Like almost the entirety of this past month, last weekend was a little less crazy, still emotional, but with a side of acceptance and a heaping helping of gratitude.

On Friday I went to Nordstrom to get fitted for my post surgical camisole.  My breast oncologist (Dr. Javid) wrote me a prescription for this top, which is a combination compression top, mastectomy bra, drain holder, and camisole.  In case you were wondering, it is almost exactly 0% sexy.  I went to the lingerie section of Nordstrom and was taken back to their secret sad-story lair.  It actually was quite nice (and not really all that sad), private, full of breast cancer survivor magazines, all things pink, and very much related that very popular trademarked purpose, which I shall not mention because DON’T SUE ME.  I had a choice between a top that zipped down the front and one that I could step into and pull up to my body.  Since I’m having the DIEP reconstruction, the zippered cami was really the only viable option.  I understand the other top is a very good option for mastectomy patients, but I’ll have the large, hip-to-hip incision and drains which I don’t think I could manage pulling a compression garment over.  The private sales woman was very polite, helpful, and not too “Oh, I’m so sorry you’re here” faced.  She filled out all of the paperwork so that Nordstrom could bill my insurance directly, and she also let me know that my insurance would pay for three new bras after my surgery (and Nordstrom provides a free fitting).  I was really quite surprised and pleased that Nordstrom provides this service.  I didn’t know Nordstrom had a Prosthesis Program and was glad that such a service exists.

But, of course, the emotional kicked in when I was standing there waiting for the sales woman to come back with my paperwork and I thought not about myself, for once this week, but about my sister.  My sister, Alyssa, had the support and resources of her husband, her oncology center, and a plethora of physicians and nurses during her surgeries and treatment.  Alyssa is married to a pretty amazing man.  I know that he went with her to as many appointments as he could manage (with his work and their family to tend to).  A parade of family supporters (her mother-in-law, our mom, and our two older sisters) was able to go, to Idaho to help her and the kids, but I couldn’t go.  I couldn’t be there with her for any of her journey, to help her, hold her hand or empathize, like she is going to be able to for me.  At the time of her diagnosis and treatment, I was a brand new mom and, as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t pack the newborn twins in the car and head to Idaho to be with her. So, standing there in Nordstrom’s lingerie section, I thought about how isolating this feels and how I hoped that she never felt alone during her process.  Because, while there are hundreds of thousands of women who go through a version of this process every year, it can feel like you’re an island.  I hope my sister, or any other person going through something similar, never feels like that.  Alone.  Isolated.  Even I felt a little twinge of that standing in the middle of Nordstrom, looking at fancy underthings and butt floss that I couldn’t even begin to figure out how one would get on.

I also thought about how different it’s going to be when I come back here to buy new bras.  I often wonder if I’ll be self-conscious about my scars and how my reconstructed breasts will look in the women’s locker room.  I wonder if, when they’re older, my girls will ask to see my scars and reconstructed breasts and if I’ll be brave enough to show them.

And, here again, is when I think about my sister.  I think about how grateful I am that she was diagnosed at such an early, treatable stage of breast cancer.  About how painfully lost I would be if this disease took her life instead of her breasts.  I think about when I saw her after she was done with chemotherapy and recovered from her mastectomy and hysterectomy, she showed me her scars.  She was a little bit shy, a little slack in the shoulders, and maybe a little self-conscious.  She stood in my bedroom with her shirt off, changing her clothes, and said, “I look like a prisoner of war!”  I remember laughing at her joke and great sense of humor, but just wanting to sit there and cry for a minute.  I thought about telling her that she was still beautiful and amazing and more than her scars.  That day, I saw that she was there in front me, tactile, alive and well.  And I didn’t see her scars because I saw, instead, her life before me as well as her days full of vibrant, healthy life ahead of us, and it was one of the most amazingly beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.  I hope that I am able to see myself in this same light after all of this is said and done.

I am smart enough to recognize, and be eternally grateful, that I am lucky enough to be proactively removing my breasts.  I get a very rare chance to prevent breast cancer instead of treating breast cancer.  Too many women never have this opportunity.