“People assume that after surgery you’re all good, but I was so far from it”
By Joey Bartolomeo
It should have been one of the happiest moments in her life: Jessica, 32, was 32 weeks pregnant with her second child. But then she was diagnosed with Stage 3, triple-negative breast cancer. Facing a double mastectomy (she tested BRCA positive), the yoga instructor transformed into a fierce warrior. “My attitude was, Chop ‘em off, I don’t care,” she recalls. “Just save my life.”
If only the plan could have been so simple. Jessica needed chemotherapy and was faced with the stressful decision of when to begin it. So she wouldn’t have to take a break for her baby’s delivery, she was induced at 35 weeks, started chemo two weeks later, and headed into surgery when her son was six months old.
Jessica used that lead time to prep for the additional emotional and physical challenges coming her way. She chose a psych-up soundtrack for the operating room (Britney Spears), wrote a goodbye letter to her breasts, and talked to survivors to get their recovery tips. Still, two things surprised her when she was discharged from the hospital: the swelling and the bandages. “I felt like a mummy,” she says.
EZbra wasn’t available back then, but now Jessica can fully appreciate its special features. “I like how soft, light and airy it feels—it’s not too thick or stiff,” she says. “And I love the fact that it’s sterile and disposable.” Jessica, who doesn’t do well with blood, clearly remembers how frustrated she felt when her drain bulbs leaked during her first week of recovery, and the ooze ended up on the gauze. “There was nothing I could do about it!” With an EZbra, she notes, “You can grab another and replace it.”
The bra’s adjustable straps would have come in handy, too, Jessica says—“especially with the option to hang drains.” Dealing with her drain bulbs, in fact, was one of the most annoying parts of her recovery. “I wore a bag around my neck. It was uber-irritating to have that extra thing hanging on me.” Since she didn’t want the bag to get wet, the mom of two attached them to a rubber teething necklace when she showered. “Luckily, I had one!”
Even Jessica’s surgery removed the sources of her cancer (which included some of her lymph nodes), her recovery period didn’t feel like a time for celebration. “People assume that after surgery you’re all good, but I was so far from it,” she recalls. Looking in the mirror, she saw someone she didn’t even think looked like a woman: no hair, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, and indentations in her chest. “I wasn’t prepared to feel such grief and loss for the fatty tissue that had been attached to my body,” she says. “I didn’t realize how much it was a part of me.” Well-meaning friends who cheered her on only reminded her how awful she felt. “People were telling me, ‘Oh, but you’re so strong!’ Well, I didn’t feel strong—especially because I couldn’t lift anything.”
Since she couldn’t raise her arms very high, Jessica wore only button-front tops, which made dressing easier. It also helped that her husband and sister-in-law were on standby for any assistance she needed. However, EZbra’s combination of elasticized fabric and a front closure mean even people who can’t lift their arms can still put it on themselves. “It gives the wearer the opportunity to be a bit more independent,” Jessica says.
Two years after her surgery, Jessica is feeling good and her attitude these days is powerfully positive. “I always tell myself I can’t change what’s happened to me, I can only control how I react to it. So I choose to look for the positives in everything,” she says. The blog she started after her diagnosis has helped her connect with other survivors—“I love talking to people and letting them know they’re not alone”—and she’s even been spreading the word about the EZbra. “I think other people would appreciate the thought and care put into this product.”
EZbra was created for women to recover with dignity and ease the discomfort post-op experience Visit our shop to purchase EZbras,