When you’re undergoing treatment for cancer, it’s not uncommon for your clothing needs to change. But a little planning can help reduce the stress you might feel about adjusting your wardrobe. To decrease the time and energy you spend on selecting your clothes, create a work uniform, of sorts. Find a basic “look” that suits your needs both professionally and physically. This doesn’t mean you can’t vary it, but having a few established go-to outfits in your closet means your wardrobe is one less thing you need to think about.
The most common side effect of treatment — fatigue — is something you can be prepared for. If you know you’ll need to lie down during the day or that you’ll be going back to work after a treatment session, wear clothes that don’t wrinkle easily. If you typically wear high heels, pick up some low-heeled, comfortable shoes and leave a pair at the office to switch into as needed, since walking in heels becomes twice as difficult when you’re feeling drained.
The Ultimate Sun Block
Both chemotherapy and radiation increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. Even if you are dark skinned and never burn, you’ll need to protect yourself. External radiation therapy will affect the specific part of your body that’s being treated. This area should not be exposed to sunlight for more than five or 10 minutes at a time. If you’re undergoing chemo, your entire body will become sun-sensitive, especially those areas that rarely see UV rays, like your scalp. Avoid exposure, particularly between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, and protect your skin as follows:
- Wear clothes that cover you, such as long-sleeve tops, pants and long skirts.
- Choose tightly woven fabrics.
- Invest in several broad-brimmed hats.
- Use accessories such as scarves and shawls to cover your chest, throat and neck.
- Always be aware of when you’re in the sun (e.g., when driving, your left arm can be exposed to lot of UV rays).
Weight Gain and Loss
While many women lose weight during chemo, other treatments, such as steroids, may cause bloating. In both cases, opt for loose and unstructured clothes instead of tailored designs that will look awkward if they don’t fit properly. If your face becomes puffy, try V-necks that elongate rounder faces. If you’re looking drawn from rapid weight loss, round necklines, such as crew necks, will give the illusion of fullness.
As your therapy progresses, your skin may become increasingly sensitive, dry or moist. Avoid irritating fabrics, like wool and roughly woven fibers. Breathable fabrics, such as cotton, silk and rayon, are generally more comfortable and absorbent than polyester. Chemotherapy can increase the risk of vaginal infections, so switch to cotton underwear and cotton-crotch pantyhose and tights.
Since your arm will likely be stiff and sore for several weeks after surgery, stock up on soft tops and sleepwear that either close in the front or can be pulled on over your hips.
- Mastectomy camisoles: Until a soft cotton bra becomes comfortable to wear, camisoles that give light support without binding are good alternatives. Mastectomy camisoles contain inner pouches that hold lightweight breast forms in place.
- Mastectomy bras and breast forms: A number of companies make mastectomy bras with pockets to secure breast forms, but many women find it more comfortable to wear a prosthesis that attaches directly to the body and can be worn with many standard bras. Your doctor should be able to provide information on retailers that specialize in breast forms; while you can order a prosthesis online, going to a shop in person will ensure a better fit.
- Mastectomy swimsuits: Post-mastectomy swimsuits include pockets for holding breast forms. Styles and costs vary by maker and many can be found by searching online.
Post-mastectomy products are available via the Woman’s Personal Health website, at www.womanspersonalhealth.com.
Most people with ostomies eventually find they can wear anything they wore before the surgery, including bathing suits and jeans. But it takes time to become comfortable with your new elimination system. For the first few months, loose-fitting drawstring or light, elasticized skirts and pants will likely be the most comfortable to wear. It is important not to wear anything that cuts across or rubs against your stomach, including underwear and belts. Pleated or relaxed-fit trousers and full skirts offer extra room to mask any bulge, as do longer blouses and jackets. Thigh-high stockings with elasticized tops are a good alternative to pantyhose that may be too binding.
Both the port-a-cath and the central venous catheter (CVC line) create a few special dressing considerations. Avoid anything that might clip or puncture the line, like pins and front-closure bras. To mask the port or CVC, wear tops that drape over the area with tucks, pleats or gathers. Shoulder pads are useful because they hold fabric away from the body and can be added to most garments. If you’re using an ambulatory infusion pump (a small computerized drug-delivery system you carry with you), ask to see it beforehand, because you may want to buy a case for it on your own.