I was somewhat shocked when, just a few days after my 39th birthday, I had a miscarriage.

Summer is historically my favorite time of the year, but to spend a June mourning the loss of a child that my husband and I were excited for dampened my surfing plans.

I lay in bed one night, trying to make sense of it all. My hands wandered about my body as they do sometimes. That’s when I discovered a grape-sized knot in my left breast.

One doctor’s appointment led to an ultrasound, which led to a radiologist. She approached my bedside. “This looks very worrisome,” she said. “We should schedule a biopsy, and soon.

“How’s today?” I asked. I couldn’t think of anything more important.

What followed was months of prodding, touching, stabbing, photographing and examination. The first biopsy came back benign, but that didn’t explain the “uneven border” or the “increased vascularity in the area,” a type of vein growth which is sometimes a sign of cancer. Another biopsy with MRI followed, one of the most horrific and fearful things I’ve had the displeasure of experiencing. But again, the tumor was found to be benign.

“I would normally suggest we just monitor it, but since you’re planning to start a family, I say let’s get it out,” my surgeon said. “We won’t be able to properly monitor it if you are pregnant. So let’s just deal with it.”

 

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The day of surgery came fast. I woke up feeling strong but then broke down into tears over breakfast. I just hoped everything would go all right and be over quickly. As far as diagnoses were concerned,

I had been lucky. I held onto that and prayed for the first time in recent memory.

I had been lucky. I held onto that and prayed for the first time in recent memory.

Later that morning, I had a little more luck: I awoke from a successful surgery in the recovery room.

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As I got home and settled back into my familiar surroundings, the anesthesia made my thoughts dance. I noticed the 1950s style beige halter bra I was put into after surgery. It had a strip of Velcro down the front middle — easily opened, but not for sex, sadly. The ice pack the hospital provided was awkwardly spilling out the front of the bra, making it hard to keep the bra shut. It pushed into my tender breast, causing discomfort.

My medical team was truly wonderful — compassionate, humane and skilled. I was given a folder full of information to read through for my surgery, but here are a few things they forgot to mention which could be helpful for others to know, plus some fixes I recommend.

1. They give you a breathing tube during surgery, and I woke with a hoarse voice.

FIX: Bring some cough drops or ginger ale, or ask someone to bring a cup of hot tea to soothe your throat afterwards.

2. The bra they give you after surgery is an ugly medical jobby that does the trick but lacks heart.

 

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FIX: If you’re not handy yourself, enlist a seamster friend to add two strong Velcro strips or a row of eye hooks to the front of a cheerful, colorful sports bra. Just be sure to add a small amount of room to account for any swelling — you don’t want the ice packs pushing too hard into your surgery wounds. If your pal is particularly savvy, have them add lined “insert” pockets (like the kind you’d see on a bra where you can add or remove padding) to hold the ice packs. Before surgery, give the bra to the nurses so they can put it on you after your procedure.

Sports bras are recommended in lumpectomy literature, because holding everything “in place” is useful and comfortable for some people during their healing process. You know the bazoombas — always bouncing around with every hop or any time you bend over. After surgery, every shake and shimmy reverberated through my breast and sent pain rippling down my body. Though the ’50s bra was a sad sight, the way it cupped and hugged my chest tightly helped to keep things from moving, helped my stitches stay intact and helped me heal faster.

3. They gave me an ice pack at the hospital, but it was not exactly “breast sized.”

FIX: Store a flat, squishy ice pack in the freezer ahead of surgery to help soothe your breast after. Look for a circle-shaped ice pack and order two to three in advance, or have your seamster friend make ice packs that are round and flat and can fit into your snazzy sports bra. Rubbermaid sells a “Blue Ice” product which comes in a sheet of small rectangles, which you can freeze and cut to fit. You might also suggest a product to your local drug store and ask them to order and consider carrying it for women recovering from lumpectomy and other breast operations.

4. After my lumpectomy, I found it difficult to sleep on the side that was healing.

FIX:  I dreamed up an invention that would offer a simple solution. A sand-filled pouch could be ideal for placing under a breast to allow for comfortable resting on one’s side during recovery. Enlist that seamstress friend, or find a soft sandbag, the kind that come filled with spices and sand and make your dresser drawers smell pretty.

 

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5. I found it nearly impossible to locate a good lumpectomy recovery bra.

FIX: In my research, I learned that many people have requested that Victoria’s Secret create bras that cater to those with breast cancer. They have not done so, and sales associates aren’t trained to fit people who have undergone breast surgeries. Yet, the company sends me a free undies coupon every month. I say keep the free undies coupon and use that money to research and create a bra for ladies who’ve had breast surgery.

6. After a couple days of recovery, getting dressed and out into the world again took some thought and planning.

FIX: I bundled up in a coat though it was a warm day and draped scarves over myself, to save others the awkward discomfort of seeing an ice pack on my chest.

“What happened?” they might ask. “Tit problems,” I would respond.

“What happened?” they might ask. “Tit problems,” I would respond.

But here’s a free idea: Someone create a line of shirts, sweaters, blouses, scarves and jackets that will consider the public healing process and help a woman to look and feel human again — especially during summer months. Maybe shirts would include a pocket for ice inserts and fit snugly against the body and breast(s).

These ideas and surely others represent many products that don’t exist for women who are going through the process of a lumpectomy (removal of a benign or malignant breast tumor) or who have had a biopsy or MRI with biopsy, or other procedures that would leave breasts feeling sore.

There are thankfully quite a few products out there for women who have had mastectomies. But with breast cancer among women on the rise (we have been told to expect 50% more cases by 2030, according to the National Cancer Institute), these are products that we can’t wait for anymore.

If you are inspired by some of these ideas and would like to put them out into the world, please do. If you strike it rich, think of me and my breast that inspired it all, and send my cut to PayPal.

On a serious note, I’ll help anyone who wants to do this. I’ll offer brain power, contacts, resources and more, because I truly believe that every woman should at least be afforded comfort during the traumatizing experience of being diagnosed with breast cancer or undergoing breast procedures of any kind.

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