Nipples- not something people tend to talk about publicly or privately for that matter! However, over the past few months I have had to discuss nipple surgery, nipple sensation, nipple size... everything nipple related. The inner child in my still giggles when the word is used though.
You may choose to have your nipples removed during your mastectomy. You will have a few options open to you when you have started to recover. Just over 4 weeks post op I have one less scary looking scar so decided to ring the Macmillan team at the breast unit to book a 'nipple appointment'. Some people may wait longer to do this, some might not be fussed by it at all. I decided to do this now as I am struggling somewhat with the sight of my scars now they are sitting there loud and proud. Having some form of natural shape over them, and just generally something to hide them a bit more will hopefully help that side of things.
Not having been nipple shopping before, I didn't know what to expect. I met Christina who is part of the breast care team who was very friendly and made me feel much more at ease with discussing something so personal. We went in to a fitting room to discuss... the nips! There were a few flat boxes with different stick on nipples in. The range of size, shape and colour was impressive. Christina explained that these apply easily to the skin as they have a layer of adhesive on the back. This was much to the disappointment of my fiancé who had visions of me having to lick the back of the stick on nipples each morning in order to get them on... like you would when sticking down an envelope or sticking something to a window! Nope, they pop on really easily to the skin and if you want, you can use eyelash glue to give them a bit of extra stick. To wash them, you just run them under some water and soap, as you would with your hands and pat dry. 'Running nipples under the sink' can be added to the weekend chore list! Pat dry (no rubbing) to ensure that the adhesive film stays in tact for as long as possible. A set of these stick on nipples should last around a year. When it's time for more, just ring your breast care nurse or Macmillan team back up. They do this everyday, so although this is a whole new world to you, it isn't for them. So no need to feel embarrassed or shy about ringing to ask someone about new nipples.
So, what do they look like and feel like? Excuse the poor choice of reference but... have you ever eaten the top and the bottom of a Jaffa cake to leave the orange middle? Right, the orange bit is similar to the texture of the nipple. It isn't slimey or gooey, it's very sturdy but with a more soft and natural feel. It's the only day to day thing I can think to compare it to! In terms of feel, I didn't know it was on, however as discussed in my main pages, I have no senesation across the main surface of my breasts. This may or may not improve with time.
How do they look- well they are not your own nipples but they don't look like something you've picked up from a novelty store either. The range of colours will help find what shade is best for you. Also you can decide what size you would like them. When the nipples are on and you are wearing a lacey bra, no one would ever know they are not you own. Also, if you are wearing a thin bra or no bra, it does give you the natural shape of nipples through your top. The size you go for will determine how 'cold' you look through your tops. For once, you can be in control of this look!
Having chosen mine they have been ordered and if in stock, should arrive in approx 10 days. If not, it may take a bit longer. This wait doesn't phase me at present as I still need to wait for my scary looking scar to calm down. The nipples will either be sent to the breast unit for collection or directly to me at home. The prospect of nipples through the post I think is great. Will probably be conscious of opening future post in front of guests, just in case.
Stick ons forever? You have the option of having your nipples remade in a second surgery approx a year on from your mastectomy. This is something that can be decided later on. At present, for me, the thought of a second surgery is not appealing. But after time has passed I'm sure this won't be the case.
Other options- tattoos. Some people decide to get nipples tatttooed on. Or, have mastectomy tattoos. I follow a variety of mastectomy tattoo companies and advocates on instagram if you want to see what these look like.
There are many choices out there for you. If you have any questions related to this post and would like to hide behind the safety of an email, please feel free to drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org