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The Prize No One Wanted

A few months ago at my support group meeting I was declared the winner of the “prize no one wanted.”

What was the prize you might ask?

Well, it was a bathing suit of all things. And not just any bathing suit, a mastectomy bathing suit, one to be worn with or without prosthetic inserts.

Just want I always never wanted, a mastectomy bathing suit.

Even back in my younger days, when I looked “alright” in a bathing suit, I didn’t much care for them. First of all, I never really learned to swim very well. I did take a few swimming lessons as a Girl Scout and for a summer or two when I visited my grandparents, but I never really “took to the water.”

When you can’t swim very well, don’t sunbathe because you have very fair skin and generally don’t care to parade around in a bathing suit, there’s never a great desire to shop for one, wear one or much less win one.

But win one I did!

Anyway, back to the meeting…

At my monthly support group meetings, the first hour is spent on a presentation generally given by an expert on the subject at hand. Topics like recurrence, reconstruction, exercise, finances, and the like are covered. They have been quite informative, plus we are served a light supper while we listen, which is always lovely. The second half of the meeting is devoted to discussion of the evening’s topic or whatever else we choose to talk about.

At this particular meeting a very compassionate “bra fitter” and “prosthesis fitter” spoke about the services her specialty shop provides. She concluded her presentation by generously announcing, “Everyone please be sure to sign up for your chance to win a free bathing suit.”

The prize was displayed on a mannequin at the front of the room. Of course, it looked great on the mannequin.

Glancing around the room I could tell no one was really all that thrilled by this particular prize prospect, me included. None-the-less I signed up. How could I not?

Although, one woman did say, “Absolutely not, I’m not interested.”

She refused to put her name in the jar.

At the end of the meeting when the time came for the winner’s name to be drawn from the glass jar, I somehow knew my name was going to be the one drawn out.

Sure enough, I was right.

My name was announced and I was declared the winner.

Everyone else seemed relieved.

It was the prize no one really wanted.

I didn’t either, but of course, I smiled and said thank you so much. I didn’t want to appear ungrateful, even though I was.

If truth be told, the reason I signed up for the drawing was because since my bilateral mastectomy, I haven’t been able to find a bra I can comfortably wear for more than a few hours at a time. So when this opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it. I wasn’t interested in the bathing suit. No, I was interested in the bras. In addition to the bathing suit, the fitter had also brought along lots of bras for display at our support group meeting.

The bras definitely caught my interest.

Fast forward a couple of months, February to be exact.

Since hubby and I had a vacation planned, I figured what better time to go and retrieve my prize?

So in February I finally got up the gumption to make an appointment to collect my prize. Yes, I actually needed an appointment. Imagine having a bra fitting and bathing suit fitting appointment all rolled into one.

What fun!

When I arrived at the pharmacy, yes, I said pharmacy, I met my fitter and we proceeded to a large private dressing room actually located in a different building entirely. The dressing room had walls with shelves floor to ceiling holding plastic bins, each filled with bras. I had never seen so many bras in one place.

“What size do you wear?” the fitter asked me.

“I have no idea anymore,” I told her. This reconstructed bosom is still more than a bit of a mystery to me.

“Well, to save time, do you mind if I stay in the room while you’re trying some on?” the fitter asked me.

“No, I don’t mind,”  I answered. “Modesty, what’s that?”

We looked a few over; made some choices and then the fitting and trying on began.

However, when it came time to switch to trying on the bathing suits, I bluntly told her in no uncertain terms, “You’ll need to leave now.”

Some things are for my eyes only.

There’s nothing like trying on bathing suits to strike “fear” in the hearts of women, me included.

At the end of my session, I left with three new bras and the “prize no one wanted,” my new mastectomy bathing suit.

The funny thing is now a couple of months later, two of the three bras have been returned; not comfy after all.

As for the bathing suit, I kind of like it – only because it’s really comfortable.

Who would have thought?

As it turns out, I sort of like my “prize that no one wanted.”

I said sort of.

Finally, I just have to share some wise words my friend Sarah, of Being Sarah, said to me when I mentioned my prize that no one wanted.

She said, “Yes, Nancy, the bathing suit is the prize no one wanted, but of course, the real prize no one wanted here is cancer.”

Exactly, Sarah. Exactly.

Have you ever won a prize you didn’t really want?

Have you had difficulty finding comfortable clothing of any kind post-mastectomy?

How do you feel about trying on bathing suits?

Do you attend support group meetings?

Here it is - "the prize no one wanted."

 Lastly, just for fun, do you call them bathing suits or swimsuits?



Jan Baird Hasak

Sunday 8th of April 2012

I laughed myself silly reading your post. I usually call such garments bathing suits because that's what my mother always called them. I think it's hilarious that the suit ended up being something you didn't return, that you sort of liked.

A prize I won that I didn't really like was a sewing box filled with all kinds of sewing accessories. I don't know what possessed me to put my name in the hat, because I don't sew. I ended up giving the goodies to a friend who loves to quilt.

I now attend a divorce support group meeting (I thought erroneously my husband would notice my nice new mastectomy bras that I got from a fitter last year and "kind of" modeled for him, but he didn't).

I used to be in cancer support groups, but now am in watercolor and creative writing courses at the cancer center with patients undergoing treatment. I consider those classes to be wonderful support groups. We counsel each other while we paint and we write poems about our cancer.

