If not for the kindness of strangers
I have now joined a club I never wanted to be a member. No one does. But I will pay my dues, do my time and then drop out as quickly as possible.
Actually that’s not true. Yes, I want to resign the post “I have cancer” and replace it with “I survived cancer”, but as I have found out, this is a club that no one really leaves, they just take on new positions.
After my meeting with the surgeons at Juravinski, I was given a very large Breast Cancer Patient information package, complete with its own carry bag. Among the many pamplets, and instructions and booklets was a list of stores that sell mastectomy clothes, prosthetics, etc. I noticed that one of the stores was right by the hospital so decided to drop in. Greeted warmly as soon as I entered. “How can I help you?” asked the smiling woman coming towards me. Hmmm, how could she help me? I didn’t know. I’d never been in a store like this. What do I need to buy? I had no idea. As I started to tell her that I wasn’t sure what I wanted or needed, I felt my throat start to close and my eyes start to well up. My diagnosis was still very fresh and saying “I have cancer” out loud was and is very difficult. Immediately, the woman stepped forward, wrapped her arms around me and hugged me. This was a total stranger and yet I felt myself hugging her back and holding on for dear life. Here was someone who didn’t know me, didn’t know my story but somehow knew exactly what I needed. I needed someone to tell me it was ok. Someone to acknowledge that its alright to feel overwhelmed and someone who knew exactly what I was feeling.
She understood, as did everyone who worked in the store, because they had all been through this. They were all members of the breast cancer club and they were survivors!
I told her I had recently received my diagnosis, was having a bilateral mastectomy and was waiting a surgery date. She informed me that at this stage all I needed was a post surgery camisole. She took me over to a rack where clear packages were hanging. She grabbed one and opened it up. Inside was a sleeveless cotton tshirt/camisole with a little lace detailing on the front. She explained that they were designed to wear immediately after surgery. The camisole had some stretch to it as you have to step into it. She explained that after the surgery I won’t be able to move my arms or lift them up in order to put anything on over my head. The camisole also comes equipped with little pouches to hold the drains that will be keeping me company for weeks after the surgery. (that’s a whole other blog post to come!) I tried it on to ensure I got one large enough to pull up over my butt and into place without too much effort as I would have very limited use of my arms. I was starting to feel better. I could do this. I felt strong and confident and better informed. I went to the front counter. There were some heart shaped pillows on display that were designed to support your arms after surgery. I chose one and asked for it to be added to my bill. The saleswoman, Anne was her name, wrapped up the pillow and the camisole in pretty tissue and put them in a gift bag. She gave me her card and told me that if I ever needed anything…anything to call. If I had a question, needed advice, or just someone to talk to, not to hesitate. She rang up my purchase and said that’s $17.
Huh? I looked at her and said, I think you forgot to ring in the camisole. “Oh, no,” she said, “there’s no charge for the camisole. We give one to any woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. That is our policy.” I was floored. I was touched. And I was honoured to know that the club I had so reluctantly joined was one of understanding, compassion, empathy, support and most of all love.
Uncategorized anxiety breast cancer breast implants breast reconstruction compassion empathy Juravinski cancer centre mastectomy mastectomy bra mental health pain management positive mental attitude post surgery camisole surgery
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President of As You Like It Marketing & Communications Inc. Award winning speaker and author. Breast cancer fighter and blogger. I’m sharing my journey…the good, the bad and the ugly. Hoping to help anyone else that has been touched by breast cancer be it you or someone you know or love.
This is my favourite one yet, through all the pain and anxiety, there is always love and hope, you will soon be added to that list or survivors!