Monday, September 01, 2008

Quick Tit Fitter

This is my husband's name for the prosthesis fitter and I like it as it makes me laugh.

N and I made our annual pilgrimage to her last week to get our falsies checked out. We've both got used to the process now, though this time we discovered that we had to wait in the main waiting room, where all the women waiting for test results have to sit - which I happen to think isn't fair on them or us.

But this is a piece I wrote the first time I went:

By November the wound had healed and I decided the time was right to visit the prosthesis fitter to get a proper “falsie”.

Up until now I'd been making do with the soft kapok prosthesis given out on the ward after the mastectomy. Having breast cancer makes you into a project manage as you try to keep track of appointments for blood tests, chemo, physio sessions and now the prosthesis fitter.

I discovered that the fitter had an open clinic at the hospital once a week and by chance her day there coincided with my next chemo, so I arrived at the hospital well before treatment, and after chalking up my name on her blackboard list took a place in the queue, which was seated in the corridor outside her door.

I felt rather out of place, as almost every other woman there was over seventy. But I got talking to the wee woman beside me, who told me that she was there to find out if she could get a lighter prosthesis, because she liked to swim as it helped her arthritis and her present one was so heavy she was in danger of sinking like a stone. She joked about being like Wilma Flintstone with a boulder in her bra.

When my turn came I found the fitter friendly and welcoming, with the no nonsense air of Girl Guide pack leader.

She sized me up with a look, which her trusy measuring tape then confirmed. She told me I was a 36, which I knew, and a C cup, which was news to me as I'd always thought of myself as a B, but then I was having to take steriods as part of the chemo regime.


Oh the irony of gaining a cup size, just as I'd lost a breast!

Then, rather like a shoe shop, she went away to the store cupboard to look out for suitable falsies for me to "try on".

This left me a bit taken aback, no-one had explain the process to me, but somehow I’d stupidly imagined that I’d get a cast made of my right boob and they’d mould a match for the left.


I should have known I’d be an off the peg girl even when it came to spare body parts! I then wondered if it really was going to be like trying on shoes, and I’d have to walk up and down the room to see if the prosthesis was a comfortable fit. She came back with three boxes, and took the first prosthesis out and expertly put it into the empty left side of my bra. It certainly wasn’t lightweight, and I immediately appreciated how much your chest wall muscles must support the weight of real breasts.

In her Yorkshire accent she said “Put your top back on love. Now I’ll stand behind you like this and pull your top tight under your bust, and we’ll check in the mirror to see if you’re in proportion and symmetrical.

Then she sighed and said “No, no, love this one won’t do. Can you see how it’s too big in the lobe area of the breast? Right let’s take it out and we’ll try another one instead.

I whipped out the prosthesis and handed it to her. It looked and felt like a jelly that had been made with too much gelatin.

She put the next one into my bra.“ Now let’s look. Oh yes that’s much better! I think that’s the one love. I’ll not try the last one, cos I know it's a bigger make than this one. Now love, you know you can get two bras a year pocketed on the NHS free of charge, just hand them in here and we’ll post them back to you. And I’ll give you a catalogue for a specialist bra company. We’ve also trained staff at John Lewis, Debenhams and Marks and Spencers to help you buy suitable bras. What to look for love is one that has good thick straps, cos you’ll have noticed that the prosthesis is heavy and also you need one with cups that come up and cover the top of the prosthetic breast. I’ll point out some in the catalogue that I recommend.”

She marked a few off in the booklet with a pen, and then she put the prosthesis into a box and handed it to me. “Now love once you are all through your treatment, you’re getting radiation are you?” I nodded. “ Well once your skin’s all settled down again come back and see me, as you might be suitable for a new prosthesis we’re trying, it has a sticky on pad, so you can wear it on the chest wall, and it’s much lighter than the one you’ve just got – but you can’t use one until you’re all through your treatment. So that’s you love, and the washing instructions are in the box, just use warm soapy water and pat it dry. That’s all there is to it really!”

I stumbled out of the room with my box, a bit gobsmacked by the woman’s Gatling gun approach, though I couldn’t fault her thoroughness.

However, the old lady I’d been talking to wasn’t wrong, the prosthesis was bloody heavy. It occurred to me if I learned to whip my bra off quickly I could readily adapt it into an offensive weapon.

Apprentice is the Bionic Woman! See her use her armour-plated bosom to clean up this town!

So just as I’d predicted at the time of my diagnosis I was now bald with one breast.

“What am I? A freak, abnormal, aberrant?” I asked myself.

It is fine to decide to be different, like being a punk or being into body piercing; but my altered body state made me realise just how much most people like to blend in, to be part of the herd, to be a person that nobody gives a second glance to, except maybe to think, “I wonder where she got those great shoes?”

And then it hit me,from here on I was going to have to work at blending in, I was going to have to think about necklines, straps, communal changing rooms, swimsuits, getting undressed on the beach etc, etc. I rather tearfully I stumbled off to chemo.

2 Comments:

Blogger BarbaraS said...

That's a great way of describing it succinctly. & making humour of it too. Still the body of the post shows what you really went through emotionally and I think it's a good thing to read about something in this way - thanks!

7:47 pm  
Blogger Kay said...

I appreciate the descriptions here of what it was like. Helps me appreciate what women have to go through after such an op as yours. And done with (as Barbara says) humour and a certain wry resignation - very real Thanks.

9:52 am  

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