Participating in the Art Bra fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Resource Center has been a great distraction to dealing with the side effects of my illness. It has also forced me to confront truths as well. Double-edged sword–Neat!
I have performed countless Google searches to find the perfect bottom half for the Fishy Fashionista bra. (I don’t know what I would do if the Internet didn’t exist! I’m way too tired to physically shop.) I was originally thinking that I wanted a whimsical, fun skirt, but then I decided to go diva/glamorous instead. Luckily, my incessant Googling has paid off. I found a very talented crafter on Etsy who will CUSTOM MAKE a beautiful skirt! Her store is called LoveAlanaDesigns, and her tag line is: custom and handmade sequin party dresses on a budget!
Here’s the professional shot of the bra:
And the proposed skirt:
The seamstress will make the skirt long enough to cover my weird knees and form-fitting enough to adhere to my odd waist to hip ratio! I think the outfit will be complete with some silver high heels and some kind of matching headscarf–I’m not going to wear fake hair and I won’t have enough real hair either.
What do you think?
I think that there is a chance that the real me has been somewhat lost due to this whole cancer thing. I often feel a sense of the surreal when I consider my diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Who I am now and who I once was…total strangers. Well, maybe not really “strangers” but “distant cousins” or “co-workers in the same building that don’t really know each other but agree that the boss is a jerk”.
I was raised to be a strong, opinionated, independent woman. I grew up thinking that I could do almost anything. I am usually pretty good at figuring things out and I think I sometimes come across as being successful–probably because I don’t put myself in situations where I would look weak. Calculus? Fixing my own car? Poker? Asking for directions? I don’t know how to do these things. And I’m not going to try. They are probably stupid anyway.
The other day, I was really struck with how soft I’ve become since my dear husband has been serving as the caregiver above all caregivers. During the first few days after my surgery, he set his alarm for every four hours through the night to wake me for pain meds. He has been there for every appointment and recently has offered to wait in the car for hours while I attend special events. All of this is so wonderful…but it seems I’ve become accustomed to this preferential treatment. This week he has been out of town for work and I have been entrusted to drive myself to radiation every day. Seems simple, right? I was driving myself places before CANCER, surely I can do it now!
Well the other day nothing went right. My daily plan is to say that I leave work at 3:15 (which is really the window between 3:15 and 3:25). I left work at about 3:28. For some reason, I decided to take a different route to the doctor’s office. It should be noted that I have never driven this route myself and anytime I’ve been in the car for this route I have been playing Words With Friends or checking Facebook. But the drive was going well: radio blaring, me singing along like I was auditioning for American Idol, pretty scenery. Suddenly, and without warning, the gas icon decides to light up on the dash. Great! Now I have to find a gas station in a strange very-near-to-nowhere town in ruralish Texas! But this is what my trusty iPhone is for…no, not for a phone call to a friend, but for checking the Around Me app for gas stations. I was in luck, as there were seven or eight gas stations if I just turned left up ahead. What the app didn’t tell me was that the street with seven or eight gas stations was undergoing massive construction, thus causing all of the gas stations to be closed except for the one that was clearly a place where the clientele would be described as “oddly odored” or “inmate #346”. But I needed gas right then, so I pulled in and started pumping. An interesting gentleman came up and proceeded to start his gas pump too. I know I exaggerate sometimes, but this is for real: he was wearing overalls that didn’t quite button on the side (belly size), no shirt, and I’m not making this up, an actual piece of hay sticking out of his mouth. Remarkably, there was still room in his mouth for chewing tobacco–I know this because he spit a considerable stream of brownish goo very close to my feet. I thought about taking a picture to share here, but I couldn’t figure out how to do so without being detected.
I got back on the road and found the signs for the highway…but which way was right? I thought I was going to go West, but my choices were North or South. I started to panic…neither way seemed correct! I tried to get the directions to load on my phone, but the signal is awful in this town! Mercifully, the directions load, and I click start. “Turn Southeast,” it said. Southeast? I DIDIN’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH, HOW THE (bleep) WOULD I KNOW “SOUTHEAST”? I learned to drive in Southern California, where you don’t have to know trivial things like compass stuff. If there are mountains ahead and you are gaining elevation, you are going North. If you begin to smell salt water and you see the ocean, you are going South. West and East? Who cares? The mountains and the beaches are good enough!
Finally, I ended up driving in the right direction. I kept my speed at a respectable 65 MPH until I got behind the world’s slowest person. Then there was lots of traffic. Then I missed the exit. Then there was a school bus with red lights flashing. Then there was a fire truck. Then there was a red light at EVERY intersection. Then there was an accident in front of the hospital. Then I arrived. 15 minutes late. I’m pretty sure that if it could go wrong, it did.
