One of the hardest things I have had to deal with in this post-mastectomy life is not really knowing what to do with redundant items such as bras.
Not actually having to ever ,ever, EVER wear a bra again thanks to my new bionic boobs and the lack of nipples – yes I know TMI! Doesn’t sound like too much of a challenge to most women, right?! But when you have worn a bra for more than – dare I say it – 3 decades, the not wearing of a bra is pretty hard to get your mind around.
For me it was like being told I had to immediately hand in another well-worn security blanket! I certainly didn’t feel like dancing around sans bra shouting I’m free, I’m free – like you think you would! Sorry to break that to the radical women’s libbers out there!
So just wear the bras you say, after all at least I have the (bionic) boobs to put in them…
Ah…. but not so fast… it’s a little more complicated than that…isn’t it always!? (Yes I am well aware that not only am I talking to, but also answering myself!).
Not only can I not wear my old faithful underwire bras due to them severely restricting lymph drainage and perhaps lead to head explosions; they’re just not supportive enough under my right arm (partly due to their beautiful lace detail) and therefore unable to contain that darn attractive pocket of lymph.
I know this because despite all the warnings to the contrary… I’ve tried!
So my drawer, full of almost brand new and not so new lacy, padded underwire bras, have taunted and terrified me for the last year and a bit.
The first few months post- surgery with my pre-pubescent chest were the hardest, I could not bring myself to even look at them, a glaring and obvious reminder of exactly what had been surgically removed. What followed were stages of similar trauma: the stage where I-could-look-at–them-but-not-touch and then the I-could-look-and-touch-but-not-remove-them-from-the-drawer.
I guess you don’t have to be a Psychologist to understand the reasoning: the inability to move on and be willing to let go in order to fully accept all the realities of a life after cancer. It was like ripping away, with less surgical precision, another part of ME.
Silly really I suppose, considering everything else that happened and has been overcome in the last year and 5 months.
How healthy is it anyway – hanging on to things which are a constant reminder of the self- perceived freak I’ve become?
What the Psychologists will tell you however, is that with every loss, you have to go through every single one of the 5 stages of grief to truly heal….
1. DENIAL – I don’t care what anyone says I will wear whatever bra I want to.
2. ANGER – Darn it, why does this bra not fit me!
3. BARGAINING – OK, maybe if I lose some weight and stuff my right side with socks it will fit!
4. DEPRESSION – Now I just look ridiculous!
5. ACCEPTANCE – **sigh** I think I need to find something that fits me better….
There are no precise dates or guidelines on just how long this process takes. With time, those threads binding you to a previous life become looser until one day they no longer control every aspect of your waking moments; and when you need to start making excuses in order to keep a tight hold on them. Eventually it does happen… you open your aching fists and let go (I feel a Frozen song coming on) and even if initially you fall down in a heap, that first step into the unknown future has been taken.
Or maybe when you just get fed up of being held hostage by a drawer full of bras!
My breakthrough moment, a month or two back, happened more out of necessity and a compulsion to avoid becoming the new reality TV star of Hoarders SA! I packed my draw full of bras into a bag to make way for my new life of utilitarian styled underwear. Wider straps, wider bands, non-wire, non-lacy, non-feminine “bras.
My old life bras were moved into the spare room waiting for a chance at re-homing. And so it began, the ok-so-they’re-in-a-bag-now-what stage!
Then a few weeks ago while attending a R 4 R meeting in Durban I heard about their Ditto project. Basically this a programme has been created to help fund silicone prosthesis to women who cannot afford the hefty price tags of these products, or for women who can’t afford to or who have choose not to undergo reconstructive surgery.
The project’s aim is to allow all women a chance at a normal (dignified) life no matter their financial restrictions after undergoing breast cancer surgery. (The soft prosthesis the volunteers hand out at hospitals really is a temporary “fix” until physical wounds heal and until the patients can be fitted with a more permanent prosthesis or until they undergo reconstruction).
A truly incredible and oh so necessary project!
With a single silicone prosthesis costing around R1000+, prospective recipients are asked to pay a donation of what if they can afford and the balance is sponsored by donations from the Ditto project.
But what she said next broke my heart: She found that some ladies were unable to be fitted with prosthesis as they could not even afford a bra to put it in. I must admit the lump in my throat got a little bigger when I thought of those bras lying in their bag gathering dust at home.
So here’s my appeal to you – if you are reading this and have ANY bras lying in your drawers at home gathering dust and taking up space because you may have “out grown” their use (especially after Christmas!) or perhaps because you bought them and then realised they were the wrong size or colour and never got around to taking them back….Please include your email address in the comments below. I will send you my postal address and you can pop them in a padded (excuse the pun!) envelope and post them off to me; or if you are local and want to drop them off or want me to collect, please just let me know…
And make a real difference in a woman’s life, when she needs it the most.
I’ll be brave and let mine go to a good home too – I promise!
If you would like to read more about Project Ditto please go to http://www.reach4recovery.org.za/the-ditto-project/
“The truth is, unless you let go, unless you forgive yourself, unless you forgive the situation, unless you realize that the situation is over, you cannot move forward.”
― Steve Maraboli
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
― Ann Landers
“The day I understood everything, was the day I stopped trying to figure everything out. The day I knew peace was the day I let everything go.”
― C. JoyBell C.