Even on the warmest summer days I feel like I’m carrying around an ice pack on my chest. With implant reconstruction after mastectomy, there is too little fat left to insulate and keep breast implants at body temperature. This means that in the winter or in air conditioning, in a pool or the ocean—even on a temperate day when the wind blows— I am cold.
In March of 2012, an ultrasound revealed that I had a small breast tumor. Seven years earlier, I had watched my mother die after a long struggle with invasive metastatic breast cancer. Although the tumor was benign, it was in almost the exact same spot that my mom's primary cancer had been. This medically irrelevant detail weighed heavy on my mind. I had just turned 30 and had two young children. Finding a tumor, albeit benign, made me realize I had to take action towards a healthy future and I decided to have a preventative bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery.
As I reflect back on my decision, sensation and aesthetics were barely part of my thought process. I just wanted to improve my chances of not getting cancer and didn’t consider how different I’d ultimately feel living in a body that had been altered in this way.
Healing after mastectomy with tissue expanders was a journey through the entire spectrum of uncomfortable sensations. Acute postoperative pain gave way to aching, itching, numbness and shooting nerve pain that shocked me out of sleep for almost six months. Then I began the start of a new journey - becoming myself again.
This experience changed my identity, people saw me through a different lens and I saw myself anew, which was both wonderful and awful. The peace of mind regarding my healthy future always far outweighed the persistent body image issues that accompanied waking up in a new body that looks and feels very unnatural. There are moments (when I’m shopping for bras, when I’m being intimate, when I catch a glimpse of my naked body in the mirror after a shower) where the din of my nagging inner voice is almost impossible to quiet: you are deformed, you are scarred, you will not find a partner who loves you and understands you.
These moments are universal, I think, as we all have feelings about our bodies that ebb and flow with aging, weight gain or loss, or even our moods. I think it’s perhaps the abruptness of a surgical alteration that heightens the frequency and significance of these feelings.
This emotional journey of loving my body is a process. I remind myself that my value does not come from how I look and after almost a decade, I’m learning how to feel pleasure and get dressed in a way that celebrates my chest.
But quite unexpectedly, the outcome that continues to plague me is feeling constantly cold.
I am thankful to be healthy and alive. It seems almost crazy to complain about always being chilly, however, dealing with this constant coldness has had a very real impact on my daily life. I rarely play outside in the winter, or swim in the cold ocean with my kids. I’ve sat at my desk with a hot water bottle under my shirt, worn glove warmers in my bra (I strongly urge you not to do this, as I was burned!), and wear multiple layers of clothes during the winter even when I’m inside. As I’ve connected with other women who’ve had this procedure and learned this is an issue for so many, I was driven to find a solution.
After years of research, development and testing, I’m so excited that we’re launching Brilliantly Warm. With the thoughtful insights from so many women in this community, I developed an app-controlled warming wearable for the many women like me who experience a constant and distracting feeling of coldness from their breast implant reconstruction. It’s temperature regulated and controlled, it’s rechargeable and best of all, it fits into any bra, including my very favorite one from Everviolet.
Brilliantly Warm is an app controlled warming wearable that gets placed in the cup of a bra between the fabric and skin. It fits into almost any style of bra and is discreet, easy to use and rechargeable. Brilliantly Warm is intended for women who feel chronic or situational coldness. It doesn't complicate bra fit and can be worn in multiple ways to accommodate style of bra. The warming is meant to be subtle and long-lasting. We want women to put it in, pick a setting and feel so cozy that they forget it's on. It is not meant to make you feel hot, and fluctuates in a safe temperature range for skin contact. We do not recommend this product for women who are less than 6 months out of surgery or radiation.