as the Nipless Wonder and the last time I was in a locker room was way too long ago but… I found that I forgot all about my altered breasts and various scars. Perhaps people were staring; I remembered at the last moment and turned a bit to face the locker while I put on my bra, more because I didn’t want to launch into a Cancer Chat in front of my kids who have had their fill of Mom’s Cancer Chats to Educate the Clueless. I’ve always been shy but after being on display for so many medical professionals the opposite is true; now I have to remember where I am because I’m pretty quick to disrobe!

    One situation where I do warn folks is with a new doctor or medical assistant. I hate to see the shocked look floating across their faces if they are inches from my chest when they catch their first glimpse. Do you think they put a little note in my file, Beware the Nipless Wonder?

    The last step for me will be to have tattoos, and I think I’m just about ready to dip into the retirement fund for that beauty procedure. 3-D tatts, wow. And I get to help choose the color!

  6. If it makes you feel any better, I would have been mortified pre-masectomy to change in front of little kids and moms I know! Strangers are different. And right now, I am still in the reconstruction process…one night my towel accidently fell off of me while I was talking to my husband (he had not seen it yet, my choice, not his). I fell apart..crying like a little baby. He was so understanding. The poor guy has been deprived ever since the beginning of January, because I have been such a ‘head’ case. he has not once complained. So I understand. I don’t think I will ever feel like changing in front of anyone again…maybe I will feel differently after my complete reconstruction is finished….I am planning on having nipples…but I am having some difficulties. So we shall see. Cancer sucks that is for sure! But I would rather have this hideous train wreck, than be dead. My kids don’t care what my breasts look like and neither do yours. They just want you! XO Heidi

  7. Lara says:

    I had a left masectomy last yr and am 35 yrs old. l am currently the one boobed bandit who randomly gets the mail,takes the rubbish out and sees a neighbor or two but l just dont care what others think on this level. It happened and my breast is gone and that’s real. Its my body and my life and this is soo important. l am having reconstruction and of course know that l will have one nipple but hey l am excited by simply knowing l have a choice to do this. I have 3 girls under 5 and i think it is good somewhat at an early age for them to see that not everything is the same or balanced yet we can, if we are confident in ourselves, be satisfied with our decisions etc. So stand tall and proud of your body and self image and inspire the other girls and women to do the same.
    Lara Australia xo!!

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