“In honor of all breast cancer victims, survivors and their families.”
In my early twenties while doing a self-breast exam, I felt a lump. I will never forget that feeling. My legs turned to jelly and my heart pounded so loud I could almost hear it strumming. Not me, I couldn’t have breast cancer, I’m too young, too full of life, and, I like my boobs and want to keep them.
That was my first mammogram, and I’ve had one every year since. The lump turned out to be one of several fibroids, and because of those blessed fibroids my doctor recommended that I get a yearly mammogram.
Fast forward two decades, I’m now in my early forties. It’s the day for my annual physical. I’m lying on the steel-cold examining table, flesh bared to the world. My doctor is lingering a bit too long while examining my left breast. Okay mister, I know they’re nice, but this is a bit too weird. Then the dreaded question: “Have you felt anything different during your self-breast exams?” I answer, “The twins are so lumpy I can’t really tell what I’m feeling.”
Exam over, I’m sitting across from “weird doctor man” and he rolls his stool up close to me, looks me in the eye and says, “I want you to see a surgeon.” Time stops, I’m choking, I can’t breathe. Huge drops of liquid threaten to burst from my eyes. My mind flashes back twenty years to the first lump. A surgeon, well this is it. My life is about to change forever.
I met with a surgeon and after an exam, and some tests it was confirmed; I didn’t have cancer, but I did indeed have old, bumpy, lumpy, fibroid ridden boobs. In fact these were the surgeon’s very words, “You’re fine, you’ve just got old boobs.” Never, have I been so happy to have someone say I have ancient boobs.
None of us know if we’ll be the next cancer victims. There are no guarantees in life. We can try to take care of ourselves, eat lots of foods with antioxidants, exercise into a size 6, drink plenty of water and that still may not be enough. Cancer does not discriminate: Young, old, rich, poor, white, black, pretty or ugly. It latches its creepy, crawling fibers around our inner most being and squeezes the joy, and sometimes life from us.
But this blog is not about me; it’s about all whose diagnosis was not good like mine. I have three special friends who were not as blessed, or lucky as I’ve been. Their prognosis was not “old boob syndrome.” Theirs was the worst, breast cancer. One friend is almost a twenty-year survivor. She chose to have a total mastectomy. Another friend is close to being a ten-year survivor. She had a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at the same time. And, the other friend has just been declared cancer free. She had a lumpectomy. Every case is different. A woman has to decide for herself the right course of treatment.
A few days ago I had the privilege of attending the Fall Fitting Event at Bridge Street Pharmacy in my hometown of Elkin. This event is held twice a year for women who have had mastectomies. They had An ABC Breast Care Specialist on site for private fittings and consultations. I met some amazing, strong and beautiful women. I was honored to have been asked to share the day with them.
Debbie, the equipment manager at Bridge Street Pharmacy grabbed my hand when I got there that day and said, “Come with me. I want to show you something.” In the fitting room hung four frames that held some pretty wild looking bras. Under each was script describing each bra. I was touched to tears. Alexis Owen wrote the inscriptions. I want to share parts of what each said.
The mosaic bra represents the initial shock that a woman and her family go through when she is first diagnosed with breast cancer. The broken mirror signifies the distorted self-image that a woman faces as she goes through the drastic treatments associated with breast cancer.
The post surgical bra donated by Wear Ease, Inc. represents an important step in a woman’s recovery process. These bras are worn home from the hospital after a mastectomy procedure.
Recovering from breast cancer can be a long and difficult process. Many people are aware of the side effects associated with chemo and radiation therapies, but don’t consider the long-term side effect associated with breast cancer surgery, such as lymphedema. This bra represents the long emotional journey a woman takes to feel whole again after bring diagnosed.
This tougher than nails bra was inspired by the strength and courage of every woman that has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
Cancer can shatter us, slice us open and devour our earthly bodies, but with time comes healing and renewal. Tough titties may sound crude, but being tough is a way of life for all those who are fighting cancer. Remember, you’re not alone, Jesus knows all about having to be tougher than nails. God bless you all.