Recently, I went to Victoria’s Secret to purchase a bra. This is probably one of my least favorite activities on the planet because I tend to test drive a bra before I purchase it. This requires an extended study of various arm/body movements: walking with a normal gait while exhibiting a mild swing to the arms; a light jog with arms filled with imaginary bags of groceries; chasing after an imaginary dog in an imaginary rainstorm; handstands (in case I ever do one at a party, I don’t want my bra to fall off)… And all these scenarios require WAY more room than they provide in those teeny-tiny fitting rooms. The associates must think I’m mad.
Finding the proper support with comfortable straps and elastic that doesn’t cut off your circulation requires a much more than just trying it on and seeing how your boobs look when you pose in the mirror making duck lips at yourself. And color has very little to do with it. Suffice it to say that finding a good bra is extremely difficult. But once you find the perfect one, you’ll never let it go. Your best bet is to buy them out so you’ll never be without proper support again.
So, when I learned recently that I’ve been wearing a bra that is two sizes too small (!!) imagine my relief when the nice lady brought me one that actually fit! I felt like a ding-dong though. She asked me my size and I said **. She cocked her eyebrow in disbelief and said “No.” Then she whipped out a measuring tape and headed for my lady bits. My shoulders thrust forward to defend my honor, to which she summoned me to relax. After all, this was her job. I needn’t be embarrassed. But I was. Here I am – nearly 45 years old – and I had been wearing the wrong size bra for who knows how long! That’s something one should know about themselves. I had been needlessly living an uncomfortable life for a long time. I was kinda pissed that I’d wasted so much time living a lie. But it was encouraging to learn that I finally earned some boobs – I suffered from “surfboard-itis” for many years – which makes for a miserable high school experience.
And here’s where I segue into what I REALLY want to talk about: Support. When Ben was first diagnosed with cancer, I felt completely alone. Sure, there were family and friends and tons of people sending cards stating their encouragement, but I was alone. Matt had work. Mom got to go home at night. Friends who visited returned to their well children. And I sat, day after day, watching my son battle something I couldn’t see. A monster that was tearing him apart on the inside. And while I was comforted by holding my sweet toddler in my arms, I couldn’t really discuss with him how I was feeling. The doctors were always very professional and brief… they weren’t there for emotional support. The nurses were better… often answering my questions and telling me how they all fought to care for Ben because he was the best kid ever… but they had other patients. I had friends who’d had miscarriages and even a couple who’d experienced a stillbirth. All tragic. But no one of my acquaintance knew the insecurity. The unknown. The terror. The hope or lack of hope. The anger. It was isolating and paralyzing. And, to make it worse, I knew of NO ONE who had survived the same diagnosis that Ben had. There had been children with lower stages of neuroblastoma who had survived, but no stage IV’s who had survived long-term. It was horrifying.
Then, a lady came to visit me one day while I was in the hospital with Ben. She was part of a support group called Kids-N-Kamp. She gave me the information of who they were, what they did, and when they met. I stuck it in a folder and forgot about it for a few months while we were in the thick of Ben’s treatment. I’m not sure how it all transpired, but I ended up going to a mom’s night out – a monthly potluck – and fell in with the greatest bunch of ladies EVER. Initially, I felt much like I did when that lady tried to measure me for a bra. Don’t touch me in an intimate spot. I’m going to thrust my shoulders forward and bar you from coming closer. However, we started sharing like we were members of a 12-step program and from there the healing truly began. They showed me it was okay to cry. It was okay to be scared. It was okay to laugh inappropriately and make some really ridiculously “un-politically correct” statements. I was perfect how I was.
This group of beautiful women knew how I felt. Some of them were done with treatment. Some of them were still battling. Some were facing a relapse. Some had lost their children. But they all had a knowledge that I had been seeking. They got me through some major crap. And when we moved to Colorado, I mourned the loss of those ladies. I tried to find a way to reproduce that group here, but it just never worked out. My Kids-N-Kamp ladies set the bar so very high.
One of my precious memories was the Mom’s Retreat Weekend. Once a year, the KNK moms would get together and head to Amish country. The house we stayed in was beautiful. Relaxing. An opportunity to discuss heavy stuff, laugh about silly stuff, eat a bunch of junk food, and take a small break from cancer. My first Mom’s Retreat was while Ben was still in therapy. My roommate was Aimee. She had lost her infant son to leukemia. I remember staying up late with her and laughing hysterically like we were at a grade school sleepover. I know we were pissing off our neighbors who were there to partake in the quiet Amish atmosphere, but we couldn’t help ourselves. And just as we would settle down, one of us would start up again, giggling like we were as carefree as children. It was so precious.
The following day I went outside to walk the extensive grounds. The sun was shining and the warmth surrounded me like a thick blanket. I sat down on the grass to take in my surroundings. The llamas wandering around were fun to watch, but what caught my eye was a small, white flower standing alone amidst blades of vivid green grass. I thought that it must be lonely standing there on its own. But as I opened my peripheral vision a little further I noticed a few more flowers. They were all surrounding this one lone flower. And as I started to see the symmetry between myself and that flower, I noticed that it was not alone at all. There were many like her – just like her – all around. Just waiting for her to say she was ready to let them step in to offer their support.
My KNK moms are leaving for retreat tomorrow. Oh, how I wish I were going. Have fun, my dear friends. Know I’m thinking of you and hoping you have the opportunity to get all you need. Please know that I’m still here. I might be 1200 miles away, but I’m thinking of all of you. Knowing some of you are tired. Knowing some of you are scarred from the battle. But I’ll light my candle – the one that bonds us all together – and reflect on our times fondly.
All of you are better than any bra I’ve ever had.