Tales of the Wandering Boob

Posted by on 05.09.08 | 3 Comments
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This is a guest post from Susan Dearborn Jackson. She will be a regular blogger on the Virtual Tea House. Stay tuned for more adventures with Susan…and maybe even with Susan’s peripatetic boob.

In the meantime, here’s a little bio: Susan has been an astrologer for almost thirty years and has a Master’s degree in Jungian Psychology. She combines depth astrology with bioenergetics, Buddhism and dreamwork to help clients work with life’s inevitable challenges and opportunities. Susan also facilitates women’s spirituality groups and dream circles. Her passions are astrology, meditation, dreamwork, backpacking, and her large, extended, unruly family!

My mother and I are both breast cancer survivors. Mom was diagnosed in the summer of 1991 and I was diagnosed eleven years later, just before my fifty-first birthday. We both opted for mastectomies and neither one of us chose reconstructive surgery. Beyond that, our experiences were pretty different.

Mom describes breast cancer as a bump in the road while I see my experience as life-transforming. Her cancer was caught early; in my case, my lymph nodes were involved so I underwent five months of chemotherapy. I think I can speak for both of us when I say we’re happy to be alive and well years later!

What we also share is a good, although goofy, sense of humor! We’ve both found ways to laugh about what we went through and we can often get the giggles when we’re together. Since Mom lost her left breast and I lost my right, we refer to our prostheses as Pancho and Lefty. This kind of humor can drive my dad crazy, especially the time we played catch with our fake boobs. Mom and I were laughing so hard, we could hardly breathe. Dad quietly left the room, which made us laugh even harder.

Over the years, we’ve accumulated what we call our wandering boob stories, based on the times we’ve nearly lost our prostheses while swimming or gardening or whatever. Once, when Mom and I were in Mexico together, we were lolling about in the surf close to shore. Suddenly, Mom got a panicked look on her face. I swam closer to see what was wrong. All she could do was point and shout a single word, “Boob!” I looked in the direction she was pointing and there was her prosthesis floating out to sea! I launched myself into the oncoming waves, remembering all those years of life-saving and water safety instruction I’d had as a teen. Keeping my eyes straight ahead, I swam towards that small, flesh-colored bit of plastic as if it was a drowning child. And I was so proud of the rescue I made that afternoon, although I was glad I didn’t have to administer any type of resuscitation to Mom’s prosthesis!

Mom loves to tell the story of the time she went to work and was half way through her day when she looked down at her chest. To her total embarrassment, she had one enormous breast on the right side of her chest and nothing on the left side! She realized that she’d placed her prosthesis on top of her right breast, creating a kind of Dolly Parton look. It was especially funny to hear her relate this story because she’s ordinarily so flat-chested that she’d look like Dolly Parton only in her dreams…and on this one occasion!

Early on, in my own experience of wearing a prosthesis, it fell out of my bra and plopped onto the floor in my dentist’s office. I stared at my boob in horror, willing it off the floor and back into my bra where it belonged! I glanced up at the dental hygienist who was also staring at the strange object lying on the floor! With perfect nonchalance, I scooped up my boob and placed it back in my bra, saying, “That thing is always trying to run away and see the world and I just have the hardest time keeping up with it!” We both burst into laughter, although it seemed that hers was a little forced.

Another time, I’d been at a meeting and arrived home, only to discover my prosthesis was missing. I retraced my steps from the car to the house and then I tore my car apart, looking for that pesky boob of mine. Finally, I gave up and decided to call the woman whose office we’d had the meeting in. I giggled as I dialed her number, trying to imagine what I was going to say. Her message machine answered. I took a deep breathe and said, “ Hi, this is Susan. I seem to have lost my prosthesis and I’m wondering if you’ve seen it wandering around your office. If you find it, would you put it in a bag and call me? I’ll come by and pick it up.” I hung up, knowing she’d get a good laugh out of my call. A little later, I opened the drawer where I keep my prosthesis, looking for something else. There was my boob, right where it belonged! I’d forgotten to wear that day. Then, I realized I had to call the woman back and let her know I’d found my boob! I could barely speak because I kept giggling while I left her a second message. Sure enough, the next time I saw her, we both dissolved into fits of laughter!

Recently, however, I lost my prosthesis in a most unusual way. I’d been at a weekend meditation retreat and was on my way home, a couple of hours away.

I stopped to answer a call of nature about twenty miles up the road at a designated rest stop with a trail along the McKenzie river. It was deserted so I walked down the trail a little ways, answered the call, and headed back to my car. As I stepped onto the gravel, I tripped and went down like a fallen tree! Pain shot through me as my knees hit the gravel. I got up and limped the rest of the way to my car. Sitting there, I took several deep breaths, trying to calm myself down. I fished an ice pack out of my cooler, placed it on the worse of my two knees, and slowly drove the rest of the way home. Well, I thought ruefully, that was one way to get grounded!

