Belly dance after breast cancer
In 2013 a routine mammogram picked up DCIS, which is cancer cells in the milk duct, and after two lumpectomies, my surgeon informed me that it was very extensive in the left breast and that a mastectomy would be my best option. It was a difficult decision, firstly because I didn’t have a lump and secondly because of my belly dancing, I like my cleavage and being a D cup, it was a pretty big decision. The thing with DCIS is that while it is not too bad while it is in the milk duct, once it comes out it becomes very serious and they don’t know when that will happen.
My surgeon had warned me of the possibility of a mastectomy so I was ready for it, and while a difficult decision, it was really the only option. So in November 2013 I had the mastectomy and a sentinal lymph node removal to see if anything had spread to my lymph nodes. Thankfully there was no sign in my lymph nodes, which meant that was the end of my treatment. I have regular check-ups and there is always the possibility it will reappear in my right breast and I will have to get that one removed as well. I have decided not to have a reconstruction as I don’t want any more surgeries and I feel fine, especially with my prosthetic.
I am 42 now and have three children, two boys and a girl, and my daughter is the youngest at 5-years-old so being around for them is the most important thing. I have been honest and upfront with all of them. My daughter loves to check my scar to make sure it is OK and jokes all the time about my one big “boobie.”
So, in respect to cleavage, mine is gone for good and I also have a very long scar that runs straight across from my right breast to under my armpit. I was worried how I would feel about this before surgery because I like my cleavage and thought it looked great in my costumes. I am also a bigger dancer at a D cup. I am adjusting my costumes by adding height to the bras, mainly with chiffon–a line of chiffon along the top and wearing bolero style tie up tops over the top. I have a prosthetic breast that tuck into a pocket that I made inside the bra (I joke that my main concern is my boob falling out while dancing). I have had to part with a couple of loved costumes that just couldn’t be adapted and I am making more for myself to compensate. The great news is I have performed publicly a few times now and nobody knows! Nobody is looking at me any differently; everyone is enjoying my performances and it feels wonderful.
While it was a bit upsetting to lose my cleavage, I am more relieved that because of early intervention I am still here to be able to dance and I hope that anyone in the same or similar situation as mine can be assured that their performing days are not over. I still look at other dancers and costumes and feel a teeny bit jealous of their wonderful cleavage, but I can still do all my chest moves and I have full range of motion in my arms and shoulders.
I would like to add a big thank you to Belly Dance at Any Size’s new guest blogger, Mao from Sparkly Belly, she has given me inspiration for my costumes, especially with adding ruffles, I didn’t realize how easy they were and I will be trying them out on my costumes as soon as I have time.
Kelly lives on the south coast of New South Wales in Australia with her partner and three children. She moved there three years ago and currently performs as a soloist. She teaches a small class and hopes to have a troupe one day. For more information visit her Facebook page: Behind The Veil Belly Dancers.
Editor’s note: Kelly submitted a comment to my “What’s wrong with cleavage?” article and I was so touched by it that I asked her to write a complete article about it. ~Andalee