Today, I made a trip to that necessary store. The store I visited is named “Renewal”. They sell everything related to breast cancer – bras, prostheses, wigs, turbans, etc. It’s a really nice store and is run by a couple of Christian women. As soon as you enter the store, you feel total peace. That peace doesn’t come from the soft music playing in their overhead speakers, although that’s part of the ambiance I really love, no…it comes from a spirit of love that dwells there. These women consider their store a ministry. They want women who’ve suffered trauma in their lives to know they are loved, to know they are seen, and to know they are understood. I like it there. It’s a great place and this would be my second visit to the shop in the last two years.
Last year, I must have looked like a deer caught in headlights when I entered their store. Wide eyed and scared, I was just a couple of weeks post surgery and my incisions hadn’t fully healed. The women were so tender and kind to me. They took their time and were extremely patient. I was thankful because I had no idea what I was doing. Today, I felt like I was going back to visit old friends.
I entered the store and was welcomed by the owner. We talked a few minutes and then got down to business. I explained I was here for my annual bra purchase and to pick out new prostheses. My insurance company allows 4 bras a year and new prostheses every 2 years. I was taken into the back of the store to a fitting room and there, I began to undress. I felt so much more comfortable this time and I think it was because I knew what to expect.
The owner asked me some questions about my bras. She wanted to check the fit, especially the band that fit just below my bust line. She explained it was very important for that band to fit snugly against my chest wall. If it didn’t, the breast forms would slip and sag causing back pain. After taking a few measurements, she found the bra I was wearing was 2 sizes too big. I’d lost weight since my last fitting and that had affected my bra size. Next we discussed the prostheses. She asked if I wanted to stay with the same kind I’d purchased 2 years ago. They were unique because they were made with a special cooling gel layer. It was meant to fit right next to the chest wall and remain cool throughout the day. If I wanted to keep that kind, I’d need to stay in the same size range as before. Those types of prostheses were flat and fit close to the body. They did not project like normal breast tissue and they were much lighter weight than regular prostheses. I explained to the fitter that I was hoping to find something with a little more OOMPH. She laughed and said she knew exactly what product I’d like. I watched as she searched through stacks of boxes. She was diligently seeking something particular. Within a few minutes, she had two light pink boxes in her hands and inside were silicone prostheses. She had chosen prostheses in sizes 8 and 9. Prostheses come in numerical sizes according breast size, body height and weight. I had been wearing a 7, she explained and now would need to step up to an 8 or 9. After searching high and low, the owner could only find one size 8 breast form and one size 9. She said we’d have to just work with what we had, so she slipped the size 8 in the left side of my mastectomy bra and asked me how it felt. It was a lot heavier than I expected! The size 7 I’d been wearing was very light. Then, she slipped the size 9 in the right side of my bra and asked how it felt. The right side of my bra sagged down lower with the weight of the size 9 form in it. I knew it was much too heavy for me so I told her I thought I’d go with an 8. Both the 8 and 9 were B cups. The size 7 I’d been wearing was a AA! The difference in cup size along with the increase in breast form size accounted for the increased weight of the new breast forms. I wondered exactly how much they weighed. Out of curiosity, I’d taken my size 7 AA prostheses and weighed them on my postal scale. The two prostheses and the bra weighed a whopping 5 pounds! That’s a lot to carry around on your chest and now, I was going to be wearing even more weight with the new breast forms. (I wondered how the nurse at my doctor’s office would react the next time she took me to the scale for a weigh in and instead of just removing my shoes before getting on the scale, I unsnapped my bra and whipped it off, too. Afterall, that weight is artificial and shouldn’t really be counted into my actual body mass if it’s not really my own flesh and blood, right?! 5-10 pounds less could make a huge difference in my favor!)
The owner stepped out of the fitting room to allow me time to get dressed. As I put on my clothes, I tiptoed out into the hallway to look at all the boxes of prostheses just outside my room. There were shelves of boxes stacked up to the ceiling. They must do a lot of volume here, I thought to myself. I wondered if I had made the right choice in going with a size 8 prosthesis.
At the register, I watched the owner tally up the sale on her little order form. I listened to Chris Tomlin singing “How Great is Our God” as she totaled everything. The total was just under $1000!!! I almost fainted until I heard her say, “Don’t worry, sweetie. You’ve already met your deductible for the year so you’ll only have to pay your 20%.” Whew!!! I was so thankful we had insurance! I wondered how women without insurance manage to buy their prostheses. Each prosthesis cost between $300-$500 and each bra cost between $40-$75. Thankfully, our insurance allows me to get 4 new bras a year and a new set of prostheses every two years. Not all insurance plans are as generous.
At the end of this week, I’ll go back to pick up my order. I think I’ll suggest, to the owners of Renewal, they make a “play area” for the women who’ll come in this year for their first set of breast forms. They could display various sizes and styles of prostheses in an attractive way and put up little signs that say, “Give me a squeeze!” or “Feel me Up!” It might help ease the tension just a bit and allow first timers a chance to laugh before getting down to business. It’s a scary thing to choose new breasts when you’d much rather have the real ones back but, it can also be fun if you look at it through eyes of gratitude. I’m grateful to be alive. I’m grateful for insurance. I’m grateful for lifelike breast forms that allow me to feel normal even when I know I’m not. I’m also thankful for sweet, Christian ladies who have hearts of gold. They temper love with a Christlike attitude of service and that makes all the difference in the world.
Maybe “Boobs R Us” isn’t such a great name for a shop that sells prostheses. I think Renewal is much better. The dictionary defines renewal as:
- the act of extending the period of time when something is effective or valid : the act of renewing something
- the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again : the state of being renewed
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