DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been happily married for 21 years. A couple of weeks ago, he surprised me with the news that we're going on an all-expense paid trip to France and the Cote d'Azur courtesy of his company. It will be our first trip to Europe together, and I'm very excited. I see this as kind of a second honeymoon.
Now, here's the rub: Five years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy, underwent six months of chemotherapy and had some reconstructive surgery. Though breast cancer is never cured, I was given an optimistic prognosis. I have done my best to regain my life and live each day. It took a while to not think about dying all the time, and I think I have gotten to the point where I look toward living the future.
We have been making plans for our trip and, much to my surprise, my husband said he would like us to go to some of the nude beaches when we're on the Riviera. I have been on nude beaches before and I'm certainly no prude, but I'm very uncomfortable about being seen in public with my "deformity."
I am very physically fit -– but I feel like a freak with only one breast. My husband was surprised when I said I'm uncomfortable about going topless, and though I know he would never make me do anything I feel uncomfortable about, I could tell he thought that I have a problem. Now I'm wondering if I DO have a problem. -- SURVIVOR IN SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR SURVIVOR: You are understandably self-conscious because you feel you look "different." Your husband probably reacted the way he did because he still regards you as a beautiful woman, and he no longer "sees" your mastectomy scars.
As you already know, you see everything on the nude beaches in Europe -– old, young, fat, thin, and everything in between. This includes people who have had various surgeries, scars and all, so please don't be concerned about being viewed as a curiosity. If you prefer to remain covered, go with your feelings. There's no law that obligates you to undress.
However, before you make a final decision, please discuss the idea of a day at the beach with your physician. Because scar tissue does not tan, you might be advised to take special precautions to protect your skin.