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Talk about being surprised, I was speechless (which for me is unheard of) when my bra, What’s Black and White and Scary All Over? was selected as the top undergarment at last night’s Success in the City Cups Full of Hope charity event for the Tigerlily Foundation, a breast cancer awareness and support group that helps women under 40 .

Success in the City (SITC) is a women’s networking organization that celebrates the important relationships that women have with each other. We’re about having fun, showing a little glam, and becoming friends. The friendship then becomes networking and the “deals on heels” follow. I’ve been a member of this organization almost from its inception and in full disclosure, I’m proud to sit on the advisory board.

SITC partnered with the Tigerlily Foundation and created the Cups Full of Hope charity event. People were encouraged to design a bra and submit it to a competition. The bras would be auctioned at the end with proceeds going to the foundation.

I’m not much into handicrafts and my talent is with words so I set out to create a “talking” bra. But I didn’t know what to say. I thankfully have had little exposure to breast cancer in my life so I needed to find those words. I turned to the online breast cancer forums and read what women with breast cancer were saying. I was looking for good news. News of survival and rebirth. I didn’t find any of that. I found women like me  except they had become medical experts citing cancer diagnosis and mutation information along with detailed pharmacology reports. I found the realities of illness. The loss of vanity when you accept that you have no hair – anywhere on your body – due to chemotherapy. I saw another side of life. I learned that breast cancer for all of the great support and promotion that many amazing charities do is not pink and girlie. Breast cancer patients don’t want to wear pink. Many are proud of their stories and survival but no one sets out to be a hero or an inspiration.

After several days of reading these threads and survivor stories I was exhausted, a bit depressed, and scared. So many women said that it’s not a case of why me God but why not me? I was then faced with having to make a bra. I had some cute ideas and I wanted something funny but there is nothing funny about breast cancer. I wasn’t able to make anything glamorous or fun. I bought two bras, one black and one white and sewed them together. I then took the black side and wrote what I had learned about the ugly side of cancer. One the white side I wrote about the not so pink side of recovery. The two halves are joined in the back by an emblem that says hope.

Fast forward to the event. The bras were in true Success in the City style – beautiful, funny, and over the top. Each bra was showcased on a Lucite stand and the tables were elegantly skirted. I walked the room and with dozens of entries there was a lot to see –hand painted designs, flowers, beads, googly eyes, gorgeous, whimsy, and glam. There quietly sat the ugliest bra in the world. I put a bid down on it so at least it wouldn’t be left for the trash and I could take it home.

As they announced the runners up I slunk back a bit into the crowd, quietly waiting to make my escape home. When they announced my bra as the winner I was stunned. Ugly bra won. After the buzz calmed down one of the judges came to congratulate me. She is a pre-survivor. She has a genetic mutation that predisposes to both breast and ovarian cancer. She had seen the diseases sweep through her family and knew that it was inevitable. She chose to have a double mastectomy and hysterectomy. The pathology report after the operation reveaedl that some of her tissue was already in a pre-cancerous state. She told me that she and the other judges (also survivors) were immediately drawn to my submission because it got the message right. The fun bras were fun but my bra told the story of what this horrible cancer is all about.

I am proud that I got the message right and that I was able to make other people understand. As a writer, my greatest satisfaction comes from people telling me just that. I’m sad too because I was able to tell a horrible story. I’m still looking for the good news. Everyone is. And though ugly bra won, the glam bras are fantastic too because that is what women make when they come together to support one another – something fantastic


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