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

Once More, With Feeling…

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water…er…I mean, bra…it happened. Yes, The Girls are being usurped, yet again. One more surgery was in store for Laverne (Shirley was safe, for now) and I was flustered. I had done everything right! I was a good little breast cancer patient! I did all things required of me…yet, apparently, I had not done enough to check off the booby box forever.

It was just a little transmission tweaking. A little donor-tissue rejection. Listen, I’ve been rejected by mightier things…like the Flying Falcon at Hershey Park, because I didn’t measure up to the Twizzler on  the size chart required for that thrill ride. (I was, instead, a Hershey Bar. I am certain the fun-sized version). But this was my body signaling to a significant development upon my chest that it wasn’t interested in being married any longer. The donor-tissue separated from its surrounding neighborhood, making a narrow escape route for my little faux-booby. Once the tissue decided to abandon me…that silicone cumquat started the slippery slope of downward spiraling, until I felt sure one day I would go to the bathroom and evacuate an implant. It can happen. In my mind.

Look, I’m not a vain woman. Don’t you think if I were vain, I would’ve had my nose fixed by now? My tummy tucked and put away for winter? My frown lines sand-blasted and paved?  My knees caps-suctioned and re-arranged so they didn’t look like twin wheels on a Tonka truck? But, I think was just out of patience and a little exasperated. It had been a year and by God, I wanted to be upright and balanced. You know, more like a sober person.

I decided to visit my brother-in-law, the plastic surgeon. Let the family deal with my neurosis this time. Off I flew to Atlanta to have everything snipped, tucked, folded, re-molded and resurrected. It was minor surgery, but I really don’t do minor. Not a hangnail, not a varicose vein and certainly not my rack. Post-surgery,  I stayed in Georgia for just a few days because it’s nicer to be narcotically-saturated  in my personal bed and throwing-up in my own vomit-bowl rather than that of a surgical hostess. (On weekends, by the way, this bowl serves double duty as the popcorn bowl. Don’t say I didn’t warn you). 

The problem with flying home so soon after this procedure is the fact that I still had a surgical drain attached to my “area”. Picture a long tube with an udder on the end. It’s a charming, elegant sight. I had to find a shirt, or circus tent, big enough to cover the damn thing for the flight home. I really did feel like a cow and not a cute Holstein either, but a blonde, woozy, garden-variety bovine, too old for slaughter and not cute enough to skin for a rug. I just couldn’t wait to get through Security and slither gingerly onto that plane.

Security. They had me in their proverbial crosshairs from the moment I tried to stumble through the metal detector with an enormous water balloon swinging from my breast. Beep. Step back. Beep. Step Back. Beep.  I explained to the humorless security guard that I had just had surgery and was sporting a sweet mechanism which prevents blood clots and other ickiness. I assured him that if it weren’t stitched into my body, I would have gladly yanked it out and flung it into his tray. I mean, if he suspected I was a drug mule transporting illegal narcotics in my drain, wouldn’t it behoove me to be taking them myself at this point? Finally, per a supervisor who took pity on me and was scared by my red-faced hysterics, and consequential hives, I was passed through. 

The rest of the airport trek was rough. I scuffled along trying to figure out where the heck Gate 32 was; I feared it was on the other side of Hell. I tell you…walking is hard after surgery…but piecing together my two-pronged itinerary was not for the faint –hearted or over-medicated. I was a hot, freaking mess.  Happily, I found comfort in two Percocet and four Cinnabon. 

The flight was adventuresome. I won’t go into detail…but I should write a letter of apology  to that nice Scandinavian boy who drew the short straw and got stuck in the seat next to mine. It’s bad enough I hit him in the head with my drain as I was attempting to crawl into my seat, and after a few “beverages” told him it was an oxygen mask…but he also had to witness my panoramic up-chuck moment where my complimentary peanuts were revisited. He will never visit America again, I fear.

The chassis is tuned-up and I’m ready to go. I’m good for now. However, whatever happens next, and wherever I must go, rest assured, I’m taking the bus, Gus. Drug mule, or not.

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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