Bras, Breasts and Bedside Toilets


After a while, I stopped caring about wearing a mastectomy bra and did was what comfortable to me: wearing a regular bra.

a woman with a red cardigan and blue top with gray shoulder-length hair.

Have you ever been to a carnival and walked into a house of horrors or a funhouse? Often a place where all the mirrors play tricks on you and make you look different than you really do. Usually in these amusement park attractions, there are weird things. Things that make you feel scared or uncomfortable for a minute.

I was 38 years old the first time I had to be fitted for a prosthesis and mastectomy bra. Let me tell you this, women are not meant to shop for underwear besides bedside toilets. Yet that is what happened to me. The town I got treatment in only had mastectomy garments at medical supply stores. There were no cute boutiques with lush carpeting and pretty things to look at. To get to the bra area you had to walk through the canes, walkers, lift chairs and bedside commodes.

A few years later, I found a boutique in a neighboring town. I went there for a few years and while it was an improvement, it still felt wrong to me. I wanted to go look for styles I liked and decide what to try on, as I had done before cancer. I quickly learned that was not an option for me because of the store policies to comply with insurance. I had to make an appointment, sometimes weeks ahead. At each appointment, a certified fitter had to ask me a slew of questions, weigh me and measure me each time I went. Then she left the room and came back with the styles and sizes she deemedappropriate. And to have to put a robe on backward and pull the fabric taught for approval was not in my comfort zone. I don't know about you, but I am not always in the mood to have someone look at each garment I try on. It's a bra —surely, I know if it is comfortable or not.

I took a close friend of mine to the medical supply store with me once to get a bra when I couldn’t get an appointment at the boutique. We got back in the car and my normally talkative friend was speechless. She looked at me and finally said, "Well that was just awful." My response was, “I know, right?!”

I do want to say that I appreciated the diligence of the bra fitters. I understand the necessity for them to do things according to store policy. I am just saying that it is not set up in a manner that works well for everyone.

For me, it is bad enough to have to call the doctor's office and ask for the prescription for it. But to also have to say how many bras you want is humiliating. So I did what I think we all sometimes do when we want to escape uncomfortable things, I improvised.

I decided enough is enough. I stopped wearing mastectomy bras. My prosthesis I am sure isn't the proper size for me anymore, but I stopped caring. I wear a normal bra that I can go buy all on my own any style I want, any time I want. I have my prosthesis from seven years ago and I stuff it into the normal bra. Now this means that sometimes other people may catch a glimpse of my prosthesis. It doesn't always sit in there well. If you have seen that, I am sorry, butit could always be worse!

It also means that sometimes I have forgotten my prosthesis and left it at home when I went to work. One day I called my coworker who was out running errands and asked her to run by my house. I called our daughter who was home that day and asked her to go get it out of my room and put it in a bag. So my coworker, who thankfully was also a friend, went by my house. My daughter handed her the bag. So basically, she brought my boob to work in a bag. Not everyone can say they have done that! Sometimes you just have to do what you have to do.

In the whole scope of things, we all have to do what seems right to us. I long for the day that being a cancer survivor is more people focused in these areas. More and more cancer centers are making prosthetics and bras available inside their walls. Which I am thinking might be much more comfortable.

At this point, not everyone has access to these nicer places. I hold hope that one day no breast cancer survivor will have to go to a medical supply store for bras. But until then, I will keep doing the best I can to patiently position my one prosthesis in place!

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