Thanks for this really witty post! xx


Monday 9th of April 2012

Jan, Well, I'm glad to hear my post gave you a you laugh! I don't sew either, so that prize you won wouldn't have been a good one for me either. I keep my two spools of thread and a couple of needles handy and that's it. I'm really glad you are attending a divorce support group meeting. That has to be a wonderfully safe place to share and vent a little. I'm sorry about that painful experience you mentioned here...I love the idea of painting and creative writing courses at a cancer center. I bet you are a wonderful source of support to others, Jan. Thanks so much for your ongoing willingness to share.

The Accidental Amazon

Friday 6th of April 2012

My fittings with the professional prosthesis/bra fitter resulted in my getting some great pyjamas (UK spelling, Sarah!! LOL), but the bras really were awful & the prosthesis slides down into the pocket instead of staying put. If I even wear my prosthesis (which is not often), I end up wearing it in one of my 'old' comfortable bras, against my skin, where it stays put. I stay away from the beach, too, now, because of my own fair skin. Don't even want to think about swimsuits...

Right after I'd finished active treatment, I won a 'pink grab bag' at a BC fundraiser & a pink feather boa. LOL!! Me, of all people, with a pink shopping bag full of all sorts of pink tchotchkes!! Pink pens that light up with rah-rah 'hope' slogans, pink Tic Tacs, the inevitable pink teddy bear -- you get the idea. I think I'd rather have won the swimsuit! As long as it wasn't pink!


Friday 6th of April 2012

Kathi, Struggling with prostheses must be annoying and challenging at times. Just heard another incredible story at my support group mtg last night from an "old granny," her words not mine, about getting harassed while going through TSA. She had quite the prosthesis story. And why is it so hard to find comfortable garments that are also functional? Sounds like your grab bag was quite the prize. Did you take a picture of yourself with it? Thanks for commenting, Kathi.

Lori Hope

Thursday 5th of April 2012

Hmmmm...what do I like better, trying on swimming suits or putting bamboo shoots under my fingernails? I used to call them "bathing suits" in the midwest, St. Louis, where I was raised. Now they're referred to as "swim suits" - so much more sophisticated sounding but a rose by any other name. Congrats on being a winner - which you were before you won the prize noboby wanted! Love, Lor


Friday 6th of April 2012

Lori, Ha ha! It doesn't matter what we call them does it? Trying them on is not pleasant for most of us...Thanks for stopping by.


Thursday 5th of April 2012

What an interesting topic, Nancy! I am glad that you've ended up finding the swimsuit comfortable. It certainly looks nice in the photo!

As it happens, I've been giving the bra issue some thought this week. My pre-surgery bras just didn't work for me anymore (I had a left-sided mastectomy with reconstruction via implant). My old underwires hurt on the mastectomy scar. I also had issues with heat rash in the tropical climate! Not meaning to sound like an ad, but I stumbled on a bra that is sold pretty cheaply in Australia (and is also available on line - costing much more to order that way than it does in the shops here!), called the 'Aah Bra'. It's easy to google, but watch out for the late-night tv style voiceover!! I have been thinking of writing a little post about it at some stage - it's very early days but so far I am finding it very comfortable. It has made such a difference to find a bra that feels good on my reconfigured body.

One of your other commenters mentioned rashguard tops (we call them 'swimmers' and 'rashies' in the part of Oz where I grew up, though the terms vary around Australia!). I usually wear boardshorts (or 'boardies'!) with a bikini top and a rashie if in direct sun. My surgeon said that his goal was that I'd look OK in a bikini top, and I'm pleased to say that he achieved this goal - it's surprisingly hard to tell that I've got one fake/one real when I've got a fairly chunky black bikini top on. The rashie is handy as it provides extra coverage if I'm feeling like it (for more than sun-related reasons)...and the boardies are handy for disguising the cellulite, which I sadly can't blame on cancer!!!! Must say that I've found it pretty tough facing public change rooms (this was even worse when there was removal of a bandana involved!). Haven't dared face it yet - have always scurried off to a toilet to get changed. Am hoping I become braver about this with time, but who knows? And as for trying on swimmers - I found this a nightmare BEFORE cancer!!!


Thursday 5th of April 2012

Liz, Thanks so much for adding to this discussion. Finding the right garments is such a challenge post-surgery isn't it? I have actually tried the "Aah Bra" and it felt way too tight and constricting for some reason, maybe they run really small and I should try a larger size since you like yours. I had not heard of the terms "swimmers, rashies or boardies" until this post. I'm learning! I'm glad you and your surgeon are satisfied with the results, mainly you. I know what you mean about the public changing rooms and I totally agree, some things were a nightmare before cancer for sure! Thanks again for commenting, Liz.


Wednesday 4th of April 2012

This is a problem that never goes away. Like you, I couldn't find a well fitting bra on my own and went without one for the longest time. Finally, bit the bullet and went to a fitter and that was before nipples & tattoos now that I think about it. It is what it is. Do you know I bought one bra that day, wear it once in a while, more often not and have never gotten another. Oh well, nothing constructive to say today! Apparently rambling. You touched a cord. Thanks, Nancy. Love this topic. By the way, always "bathing suit." "Swim suit" seems old fashioned.


Wednesday 4th of April 2012

Stacey, I remember your post about that, in fact, I thought of you on the day of my fittings! Glad to know others call them bathing suits. I was wondering if that was just me... Thanks for stopping by. "Ramble away" anytime!

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