Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
Losing one's breasts to cancer isn't funny, in fact, it is often a devastating experience, but after a few years of getting used to the loss, sometimes a person learns to poke fun at the situation.
After losing both breasts to cancer, it was a challenge to get used to wearing prostheses. I can still remember the first day I walked into the cute boutique that sold cancer-related apparel. Standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by mastectomy bras, I waited for an associate to come to my rescue. There to receive a fitting for prostheses, I had no idea what was about to take place. Cancer was still very new to me, but with the help of a trained fitter, I left the store that day with a pair of silicone prostheses and several bras.
It was months afterward before I began to feel comfortable wearing the prostheses. Not until the surgical scars healed could I stand the weight of the heavy silicone breasts against my skin. I worked hard at building up the amount of time I could wear them, but never enjoyed wearing them all day long. When home, it was easier to go without them. My family and friends didn't care if I was breastless. But while in the public eye, I was obliged to wear them. For some strange reason, I felt my breastlessness made others uncomfortable.
Fast forward five years and allow me to share a memory with you. My husband I prepare to attend a funeral. As we dress, he watches to see if I'll open the drawer containing the prostheses or if I'll leave them there for safe keeping. On such a somber occasion, it seems disrespectful to attend the service without breasts, so I slip them carefully into a mastectomy bra before donning a tailored black dress.
The service is over quickly and we make our way to the graveside. It's extremely hot outside and sweat is streaming down my chest. Silicone prostheses don't breathe. The front of my dress is starting to get wet. Thankfully, we head to the car immediately after paying our respects to the family. On the way home, I wiggle and maneuver to remove the bra and prostheses without disturbing my dress. As we are driving, I fling the soggy duo into the backseat of the car thankful to be rid of them and hoping we don't get pulled over for a traffic stop.
Several miles later, we pull into the driveway to our home. My husband and I gather our belongings. With both hands full, I exit the car. My husband glances into the backseat and sees the bra and prostheses lying there.
"Do you want me to grab your boobs?" he asks. Glancing back at him, I smile and nod. I don't think he realized how funny that sounded. And then, I turn to see my six-foot four husband carrying the bra loaded down with the heavy prostheses. He's threaded the straps over his fingers so he can take a few additional items out of the car. Without batting an eye, he turns to wave at a neighbor passing by. Thankfully, he doesn't use the hand holding the bra.
Five years ago, neither of us wanted to look at or touch those flesh colored atrocities. Now, they've become an integral part of our family.
Breast cancer doesn't always have to be serious business, although it certainly is just that. There are times, on the journey, when we can and should laugh. And, I think, those times are when we realize we're starting to become really healthy. When a person is able to face a life altering challenge and find a way to see the lighter side of the situation, it indicates healing and wholeness is being restored. Learning to laugh at cancer related experiences can help lighten the load a little, especially when silicone is involved.