This fall, Genevieve Esgate, 39, started a blog unlike any other. It’s called Leave Me Breastless, and it’s a fashion blog for women who’ve had a double mastectomy. The blog was inspired by the Aussie mom’s own struggle to dress fashionably after her battle with breast cancer. Esgate was diagnosed with ductile carcinoma at age 35, and her treatment required removing one of her breasts—a unilateral mastectomy—as well as radiation therapy. After her treatment, Esgate chose to have her other breast removed instead of reconstruction. Once she was completely flat-chested, the mom and teacher figured she’d be able to wear her old clothes without issue. “I thought I’d be able to throw on my old t-shirts and they’d be fine,” Esgate tells SELF. But that didn’t quite happen. Esgate’s pre-cancer clothing didn’t work with her new, flat chest. And she struggled to find women’s clothing that was both fashionable and suited to her new shape.
“Nearly every store has things that work, it’s just there’s less options,” Esgate says. “I used to be able to look at 80 percent of what a brand would have, but now I can only look at 20 percent….I just thought, ‘Why isn’t there anything out here for women who have no breasts?'”
So Esgate decided to create her blog, Leave Me Breastless, so she could share her shopping tips with other women who are post-double mastectomy or women in between their mastectomy and reconstruction. “I wanted to create a tool that women can have straight away so that they didn’t have to go through what I went through trying to work out what’s right and wrong,” she says. “Especially [at a time] when you’re already a little bit sensitive and your confidence has dropped a lot.”
Esgate launched her blog on October 16, the three-year anniversary of her unilateral mastectomy. The site features photos of Esgate modeling on-trend off-the-shoulder tops, dresses, and even swimwear. Sometimes she wears a prosthesis bra with her outfits, but most times she’s flat-chested. She pairs each photo with an essay about how she discovered the garment and why it’s flattering. Right away, Esgate saw a huge wave of readers flock to her site. “So many people have responded to it in a way that they’re so grateful for it,” Esgate says. “The fashion’s important, but the emotional journey that comes with it—just giving women another woman out there who’s feeling the same frustrations as you—there’s something in that that’s therapeutic.”
She says she’s heard from other women who’ve had their breasts removed, thanking her for the helpful tips. And Esgate says “breasted women” have been learning from her site as well. “It’s building awareness [about] what it’s like for women who don’t have breasts,” she says. “A lot of people have responded saying, ‘Wow, it’s giving me insight into what it must be like.’ It’s informing more people about what it’s like so people without breasts can hopefully start to be normal in society instead of something that people don’t want to talk about.”
Esgate hopes to keep helping women with her blog, and her dream is to eventually create a small fashion line specifically for women who’ve had a double mastectomy. And she wants to show women that if they decide to remain flat after a double mastectomy, they don’t have to sacrifice their style. “I really would like as many women as possible to know that they’ve got options either way, whether they reconstruct or not, and even in that interim—they’ve got things to wear.”
Check out Leave Me Breastless here.
Watch: 6 Things People Don’t Know About Breast Cancer