The Journey of a Cancer de Mama Prosthetic begins when I receive an email from the owner of a lingerie store. She tells me she has several large boxes of prosthetics that she’d like to donate to our next Cancer de Mama Clinic. I’m thrilled to get this news, but it means a two hour drive to pick up the donation! I’m more than happy to do the driving though, because I know the really signi?cant value of this donation. I know how many lives it will change.
The next morning, home again from my journey, I begin to unpack the boxes. As expected, each prosthetic is still well protected in its own individual case. But I know it can’t remain like that – much too bulky for the long journey to Mexico. So I remove each prosthetic from its safe and cushioned spot, laying it on my king size bed. By morning’s end, the bed is full and the ?oor is covered with empty cases. These are valuable too, so they’re gathered up – next week they’ll be dropped off at our local school.
Now I begin to layer the prosthetics in sturdy boxes. These are some of the most special moments for me as a volunteer with the Cancer de Mama Clinic. It’s almost a sacred time. I handle each prosthetic gently, respectfully. If I think it’s been used before, I wonder about who the donor was? Where is she now and why was her prosthetic returned to the lingerie store? I say a quick prayer for her, wherever she is. With each prosthetic, my thoughts turn to the Mexican woman who will one day receive it. Where is she today? What has been her breast cancer story? Does she even know right now that she has breast cancer, that she will soon lose her breast? Or was her breast removed many years ago and she has only just now learned about the Cancer de Mama Clinic? Is she wondering how she will ever even get to the Clinic? How old are her children? My questions seem endless …
My box ?lls slowly, but I don’t rush the process. I know that once these prosthetics get unpacked at the Clinic, it will be a really busy time, so I value these quiet moments with them. I often cry. It’s the prosthetics that lie at the heart of the Clinic and I’m so grateful that I can see and touch so many of them.
Once my tears are over and the boxes ?lled to the brim, it’s time to get these treasures on their way. There are 150 of them this time! Not many people from my part of the country drive an RV all the way to Mexico, but I’ve found a generous couple who’ll be driving to La Penita in a few weeks and I’m so happy to soon be meeting them! Not long ago, I posted the need for transportation on our CdeMC FaceBook page, and they let me know that they’d be happy to add a few extra boxes to their rig! They live about four hours away from us, but we’ll be traveling near their home in a few days when we head off to visit cottage friends.
My husband squeezes the boxes into the car between our two golden retrievers and we’re on our way! A few hours later we unload the boxes at the home of our newest friends. We watch as they ?t the boxes into various nooks and crannies in their beautiful RV. i can see that they handle the boxes with the same respect that we did and it feels good – i know this precious cargo will be well cared for on its long journey.
A few busy months pass, Christmas is over and it’s Clinic week now. Someone has told me that the boxes arrived safely and have now been unpacked. Other gentle hands have sorted the prosthetics according to size and I take a peek to see them all waiting in bins for our ?rst Clinic Day.
Many of the Mexican women have left their homes in the dark of night to travel long miles by bus in order to get to arrive at the Clinic by early morning. The excitement in the air is palpable as they line up outside, bunched together in little groups, waiting for our doors to open. Eventually registration begins. Each woman is greeted in Spanish and given a small piece of paper with her name on it. She will cling to that ticket for hours as she waits her turn, wondering what this day will hold for her? Finally, her name is called and she is welcomed by a smiling volunteer who with a gentle arm, guides her into a ?tting room. It’s in this tiny space that the magic begins …
In a way that feels similar way to the sense of sacredness that I experienced when packing up the prosthetics in my bedroom at home – I experience a feeling of sanctity in this space too. The ?oors are just basic grey cement and the walls as such are simple pink curtains, hanging from ceiling railings to serve as dividers. Great care has been taken so that each woman can have a secure experience of privacy.
All of the women who come to the Clinic have suffered. All are brave. Sometimes, after their very long wait, in the privacy of this safe space, their smiles turn to tears and the search to ?nd a good prosthetic is put on hold. Mujeres a mujeres, woman to woman. In this moment, comfort is far more important than ef?ciency.
After the woman’s measurements have been taken, a volunteer heads off to ?nd a few prosthetics for her to try out. Sometimes a good ?t is found immediately and at other times, several tries are needed. But slowly the magic is happening. The right prosthetic suddenly ?ts. It has been slipped into a new bra and has begun its transition. Before long it will become almost a part of this woman’s body. It will meld into her ?esh every day. It will allow her to be proud of her shape once again. It will give her con?dence. It will give her new hope that life can go on after a mastectomy. The prosthetic that was once an expensive blob of gel, has now become priceless joy. It has found its forever home. It has found new life.
This story is by Liana Gallant.