My husband and youngest son helped me carry my bags into the house when I got home. I hadn’t been back three minutes when I discovered my prosthesis was not in my bra! That’s when it dawned on me that when I fell down, my fake boob must have popped out of my bra. The three of us began to laugh when we realized it was probably lying along the side of the road near the river. We tried to imagine what someone might think, what story they’d tell themselves about finding a prosthetic breast lying on the ground! We became more and more hysterical as we conjured up all sorts of funny scenes in our imaginations.

My husband was all for jumping into the car and driving back to the rest stop to retrieve my boob. I couldn’t imagine, however, driving four hours round-trip, even if it was a four hundred dollar prosthesis! Instead, I picked up the phone and called the state police who regularly patrolled the mountain highway. The dispatcher there gave me the local sheriff department’s number. I dialed the number and began the conversation by assuring the second dispatcher that this wasn’t a prank phone call. She was very helpful and told me that an officer would call me directly for more information. A little while later, my phone rang and it was a deputy sheriff who was also very sympathetic.

It turned out my boob was lost in a different county, however, but the officer said he’d notify the sheriff’s department in the next county. This, of course, sent my family and me into more fits of laughing, imagining the conversation taking place between the sheriffs’ departments. Would they put out an APB on my prosthesis? Would they arrest it for loitering?

The phone rang at six am the next morning. I answered it sleepily. A deputy sheriff from the other county was on the line, asking me for more details about where I’d lost “my item”. I told him and then he asked me to describe it. Sleeping next to me, my husband mumbled, “It looks like a boob.” Trying not to laugh, I said, “Well, it’s flesh-colored, soft and it looks like a breast.” On the other end of the line, the deputy never missed a beat and told me he’d call when he’d had a chance to investigate.

A couple of hours later, the phone rang again. It was the deputy sheriff who reported he’d found “my item’ and I could pick it up at the sheriff’s department.

He asked me to hold a minute while he assigned a case number to my prosthesis. I wrote the number down and told him I’d drive over to pick it up in a couple of days.

I had meeting that evening and when I told the story to my women friends, we hooted and hollered for most of the meeting over this latest episode in the travels of my prosthesis. [Editorial note: I was visiting the group that Susan mentions that evening and it was a scream. By the end of the evening, we had a YouTube video developed, complete with a theme song ‘You Can’t Touch That’…and out takes from the boob’s perspective (alone and abandoned), the attached boob’s jealousy for the wandering boob’s adventures, the sheriff’s story, the sheriff’s staff meeting, etc. When I told the story to some office mates the next morning, the merriment spread. Last night I was out having a drink after work where some of these same mates were, and I had a special request to tell ‘The Wandering Boob’ story…so this is already infamous! –Beth, VTH Host]

For any one wondering how I could lose my fake boob so often, I have to confess I don’t wear mastectomy bras. I tried to, initially, but I’m an old bra-burner from the sixties. I just couldn’t get comfortable wearing a mastectomy bra with its wide straps and reinforced back. It felt like armor so I just went back to wearing my minimal bra which was far more comfortable. It also, apparently, doesn’t hold my prosthesis in place very well.

Of course, I also called my mom to tell her my latest tale of the traveling boob.

She couldn’t wait to get off the phone so she could call her friends with another installment of the adventures of the wandering boob. She related the story to my siblings as well. My younger brother, who is a DJ at a radio station, then regaled his listening audience with the story. The phone lines were jammed at the station with people calling in, grateful for the opportunity to laugh at what isn’t a laughing matter when you receive a cancer diagnosis. He called me while he was on air, asking questions and setting me up for more laughs. I didn’t mind because I knew somewhere, someone else was going through the ordeal, some might say nightmare, of a breast cancer diagnosis. If my story could bring a smile or a laugh to that person, I’d feel great about it.

I did drive across the mountains a few days later to bail my prosthesis out of the county jail. Armed with the case number in hand, I introduced myself to the receptionist and told her I’d come to pick up my lost prosthesis. She looked at me quizzically and asked, “How in the world did you manage to lose that?” I smiled and asked her if she wanted to hear my story. She did, indeed, want to hear the tale. She buzzed me into the waiting room and called the property room. A few minutes later, an officer showed up, plain brown paper bag in hand. I couldn’t help myself as I took the bag from him. I just had to ask. “Do you always put items like this in plain brown wrappers?” I can’t say he really blushed but he did manage to mumble something about standard procedure. I replied, deadpan, “Well, this probably happens all the time.” Then, he did blush. I thanked both the receptionist and the deputy sheriff and I didn’t crack a smile until I got back out to my car.

Maybe I’ve learned my lesson and I’ll start wearing my mastectomy bra…..but I doubt it!

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