In Voices - Inspirational (and sometimes funny) Stories from Breast Cancer Survivors

Again…

Raise your hand if you’re sick and tired of reading about my boobs! The only hand I see raised is that of my husband, and he doesn’t count, so here I go.

Listen, I’ve been rejected for many things in my life: the cheerleading team in 10th grade (I had to settle for Drill Team and also, those stupid Drill Team flags rejected me, forcing me to retire/be fired from, that squad very early), HOMECOMING COURT (still bitter), a cushy advertising job in LA and, most recently, the donor tissue necessary to keep my itty bitty implants securely in place. This rejection was particularly painful,  because it was…painful. No one thinks donor tissue garnered from a swine would have the audacity to not only reject my boobies, but thumb it’s nose at them, pack a suitcase and travel south toward belly button villa. It came loose, it dropped, they dropped and then I dropped…into another surgical suite.

Well, like Groundhog Day, I was again atop the OR table and again my surgeon performed the ritual I’m certain he can do both in his sleep, and while country-clubbing. I feel like the hospital  pre-op and post-op peeps are now related to me and I’m comfortable enough to walk around bare-butt and filter-free at leisure when I visit their ‘hood every third month. We don’t even pretend to be professional any longer. We exchange recipes, chat about ungrateful children and the fact everyone involved both in my surgery and in the waiting room chairs will be golfing the next day, with no care for my health, wellness and puke-to-pill ratio. We’ve all become buds. 

My kids have become completely immune and unemotional to these gala affairs. Everyone used to care. Now my 17 year-old was more concerned about scraping 59 bucks together in time for the stupid midnight release of a stupid Xbox game, and my husband was more concerned they didn’t have the ESPN station in the waiting room. I would even say irate.

BUT!  According to my phone, there was hope! 

Post-surgery, I noticed three missed calls from my recently college-bound son, Nicholas. Once awake, yet not quite myself, I called back. “Yes, Nick?” He must be so worried! Three calls! “Yeah, hey Mom. Put Dad on the phone. It’s important.”

Silence. 

“Um…Nick…didn’t you want to ask me how I’m feeling?”  

“Why? What did you do now? Did you sideswipe someone in Gerrrity’s parking lot and blame it on Grampa again?”

“Noooo…I had surgery today…” 

“OH! YES! I KNEW that! I did. I really did. You’re okay, right? I thought so. I mean, it’s like tire rotation…every few months whether you need it or not, right? Heh-heh-heh. Good job, Maria. Now give the phone to dad. It’s urgent. It’s about wrestling”.” Thank God. I thought it may have been about, you know, classes and grades and tests and crap like that. Like freaking father, like son.

My daughter, now a nursing student, came home to visit. I thought this would be an ideal on-the-job exercise for her! Help me to the bathroom! Help change my bandages! Help empty my drain! (It’s not hyperbole. It’s an actual drain attached to my breast; I’m not referring to the emptying of a urinary catheter, here. This time).

She came into my room, plopped down on the bed and stared at me. “Man, Mom, you need a makeover.”

“I have two boobs now, that’s not enough of a makeover for you?”

“You have really enormous bags under your eyes and you look so pasty! And there is a Band Aid stuck in your hair. I need to help you”.

“I’m glad to hear you say that, honey. Can you get me some ice cream?”

“You don’t need that. Too much sugar. Empty calories.  Bad. I’ll make you a nice plate of brown rice and then I’m giving you a makeover.” She will make a spectacular nurse. Very compassionate.

My anesthesiologist (in my mind) was in cahoots with my husband, and gave me enough sedation to make a horse sleep for three days. And I’m the horse. (Do horses have boobs?) So while I lie, inert, gumming my pain pills and brown rice, my daughter sets out her wares: false eyelashes, foundation, mascara, eyeliner, blush, eye shadow and some stupid thing called eye primer.  EYE PRIMER!

She got to work. And it was work. She honest-to-God gave me a makeover, post-surgery. All I wanted was some lousy ice cream. We had trouble from the get-go, when I passed-out during the false-eyelash application. The glue got stuck to my cornea. We pried it apart using a hot washcloth and a letter opener. I was good to go. By the time she was complete, I looked like Cher, off-off-off Broadway. And not the real Cher, either;  the male impersonation of Cher. And I am not judging, people. Not the way I looked. Call me Bob in Drag…with a drain.

I suppose after it was all said and done, she took my mind off my pain and gave me a useful pep talk about how I needed to combat my crêpe paper-like eyelids. It also involved surgery.

I asked: “Girl, what possesses you? I’m good enough the way I am! Good enough! Sure I’m as bruised and battered as last season’s honeydew melon, but I thought I was kind-of okay. Why am I not okay?”

She paused, looked sadly at me, took my bandaged, limp hand in hers and said: “Oh honey, okay isn’t good enough. You want to be spectacular! Do you want people to keep asking if you’re my grandmother? Heck. No. Sure, it’s what inside that makes the person, but your outside is a tad beat-up. So tomorrow…we’ll try waxing those George Bush eyebrows and your Jiunta family mustache! Fun!”

All I wanted was some lousy ice cream.

About the Author:

Maria Jiunta HeckMaria Jiunta Heck, President of Green Gables Enterprises, designer and owner of the Breast & Chest Buddy™, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and underwent a bilateral mastectomy.

As every mastectomy patient knows, our bodies become difficult to maneuver immediately following surgery, and simple tasks, such as driving a car and fastening a seatbelt prove daunting and difficult.

Because a mastectomy patient may go through multiple procedures over the next 8 to 12 months, it is imperative to cushion the delicate area where a seatbelt rests daily. A pillow is not the answer.

Since no one had ever designed a product like this at the time, she would. Thus, the Breast & Chest Buddy™ was born. Nine years and ten procedures later and Maria still wears her Breast & Chest Buddy™ every, single day.

No one understands what a mastectomy patient needs like another mastectomy patient.

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