In July 2011 Barbara Carlos was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. A resident of Hawaii, she works in administrative support at a college and has retirement as her career goal. Music keeps her sane, as side effects of chemo and radiation linger. Overweight since childhood, she keeps trying to lose the estrogen-laden fat that her cancer loves.
The first time I heard that term I didn't know what they were talking about. Even now my brain goes a little bit crazy when that term is applied to lingerie.
Durable medical equipment, or DME, covers a broad range of items. Included are things like wheelchairs, ventilators, canes and crutches, kidney machines. Essentially it is something that is needed and used by someone who is ill or disabled.
I never thought of my undergarments as being “durable,” or as medical equipment for that matter. However, as it turns out, also included in the long list of DME items are mastectomy bras and breast prostheses.
Hmm, a durable bra — it’s an interesting concept, but surely you can understand my brain's confusion with the term. Over the years, most of my bras have had some sort of lace involved. Durable is not a word I would use to characterize them. And although I may wear my bras until they are old and the elastic is stretched out, I still wouldn't use durable to describe them.
Last week I had an oncology visit. All is going well, at least as far as can be determined. Every year, I opt for the three mastectomy bras that are covered by Medicare. This year, I was also eligible for a new prosthesis. The paperwork authorizing the expenditures was processed, and on Saturday I went shopping for new durable medical equipment in the lingerie section of a department store.
Mastectomy bra shopping takes me more time than buying other clothes. As I continue to lose pounds and inches, measuring to get the right size and comfort level is important. And then there are so many styles to choose from. I tried on a dozen or so and narrowed down my selection. My weight loss also meant it was time for a different, smaller prosthesis. Prostheses also come in different sizes and styles, so I had to find the best fit for me at the weight and shape I am now as well as the weight and shape I think I will be a bit further down the road. Decisions made, the purchase was finalized. My DME bras went off to alternations to be pocketed to hold a prosthesis and my new prosthesis was put in an elegant shopping bag for the trip home.
It's been a few years since I started wearing durable medical equipment. My ears have gotten used to the term. Nevertheless, it still makes me smile a little when I think of what that term means when applied to my life.