Okay, I know that in the grand scheme of things, this wasn’t really a big deal. But in my previous life, I would have no trouble getting to the doctor. I wouldn’t be dumb enough to try a new route when I’m running late, and I certainly wouldn’t leave without noticing that I was going to run out of gas. It’s like I have completely forgotten how to take care of myself. I feel like who I was is temporarily lost. One might argue that it’s good for me to allow my husband to care for me in this time of great need, but that person is probably just taking sides. Some would tell me to accept my “new normal”, but I get annoyed by that kind of talk. (I also cringe at “breast cancer journey”. In my book, a journey is choice, and there’s no way anybody would choose a journey where the destination is cancer.)
But fear not, dear reader, this woman will continue her “journey” to seek her former self. Surely the events of this day do not constitute a sign of things to come, but rather serve as a blip on the radar of real life.
Now let’s go get a drink.
(Wait, where’s my husband? I don’t make my own drinks. Wait, what was I saying about being independent?)
I spent most of the day feeling pretty significant pain in the area that is getting daily radiation zaps. I was also willing my hair to grow faster, but it didn’t work. I am feeling great exhaustion, I am penciling more and more eyebrows everyday, and my precious puppy chewed up my Yellow Box flip flops. Sigh.
It’s a feel-sorry-for-myself kind of moment. It’s me being difficult. It’s me forgetting that I am still alive.
So I decided to turn that frown upside down by making a list of the things that don’t suck about stupid cancer.
This weekend ushered in the Art Bra Preview event at the Tanger Outlets in San Marcos, TX. 10 beautiful breast cancer survivors gathered to premiere some of the handmade bras that will be up for auction at the official Art Bra festivities on May 19.
Since the shopping area is considered “family friendly”, the bra models were asked to wear black sleeved leotards with black bottoms. I sported some black trousers with some seriously fabulous grown-up high heels. At the real event, we will be flaunting it all–no tummy hiding shirt and some fabulous bottom half (with different seriously fabulous heels)!
The moments that I liked the most about this event was the GLAMOROUS feeling of walking down the runway, posing for the cameras, and smiling like I had just won the lottery. I was the only model that decided to go with a head scarf, so I think I pretty much looked like the poster child for cancer stuff. But since this is a cancer event, I guess that makes sense. The other good thing was the fact that (finally) I wasn’t the only young person there. Art bra models come in all ages, shapes, and sizes!
Last week I went to the initial fitting for the Art Bra fundraiser for the Breast Cancer Resource Center. Of course, radiation was particularly backed up that day so I didn’t leave Texas Oncology until 5:15… And I was supposed to be downtown at 5:00! But Jeremy pointed out that the best excuse for not showing up on time to a cancer related event was cancer related therapy. I guess he’s right.
I arrived with another woman which made me feel better about being late. We walked into the BCRC library to see tables filled with the most amazing bras I have ever seen. (if you want an idea of how creative people can get with bras, try Googling “art bra” and click on images…wow!) I was met by a woman who told me, “welcome! The room is full of naked ladies trying on bras!” I went over to the tables and had no idea where to start. At first it was kind of intimidating since I don’t really fill out any kind of bra that well. And getting naked with mastectomy scars in front of strangers? Yeah right. I was wearing one of those strappy, form-fitting tank tops, and I figured I could judge the fit even with that on. I tried on my first bra: a masterpiece of royal purple jewels sewn into intricate flowers. I decided the tank top was definitely in the way, and besides, what better gathering of people to understand scars and tissue expanders than this particular group? So off with the top and on with bra fitting!
I tried on several entires: a Mardi Gras number with beads, coins, and feathers. A blooming bouquet of hot pink roses. A double ladybug. A light green with vines that made me think “forest nymph”. The idea behind trying on several bras was to find a good fit and a good color. One of the ladies was taking pictures of us with the bras on so the committee could later decide the best choice for each model. And our job was to pick our top three bras. Finally, I hit the jackpot when I tried on the bra titled “Fishy Fashionista”. It is blue with fish swimming around and there are these clear curly things hanging down that seem like waves. I put it down as my first choice…and I got it!
Now I need to decide what the bottom half will be. I have been scouring the Internet for something fun, and I have a few ideas. I can sew, so I might make something. I think a skirt is in order, probably some kind of chiffon–I’m thinking flowy/swishy. I’m toying with the idea of a mermaid or trumpet shape skirt, maybe in white or silver. I am curvy, so something fitted around the waist and hips and then flouncy will be the best bet for my figure. I even found a pattern for a skirt with an actual fish tail! I don’t want the skirt to be too flashy though, since the bra is the true art on display.
If you have any best ever ideas for the bottom half of a “Fishy Fashionista”, please let me know. All ideas are welcome!
This is so exciting!
Back in October When I was still reeling from the news that I had been diagnosed with cancer, I was offered a black and pink tote bag filled with information about breast cancer and programs offered by the Breast Cancer Resource Center (BCRC) of Austin. I accepted this gift with distaste…
“You’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, but we have this lovely parting gift for you, enjoy!”
