Monday, November 7, 2011

A prosthesis at last, just in case

I am now the proud owner of a prosthetic left breast.  The breast doesn't actually have handedness, but since I only have a spot for it on my left side I define it as a left breast.  It is triangular in the two dimensions that are flush with my skin, and teardrop-shaped in the third, protruding dimension.  It is pleasantly squishy--a bit more firm than a gel-filled ice pack but more pliable than rubber.

These descriptions will have to suffice for now because I decided not to photograph it yet.  I didn't know how:  do I lay it on the table?  Do I hold it up to my chest?  Do I let my smiling children hold it up for the camera?  I don't yet feel emotional ownership for this left breast and so any of these options seem satisfactory on one level, but on another level I don't want to accidentally disrespect the left breast in a careless photographic portrayal.  And so once again I rely on my words.

Acquisition of my prosthesis was surprisingly tedious.  It took five different fittings to get the correct breast-bra combo.  We first had to special order some prostheses.  The cancer outreach center did not stock any prostheses in my size, although I can proudly say I do not require the smallest prosthesis available (just the second smallest).  Then the shape was an issue, so we had to order the decided size in a different style.  Then the bras were the issue.  With a prosthesis, one typically wears a special bra that has a pocket for the prosthesis.  One can probably wear a prosthesis in a normal bra, but the pocket is nice to keep the prosthesis in place and to protect the skin from rubbing on the somewhat sticky prosthesis.  So I tried many, many different pocket bras.  It was difficult finding a bra that was complementary to (if not equalizing of) the prosthesis and Ms. Right Breast.  At long last we found one bra-breast combo that actually worked well.  Unfortunately, this bra was a rather impractical blue.  It is and will always be my first prosthesis bra, but we also settled on an imperfect fit in order to include a practical champagne-colored bra in my prosthesis-wearing repertoire.  

At first I was excited to have a prosthesis option available!  I slipped the breast in the pocket and put on the bra.  I was a bit self-conscious about choosing to wear a breast to work that day, so I chose a shirt that I presumed would hide the prosthetic breast just as I rely on it to hide the empty space.  And indeed I may have hidden it well.  I received no comments, but why would I?  What would someone say, regardless of if it were positive or negative?  "Did you get a new breast?  It looks great!" or "Did you get a new breast?  Hmm, you should get your money back."  It was false to imagine I would get affirmation for my choice to wear a prosthetic breast one day.  But I kept hoping for it as if I were sporting a new pair of glasses or shoes.  Also disappointing was how much I hated wearing a bra again.  It was the first time I'd worn a bra in months, if not a year.  I had forgotten how many millions of places it pulls and rubs and hikes and heats.  

Needless to say my shiny new prosthetic left breast is tucked away in its special box, in its original bag.  The scratchy new bras are stuffed into my overflowing (um...why?) undergarment drawer.  But they are at my disposal should I ever desire to increase my physical discomfort at the expense of my emotional comfort.  Maybe at a wedding reception with an open bar I can reconcile this dichotomy.                     


  1. Do I have any prosthesis-wearing readers who would like to add anything, particularly alternative viewpoints?

  2. Ah, I am attempting to answer for mom, Heather's grandma who also had a total mastectomy, Well, she has the opposite problem as far as the darn thing is heavy and hot! Mom has the special pocket bra and it is a wonderful device for her but in the summer she longs to get rid of the thing because it seems so heavy. I had one woman tell me once that you could make a delightful breast from an old piece of hose and some fiberfill! lightweight and you can make it any size or shape that you want. This seems like something Heather might do! Maybe a bit of double sided tape and you wouldn't even need a Bra!

  3. @Heidi (mom): Good call. Grandma is definitely like my friend Emily of

    One large breast remaining and no satisfactory balance, which is a different game than my own. My very first prosthesis-like thing was hose filled with polyfill, as I alluded to but failed to describe in

    I don't prefer it because the shape is imprecise and it tends to float around a bit, but perhaps in a larger size these problems would be avoided. The issue of a prosthesis is definitely user-dependent.

  4. Heather-

    I would say that no comments at work was a great thing. To me that says no one is looking at you straight in the breast, or lack there of, to see if something is there or not. It means (to me) that people aren't looking at you as "that girl that got breast cancer", but just the smart, smilin' awesome chick that you are!

  5. Thanks, Ami! I agree. I was mostly intrigued my my misplaced expectations.