I got fake boobs on Friday.
Actually, it was just one fake boob. Foob I've dubbed it. (Or "shoob" seeing as how it is actually a second-hand boob, but more on that later.)
The fact that I only needed one contributed to my decision to go with a prosthetic; I opted not to have reconstructive surgery after my mastectomy last September.
The reactions I get to this are mixed.
Doctors understand for the most part, but the general public (and my daughter) are a little confused. Wouldn't I want to look normal again? Totally. And while they would have put spacers in immediately following removing the cancerous breast, I was skittish about all the follow up surgeries (at least two additional) and the risk of complications.
Also, a little known fact: If you only need reconstructive surgery on one breast, they still cut and shape the healthy breast in order to better match the fake one. Anther obvious-if-you-think-about-it but seldom mentioned fact: If your weight changes over the years following your surgery, the fake one stays its same perky self, while the other one changes, which can lead to lopsided-ness -- which I already have, thank you very much.
By the time I walked into the little store in Los Gatos with the foobs and the wigs, I'd been walking around with one breast for more than six months. I was surprised how little this asymmetry bothered me. Before the mastectomy, I'd imagined I'd want to have a prosthetic ready and waiting for immediate use. It turns out, though, that having something pressing on that area when it is healing and during radiation treatments is unpleasant. And so time went by and my incision healed, and so did my feelings of discomfort.
And honestly, I didn't really feel like people noticed the mismatch.
Two things led me to the prosthetic shop: 1. The same radiation treatments that delayed my getting the prosthetic -- radiation causes the skin to contract and want to pull the shoulder in toward my sternum. Putting pressure on that area via a prosthetic reverses the contraction. But more than that was reason number 2: My daughter.
A month or so ago she and I were walking to the park when she stopped to pick a dandelion. She blew the seeds and almost immediately went from happy to sad. After a bit of prying she told me that her wish would never come true. I pried a bit further and she finally blurted out that she always wishes for the cancer to go away. I quickly told her -- somewhat relieved that this was all that was bringing her down: "But honey, I don't have cancer anymore! It's all gone!" Phew! Crisis adverted! But she was still sad. She mumbled, "But your boob hasn't grown back yet."
While I was comfortable being lopsided, there was an E-cup shaped hole punched in her universe.
So I made the long-awaited appointment at the foob shop. I got two special mastectomy bras -- they have little pockets in the cups for prosthetics (which range from silicone breast "equalizers" to light-weight foam breast "forms"). Some people need full prosthetics, some need fillers. Either way, the pocket keeps the thing from sliding out and plopping on the sidewalk.
In addition to the bras, I walked out with a two-pound silicon equalizer.
And equalize it did. I was really surprised how similar the fake one looked to the real one. So surprised, I just keep staring down at it all afternoon.
See?! You can't even till which one is fake can you?
And it wasn't as hot and heavy and awkward as you'd expect a two-pound blob of silicone stuffed in your bra to be.
But was Nia sold? We had friends with us in the bra shop and she seemed happy enough. Later at the park, she was over the whole foob thing and just ready to play. I tried to ask if she liked it but she didn't want to talk about it. It wasn't until we got home and I took it out of my bra to show Joe that she got really excited. She wanted to hold it and when she did, she literally lit up. For about an hour that night she walked around with it, cuddled it, slapped it (?!), played dress up with it (it looks like a little pregnant belly on her), laid it over one of her stuffed animals and declared it "pork." (Later when I was looking for it, she said it was cooking...??!)
The foob made her really, really happy. Now she wants to hold it all the time.("No, honey, you can't hold it now. Because I'm wearing it!")
I never in a million years expected that.
Nor did I expect to like it as much as I do. Like I said, I was pretty comfortable being lopsided. I had no idea what I'd gain by strapping that thing on. But the thing is, nature favors symmetry. It's obvious: My clothes look better with two matching boobs. But what was less obvious was how confident I'd feel wearing the foob. I feel... visible again. I thought that people didn't notice the asymmetry before, but maybe in our society that is so breast-centric, not having two matching breasts (and two big ones at that) made me not so much conspicuous as invisible. People were not only not noticing, but I'd swung to the opposite side of the dial into a-sexual.
I'm not planning to wear it every day, but it sure is nice to have the option. It is pretty funny getting out of the shower and seeing my stack of clothes now.
Suddenly I'm 13 again with brand new boobs -- only this time I'm emotionally prepared for it, and my friends aren't jealous. And if they are, they can come over and take the foob for a test drive. Like Nia.