I never imagined actually using this bag. I did not need a reminder of CANCER hanging on my shoulder, especially since I knew I would end up with scars and fake breasts that would do all the reminding I would ever need. As usual, however, I was all wrong about the bag. Inside, there was a pretty handmade pillow that would serve as a lifesaver when I was recovering from mastectomy surgery. While I was in the hospital, a representative from the Breast Cancer Resource Center stopped by my room and gave me a special handmade tank top that held the post-surgery drains that dangled from my body. I wore that special top every day for nearly two weeks. What became readily apparent was the fact that the folks at the BCRC were serious about support–the bag was just the beginning.
BCRC has offered me other modes of support including a patient navigator to talk with on the phone, a message board and website to discuss treatment (and to vent), and special luncheons to connect with other survivors. Good Stuff. It is so comforting to connect with people that know how I feel. (This is a big deal for me since I have spent most of my life NOT talking about how I feel.)
The big fundraising event for this organization is called Art Bra Austin, and it involves breast cancer survivors modeling special bras that have been created by anyone who wants to be artsy crafty with unmentionables. At first, I scoffed at the idea of modeling a bra. Not only am I in the worst physical shape of my entire adult life, I have no hair, I’m losing my eyebrows, my breasts (tissue expanders) are just weird, and I still have surgical scars.
I also thought that the women who participate must be the bravest people in the entire world.
I saw photos from past Art Bra events, and many of the women were just like me. Radiation redness, jiggly parts, bald heads. But their faces told another story. They looked confident, excited, and ALIVE. What a wonderful celebration of life! So when the call came for survivor models, I filled out the paperwork. I sat there for a few beats, my finger hovering over the Send button. Finally, I took a deep breath and sent off my forms. When I told my husband, his reaction was shock and then he said he was really proud of me.
I don’t know much about what I will wear or how the evening will go yet, but between now and May, I will particiapte in orientation, fittings, and model school. There’s even a few pre-event events where the models drum up support by showing off the bras at local shopping areas! Oh, and I’ll probably need a spray tan. We don’t need my Irish paleness to blind the audience!
BCRC proudly introduces the hottest ticket in town, Art Bra Austin!
Join us for an event as funky, fierce, and feminine as the breast cancer survivors we serve. Art Bra Austin will showcase an array of eclectic art bras, modeled by BCRC clients and advocates – all of whom are breast cancer survivors. This fundraiser is a tribute to their fighting spirit.
Presented by the Linda P. Acosta Foundation, Art Bra Austin is Saturday, May 19, 2012 from 7 – 11 p.m. at the Austin Music Hall.
An outtake from the bag and pillow photo session…Maggie Mae the Photo Assistant!
Each day when I awaken, there is a nanosecond where I am oblivious to the fact that I am bald. Unfortunately, somewhere along the course of my life, I picked up the habit of touching my hair when I wake up–so every morning is immediately met with a hair loss reminder.
But a few mornings ago, I awoke to feel actual hair growing from my head. It felt fine and wispy, but it was hair! I stumbled out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. Did I really grow hair overnight? I gazed into the mirror and saw it…three or four inches of actual brown hair growing from my scalp! I began to run my fingers through this miracle, and then…and then…
I woke up.
It was all a dream. My pasty head was still bare. It seemed so real, but I guess it was all just wishful thinking.
A few weeks ago, my daughter Grace was getting ready to attend her cheer leading banquet. She asked me to do her hair, which is something I’ve done a million times. Her hair was slightly damp, so I got out my round brush and hair dryer. I clipped her hair into sections and began brushing, rolling, and drying. Her hair flowed so easily through the brush and lightly fell to her shoulders. I curled the ends under, relishing the squeak of the curling iron barrel and inhaling the scent of warm smoothing serum. Her hair felt so much like my hair–the texture, the weight. I had to fight back tears as I worked.
I even got emotional when cleaning my bathroom last week. Even though my hair has been gone for over two months, I still find strands of my once long hair trapped in the corners of the room (and, yes, we have cleaned the bathroom in the past two months). The other problem with my bathroom is the over-abundance of hair bands, head bands, and general hair adornments under the sink. It just seems that there are so many reminders everywhere I look.
Guys, I miss my hair so much. Sure, I don’t have to shave and I can sleep in since I don’t have to do my hair, and I know I should be thankful that the treatment I have been offered will help me live a full life, but this business of being bald sucks. A woman’s hair can be a beautiful and powerful asset, and while I know hair doesn’t truly make up who I am, I still miss it with an ache in my gut. I have a wig, some scarves, and some hats (and they’re cute), but none of them make up for the feeling of normal hair. I know my hair will eventually grow back, but it’s not coming in soon enough. I figured that I would have some kind of growth by a month after chemo ended, but alas, no such luck. The other women I’ve talked with say it took a good three to four MONTHS before they felt that there was enough hair to call hair. Three or four months? That seems like and eternity to me right now.
I want my hair back and I want it now. (insert pouty face, foot stomping, and crossed arms here)
(insert frowny face, abrupt turn, flop on couch here)
(now insert sigh that signals a resigned feeling since tantrum is over)
(finally, look at children and husband and be thankful for life)