My Boobs in a Box
My Boobs in a Box, also known as my breast prosthesis, were something that I wore for seven months after my double mastectomy. I’ll admit that I didn’t like them so perhaps that accounts for my snarky description. They were hot and heavy during the summer months I had to wear them. My breast surgeon wrote a prescription for the prosthesis and I was fitted for them within a few weeks after having my mastectomy. I’ll admit that was a strange day for me.
I went to a prosthetic shop where they fit patients for a variety of prosthesis for a variety of reasons. There were amputees without arms or legs in the waiting area. Then there was me; the hidden amputee. No one could see the body parts I was missing or why I was there to be fitted for a prosthetic bra. I carefully camouflaged my then flat chest with a heavier sweater so you couldn’t really tell I had no breasts. I remember feeling awkward during those first few weeks without my prosthesis. My posture was poor, reflecting the lack of confidence I was feeling being out in public. I didn’t want to stand up straight for fear it would emphasize my flat chest. I felt like a 12 year old school girl and underneath my shirt I both felt and looked deformed and certainly didn’t feel to feminine.
The Hidden Amputee in the Waiting Room
I didn’t know what to expect once I was called back to the fitting room. Of course, I would have to disrobe. I wasn’t long out of my mastectomy so yes, it was an uncomfortable position for me to be in. I can only assume that women who have been through this are the few that understand my sense of loss, sense of disfigurement and lack of femininity. Others may sympathize but only those who have been through it can empathize.
I’ll take the hug-gable model, please.
The woman who took the measurements and fitting was very professional and kind. She asked me questions about my breast size before my mastectomy. Since I was always a “generous A” before surgery I told her I wouldn’t mind going up a size to a B for the prosthesis. We tried on different bras to see which one felt more comfortable. She would place different types of forms into the cups to give me an idea of what felt comfortable to me. Some were lightweight and others a bit heavier and were made from silicone. I chose the Essential Deluxe model made from silicone. I think the selling point for me was when the lady who was fitting me said they were “more hug-gable”. I’ll admit when I held them I was amazed at how life like they actually did feel. We had a vacation planned just six weeks after my mastectomy. I viewed it as my “coming out” party. It would be the first time I saw friends and family outside of my own husband and boys after surgery. Hug-gable worked for me because I knew there would be a lot of that going on as we saw friends and family on our vacation.
I’ll admit, having them on felt hopeful. I had some form back. It wasn’t what it used to be before my mastectomy but it felt much better filling out my clothing. We talked about insurance and I was so very appreciative that a good portion of the cost was covered because they are expensive. My mind and heart went to those women who had no insurance or whose insurance may not cover the cost of prosthesis after a mastectomy. After she filled out the paperwork and we did all of the fittings and chose the proper bra I left the office.
Sheila and Rita
I was scheduled to pick my prosthesis up when my sister would be here for a visit. We laughed and talked about naming my new boobs; Ethel and Lucy? Thelma and Louise? We settled on Sheila and Rita. That’s a long story but suffice to say it has to do with some shared sister Margarita time. We took before and after pictures of me the day we picked them up. It was a fun day for both of us and in her true warmhearted style she made me feel like the queen that day. I watched my sister smile as I tried it on with my clothing. A form came to life and we were both grinning from ear to ear. We went out and celebrated with a cool, summer treat; me, my sissy and Sheila and Rita.
I got used to putting them on but will admit it took some creative gyrations. I was taught exactly how to gently fold them and put them into the bra pocket to avoid damaging them. I could wear them with a looser fitting shirt but I wasn’t comfortable at all with the way they looked with t-shirts that were more form fitting. I certainly couldn’t wear a lower cut blouse. I still had visible gaps or divots, as I called them, from my mastectomy. Argh! “They’ll do for now” is what I’d tell myself after wiggling them into place and trying to get them into a normal looking position. I was just glad that our vacation was in a place where there were cooler temperatures and I could still wear sweaters and thicker tops.
The box, the kitty and NO! I’m not swimming in these!
The box…. Oh that lovely box! I was also instructed to store them in the boxes they came in when I picked them up. I told the prosthesis fitter that I’d be traveling and she highly encouraged me to take the boxes with me. She also told me, “Don’t get around cats. If you are accidentally clawed, they could rupture.”
Are you kidding me? Oh dear! My son and daughter-in-law had a cat and we were staying with them a couple of nights. Sheesh! So I made that uncomfortable call to them. They were so amazingly sweet and made sure kitty stayed away from Sheila and Rita.
Flying with prosthesis? Let’s just say that’s a story for another blog. Can you say altitude and TSA? Later…..
I took them out at night and put them in the box. I’d get up in the morning, take them out of the box and start the wiggle and gyration process all over again. Sadly, I never got in our swimming pool all summer long. I couldn’t bring myself to slip those silicone sisters into my bathing suit. Even with my insurance, I knew the thought of ordering another pair was out of the question and the fear of something happening to them in the pool just solidified that decision. Besides, I was already making plans for my DIEP flap reconstruction and I knew the boobs in a box would be temporary.
I really never got comfortable with my prosthesis. I truly admire women who chose this for their reconstruction. I also admire my flat and fabulous sisters. These are all choices but since I am an advocate for all choices of breast reconstruction, I knew prosthesis was not going to be my choice.
And so the final farewell…
I remember the day I met my plastic surgeon for our first consult just two short months before my DIEP flap surgery. I had been wearing my prosthesis for four short months at that point. I was nervous that day. It was the first time I had met him. I pretty much knew he was going to be the dude, the fixer-upper dude, but I wanted to meet him in person. I already had my gown on before he walked in the room and Sheila and Rita were over on the table lying lifelessly in my prosthetic bra. He walked in very casually and introduced himself to me and my husband. Funny what you remember from those first meetings. He has a very British accent and broke the ice by looking at my husband after he shook his hand and said, “I like your glasses”… (“glaw-sez” pronounced the way it sounded in his charming British accent)
He then pulled his chair up in front of me as if I was the only one in the room, looked me square in the eyes and said this, “You’ve been through a lot haven’t you? But you look great!” Bingo! The rest of the appointment just solidified why all my research and copious hours spent in trying to find a qualified plastic surgeon paid off. I did feel awkward at first when he had to view my disfigured chest but he was rock solid and very easy to talk to. He made me feel comfortable and my husband described him as “golden” after we left his office.
Two months later, and the night before my DIEP flap surgery on November 30, 2014, I took Sheila and Rita off for the last time. I knew I was going to donate them to another patient who might not have insurance. I carefully placed them back in their boxes ready for storage. My boobs in a box had served me well, even through our love hate relationship. I have yet to donate them because it is my intention that when I do, I want to meet the woman who receives them.
I want to show her how very hug-gable they are.