Cancer Patients Tell Us About Clothing for Changing Bodies

I had to wear a back brace for over a year and finally got some loose tank shirts that would fit over the brace. Now, the medication I am on causes extreme hot sweats throughout the day and night and I can no longer wear anything tight, so I discovered little lightweight swing dresses on Zulily, and they are great, especially the ones with pockets. Yesterday, during the infusion I noticed how well one of those little dresses worked to be able to access the chemo port. The neck stretches easily but bounces back when the IV comes out. Great!

I have to wear compression stockings because of the edema and as of now cannot even wear leggings or any kind of pants. I live in Florida where it is especially hot and humid in the summer, so maybe this will get better in the winter. The stockings don’t look very good, but I’ve decided to change my attitude about that and say they are chic. The little dresses over the stockings look fine.

And by the way, I am now cancer-free — or No Evidence of Disease, as they say — so that is great. But I am still in treatment and still have side effects and will probably have to make more adaptive clothing choices.

Miko Hargett, 43, Las Vegas

I am too much for convenience to go through the trouble of hiding things, but at times put on the wig and dressed up like I wasn’t sick so I didn’t have to talk about it much. Mostly for three-plus years I went into comfy mode and played with scarves and slippers. Layers of complementary (or not — LOL) clothes and colors insulated me from changing temps (I still often wear leggings under short dresses), but I keep thinking of designs that might provide a gentle, elegant, practical comfort through this extremely challenging experience.

Laura-Lee Fineman Karp, 73, Seattle

I lost my right breast to cancer and absolutely hated the available “mastectomy bras.” Fortunately I found a brand of regular bras made by Coobie. It’s quite easy to insert a prosthesis (either one or two, as needed) into Coobies. They come in lots of colors, with or without lace trimming, and they are comfortable. They need to be pulled on over the head, which stops seeming weird after a while. Also, I bought a couple of pairs of loose linen pants at Chico’s. They had an elastic waist and patch pockets on the back. As they were kind of shapeless, they looked fine when worn backward. Doing this put the pockets in the front, a more convenient place for a drainage bag. Topping this with a long loose blouse gave me comfort; I looked fine and nobody was the wiser.

Janet Bertinot, 66, Burlington, Ky.

I live in baggy cotton knit. My port is just under my collar bone, and my chemo outfit a cotton sleeveless top worn under a two-sizes-too-big zippered hoodie. I can pull the hood up to sleep.

Beth Horikawa, 67, Madison, Wis.

My issue is minor. Fourteen years ago, at 53, I had a hysterectomy and bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy for uterine cancer. My gynecological oncologist wanted to make a small horizontal incision, but when he found a mess (and I mean mess!) of large fibroids, he had to make a vertical incision that started two inches above my belly button and stretched to an inch below the beginning of my pubic area. It divided my abdomen in half, and since then the left half holds more fat than the right half. I have invested in an extensive wardrobe of leotards that serve as my underwear. To a certain degree, they smooth out the area, but not completely. When I look at myself naked in the mirror, all I can do is laugh. It looks so silly!