Little things

Hi, all!

I’ve had that Huey Lewis and the News song in my head: “I Want a New Drug.” Except I’ve been slightly changing the lyrics: “I want a new boob. One that makes me look slick. One that won’t make me crash my bra. Or make me feel three feet thick.”

With that in mind, I just came back from what I affectionately call “the boob store.” That’s where I go every year to get a new breast prosthesis and mastectomy bras. For those of you not in the know, I had a mastectomy in early 2012. I’ve been pretty open about it here and on my own blog. I’m fine, now. But even more vigilant.

Anyway, back to the boob store. I don’t mind going because the woman who opened it and the women who staff it have all been through a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. So they know. They know how a woman feels when she comes through those doors for the first time, and they make each and every one of us feel welcome. There’s a sign at the front counter that says “you’ll come in as a stranger but you’ll leave as a friend.” And that’s true.

I went in today and they all said “hi” really warmly and pulled my file and took me on back to a fitting room and did all the measurements to make sure I got the right “fakey,” as I call it, and the correct-fitting bras. They always have a pot of coffee going and they send you home with a lot more than you came in for. Even the space makes you feel like you’re visiting a friend at her craft studio. There are tank tops and swim suits for fakey wearers, head coverings for women going through chemo, and wigs. There are informational pamphlets and some pretty cool T-shirts with inspirational art and sayings on them.

There are also decorations all over with more inspirational sayings and group photos of all the survivors who walk in local breast cancer awareness events. It’s cluttered and kind of goofy but feels like your fave older aunt’s house or your grandma’s house (provided you enjoyed going to her house). The place was a doctor’s office in the 70s, I’m pretty sure, and it still has that wood paneling from the era. The carpet is newer, though, and the paneling even comes across as charming because the whole place’s vibe is like your favorite auntie invited you to her house for fresh-baked cookies and oh, while you’re here, let’s get you fitted for a new prosthesis.

It’s the least self-conscious place I’ve ever been.

So I went today and got fitted and outfitted and geared up (heh).

But it always gets me thinking. I’m coming up on my diagnosis anniversary and, in February, my surgery anniversary. I’m not going to fib and say I’m not stressed out about these things. I’m trying not to be anxious about them. They’re just dates, after all, on a calendar. But they do have symbolic significance, and represent a point in my life that was pretty scary and pretty stressful. Your body remembers that, and I find myself reacting the way I felt then. I’ve had some anxiety that clouds my stomach and makes my chest hurt. I’ve been a little weirdly emotional, and dreading my mammogram, which happens in January or thereabouts.

I guess I still have a juke joint in my living room. I’m still getting through the aftermath. And yes, I am also still getting some help. Don’t worry, kids. I try to take care of myself and I am not afraid to ask for help. All that said, this year was a great year in many ways, but yes, I do have some triggers and I’m trying to figure out healthier ways to deal with those.

I’m glad I went to the boob store this time of year, I think, because it’s a supportive environment with women who have been through what I have, sometimes to the nth degree. I don’t feel like I have to explain myself and I don’t feel weird for dreading my anniversary dates. They all know. We don’t have to talk about it. There’s recognition there of everything a woman goes through in a breast cancer diagnosis, treatment, and then the aftermath where you try to figure out how much it changed you and in what ways. They all know, and because I know they do, it puts me at ease and I don’t feel weird for still having issues almost two years out.

So I left feeling a lot better than when I’d gone in. Yay for the boob store! In another post, I might regale you with some of the names of mastectomy-related products that companies come up with that are apparently supposed to make you feel all warm and feminine (cue “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman“). I, personally, would like a prosthesis called “amazon ass-kicker” with a tagline like, “it ain’t real but it gets the job done.” Or maybe “Damn right I’m fake. You got a problem with that?” Heh. Hmmm. Business opp, people! 😀

Anyway, going to the boob store is one of those things that I have to do now roughly once a year. It’s a little thing, in the great scheme of things. One more chore I’ve acquired in the past couple of years.

But sometimes, it really is the little things that can mean the most.

Happy Friday, everyone. Hope your weekend is fantabulous!

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40 thoughts on “Little things

  1. Great blog today, Andi. As you know, one I can easily identify with. Glad you left the store feeling better. As you come up on your anniversary, I will keep the faith for you, sister.

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  2. Andi, you rock! Great blog, I admire your strength and ability to wordsmith even the most difficult of subjects and make us all feel better for knowing you.. 😉

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  3. Thanks for this honest and thoughtful (and funny!) blog. We’re coming up on the anniversary of my father’s brain surgery (12 years ago now). I always think of it when I see chestnuts in the store. The night before he went in, we ate boiled chestnuts, and I didn’t know if he would come out of surgery the same person. It’s good to hear survival stories. Thanks for sharing yours.

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    1. Awesome news about your dad. Isn’t it weird, the things we remember about things like that? I remember after getting the first mammogram in which something wasn’t right. It was November. I walked out into the parking lot, stared up at the sky, and yelled “REALLY? REALLY??????” And then I added variants of the F-bomb. I will always remember that parking lot. Fortunately, I don’t have a phobia about parking lots in general, now. Heh. Thanks for writing in.

