So, I grabbed the papers I was given the dastardly day with the nurse navigator and started calling around to find out the cost of a “falsie” as my grandmother would have said and the bras that are made for them. I felt defeated almost instantly. It is insulting to me that after a woman goes through all these physical and mental hurdles that the costs associated with feeling “normal” again is so outrageous. Confidence is something women who have undergone mastectomies need a bit of help rebuilding (or at least me) and it is prohibitively expensive for a lot of us. To re-start life, to return to work, to be comfortable socially and professionally, to be at ease with our altered bodies should not cost this much money.
And, here in Ontario, the government only gives you less than half the cost and only after you buy the prosthesis. Bras, well, it seems they are not needed and, hence, no help. Pay first, get back—60 to 90 days later an amount that does not get you more than one bra (and if you have one breast, it needs some support) and less than 50% of the cost of a long-lasting and well-made prosthesis. Cancer took my hair, my eyelashes, my eyebrows, my breast, my ability to heal quickly and then takes my ability to wear my clothes and feel like myself with an eye to moving forward.
Now, I am not unique; I am not the only woman who cannot afford these “things.” I remember, sitting on the floor of my kitchen, blaring music in the dark, crying and shredding the papers with the phone numbers of places to get the requisite accouterments. Luckily, I did not finely rip those pages to shreds. Enter after BREAST CANCER, Alicia, Natasha and the amazing supporters and volunteers who help and change the lives of women like me. The next day I called after BREAST CANCER and found that I could get help. I was giddy, stupidly giddy. A new fake boobie? For me? Finally? I decided that I would live large and buy myself a dress that was very me, very long and very contoured. And I daringly wore it to my fitting in hope of seeing myself as a woman not a cancer patient. I sat with Alicia for an hour; telling her my story, telling her my emotions about this whole process and said, “I am done crying about this.” I did not cry often through this entire process—I cried but not constantly. I was fitted with a temporary prosthesis and given a bra to put it in. I put my dress back on. I stood tall and straight and….
Then I cried and I cried, oh, just in case, you don’t understand, I cried some more.
I will say that only two times in this battle have I cried tears of joy. The first was when I found out prior to my surgery that I did not carry the gene for breast cancer—and as an Ashkenazi Jew the risk was high—and that my daughter, my niece and my nephew would not have to be monitored throughout their lifetime for breast cancer. It meant my brother was not at a higher risk for prostate cancer. It meant I did not have to tell my daughter when she was in her mid-teens that she would begin screening at 18. And now, I cried again.
I walked out and looked Alicia in her caring eyes and told her: “I lied, I am going to cry.” And boy did I—I think her shirt needed to be wringed out after I picked my head off her shoulder. I felt like me. I looked like me. Although the hair was different as can be, I saw myself as whole.
And for the first time in months, as I walked out of after BREAST CANCER, I walked completely erect (no more slouching) and stood tall. That experience, in and of itself, changed me in ways I still cannot explain but I hope this does it some justice. after BREAST CANCER helped me almost completely close a circle that had begun 23 months before.
And gratitude is not a strong enough word. Gratitude might be one of the most important emotions any person can have. So, thank you after BREAST CANCER and its supporters. Thank you Alicia and Natasha for being so helping me start the next part of this “journey.” For being so helpful and so generous with your support, help and conviction to helping all woman move beyond breast cancer.