Unexpected Angel and Boob in a Box: Two Stories from a Cancer Survivor

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From an unexpected encounter in the gym to finding her first prosthesis, a breast cancer survivor recounts two impactful stories in her cancer experience.

Unexpected Angel

I was at the gym doing my usual “I’m just going to get undressed and into the shower as unobtrusively as possible” thing when a woman I have never seen before said in a loud and cheery voice, “I like your hair!”

For a moment, I was startled and tried to make sense of what she meant. Did she think I was intentionally choosing to wear my hair in this version of an extreme buzz cut? But then our interaction became clear. She showed me her port, which she said was going to be removed next week. She went on to explain that she had been fighting stage 4 uterine cancer for over two years.

This woman’s tone and invitation were incredibly kind and gentle. And so, I found myself talking to a stranger in a place where conversations usually do not get more intimate beyond, “Oh, there’s no hot water today. Go figure!” She explained that she had lost her husband a year before her own diagnosis and endured all sorts of treatment, but that she had a 15-year-old son and there was no question that she would do what it took to be there for him.

She noticed that I was looking a bit haggard, and I admitted as much, voicing my unhappiness that this chemo meant I couldn’t work out at nearly the intensity I had been accustomed to. Her suggestion was to back off, let my body heal itself and reminded me that I could always work my way back to the fitness level I desired. Then she gave me a salmon-colored plastic bracelet that her son was selling to raise funds for Relay for Life. Then, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “Girl, you’ve got to learn to love on yourself!”

These were words — and wishes — I find myself hoping to be worthy of, advice I might just try to build the rest of my life around.

Boob in a Box

Rectangular cardboard box in female hands. Top view, white background | Image credit: © somemeans - © stock.adobe.com

"One hour ago, I wasn’t even entertaining the idea that I would pursue a prosthesis, and now here I am, walking out with three new bras, a swimsuit and a fake boob in a box," Claire wrote.

My friend Patty had been talking for some time about this woman she wanted me to meet. Polly works for a resource that supports women with breast cancer. She described Polly as a nurse who was extremely knowledgeable and caring and assured me that I would get a lot out of talking to her.

I now have a policy of saying yes to invitations like this. I especially appreciated Patty’s kindness and her desire to offer a helping hand attached to a warm hug. We discussed “going to see Polly” not long after my surgery. I thought it might be useful to talk to an expert in the field because I had made decisions that, in retrospect, seemed hasty.

But what I did not know, until we actually walked into Polly’s “office,” is that she works as a prosthesis-fitting specialist. Polly and I chatted for a few minutes about my mastectomy and decision not to pursue reconstruction

“Yes,” she reassured me, “many women just know they are done.

She then invited me into her private dressing room. Before I had any opportunity to think about what was happening or even to assess how I felt, she had produced several different kinds of bras (sports bra, lacy black bra) and then, abracadabra, a slightly squishy, fairly realistic looking boob created from the wonders of silicone. She took the squishy thing and expertly stuffed it into the side pocket stitched into the bra cup and voila! I had a new look! Two boobs! One hour ago, I wasn’t even entertaining the idea that I would pursue a prosthesis, and now here I am, walking out with three new bras, a swimsuit and a fake boob in a box.

Polly told me that when I went out to model my new figure, she noticed that Patty had tears in her eyes. I am truly touched by my friend’s support at this new stage of my cancer journey. I do feel more whole. Today, I can say that it feels as if cancer has subtracted less from me, and that love and caring, along with the marvels of modern technology, have been added to my chest and to my heart.

This post was written and submitted by Claire Chow. The article reflects the views of Chow and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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