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  4. Andi, you’re one of the smartest, bravest, most amazing women I have ever met. You’re a great teacher, mentor, and I’m happy to say–friend. Thank you for sharing your life and your stories. We are each a little taller for standing next to you.

    Hugs, jeanne

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  5. Andi, I feel we know each other since I found the Women and Words web site. I began proof reading for BSB since I had to close my day care center in 2011. And hootenanny became an obsession for me the past two years. what A HOOT!! I also want to thank you for putting your fears and emotions out there for all of us to read. My mom, best friend and cousin are all going through breast cancer at the same time. I will pass on to them all that you say!! it has made a difference for me and I hope I can pass on your strength to all of them!!!!

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    1. OH, geez, Alyssa. I am so sorry to hear that you’ve got 3 women right now dealing with this. And I am sorry to hear that they’re having to go through it. I hope that they’re able to support each other. It’s important to have a support system while going through and in the aftermath, when you’re trying to figure out what it all means. I’m still a little “shell-shocked,” if you will, and I do still have bad days. There are also some long-term physical effects that I have to deal with (another story for another time!) as a result of the mastectomy (think shoulder issues), but I’m muddling through. I sure hope that if nothing else, some of what I say will help them. Maybe even make them smile a little. I know what it’s like to go through the testing, the diagnosis, then the doctors’ appointments, the decisions to be made…and it sucks. It’s horrible. It’s incredibly stressful and difficult. But I also tried to find humor, because laughter helps. It’s a release, and it reminds us that we’re still here. Sending good wishes to you and yours.

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      1. Thanks for the wonderful words!! It’s hard to feel sorry for myself as the caregiver for all of them as what they are all going thru is so much worse than me. As you know sometimes life just sucks!! But reading your thoughts and prayers are really a big help. Ages 30 -81 just sucks but I have passed on your thoughts to all of them and please know that it helps. They ALL say to me that knowing other people have gone thru it and survived is such a blessing and a promise. Continued good health to you and again, thank you for your kind words.

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  6. Andi, Thanks for a post that will send most of us to get our mammogram ten times faster than a cutesy, pink October commercial ever could. It’s not that you tried to do that, it’s that you were real and your story is real and so many of us feel like we know you. My mom hit seven years this last spring and has told me stories of the people and the store in Kansas where she lives. What a comfort to be understood on those terms, what a frightening, terrible reason to need to be. Thank you for sharing your real story. Listening for you next time, Ona.

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    1. Thanks! I sure hope people are vigilant with their health. Pay attention to your bodies, get your check-ups, and engage in wellness. In other words, TAKE CARE OF YOURSELVES, PEOPLE! Eat right, exercise, and get to know how your body works and feels. Get your checkups, and if you have an intimate partner in your life, those … ah … breast exams can be … um … DOUBLY fun. 🙂

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  7. Good blog, Andi. Thank you for telling us about your experiences and feelings. All we bloggees are thinking about our friends and acquaintances who have been touched by similar situations, and will have that extra little insight. Thinking of you, with a smile.

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    1. Thanks so much. I’m fortunate. My diagnosis was not as scary as some, and my prognosis is still pretty good. However, the fact remains that breast cancer is increasing — especially in western countries — and it’s hitting more women at younger and younger ages. And it affects men, too, whether they contract it or are partners, friends, or relatives of men or women who are diagnosed with it. This isn’t just a “women’s issue.” It’s a community issue, and for those of you who read this site who identify as LGBT, healthcare is always an issue because of institutionalized homophobia. I was fortunate in that regard, too, because I’m out and my family is extremely supportive and was with me throughout the diagnosis and treatment. There are thousands of LGBT people in this country who are going through things like this alone because they can’t be out, and who perhaps don’t feel they can have their partners with them or even some friends because they fear that someone will guess that they’re not straight. So if you or someone you know who is LGBT is going through something like this and you or the other person is looking for resources, start with the LGBT cancer network: http://www.cancer-network.org/cancer_information/cancer_resources_for_the_lgbt_community/

      And take care of yourselves, friends. You’re the only you we have.

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  8. You rock, Andi! Thanks for sharing your thoughts about ” those” anniversary dates. There are a variety of ” those” dates to many people and trying to find a way to get through them is a process that each person has to do in their own time. Hugs to you.

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  9. What an awesome post, my friend! 🙂 I love your take on life. Not like you had a choice with this one, but really, you do have a choice in how you dealt with it. You’re my personal hero on that account.

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  10. The fact that you are so open about your problem shows how strong you are. It´s not something women should be ashamed of. It´s part of our lives. I´m sending you my blessings and calling you hero. Take care!

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  11. Hi — thanks for stopping by! I don’t actually consider it a “problem.” I consider it something that happened on my journey. It sucked, but I was very fortunate and I’m learning to adapt. Appreciate the words. Thanks again.

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