One thing I have found about being treated in Bangkok is that the medical attention is first class – truly excellent. I’ve also been really fortunate that I’ve never had to wait for appointments, treatment or surgery and test results come through very quickly. I am also informed of these results in person and can ask as many questions as I want. However, I think it is fair to say that I have struggled quite a bit on some of the softer elements of dealing with breast cancer. I have managed to find and get involved with some online forums for women like me which has been really helpful. I have also learned that in the UK and US for example there are quite a lot of support systems in place for women with breast cancer such as counselling, health and diet sessions and support groups.
One of the biggest mysteries that I’ve had to deal with is what on earth to wear once you have had a mastectomy.
Still with a few ideas which I’d gleaned from the websites I decided to head to the shops and try and find something practical and comfortable for my new shape as well as something under which to hide the bald head.
A number of people had recommended that we visited the Emporium shopping centre. This was promising because it has a huge section with all kinds of undergarments so we were fairly confident that I would find something there which would cater to unusual women like me. I hunted and hunted amongst the ranks and indeed I did find some prosthetics but they certainly didn’t seem to be geared towards the mastectomy market. In fact many of these were in pairs and perhaps more suited (and intended) for Bangkok’s of lady boys rather than women. My concern was more about finding some garments that I could wear which were comfortable and gentle. I asked the assistants and after a number of false starts I was finally shown a couple of bras with the pink ribbon logo on them. However there was a grand choice of one style and not very many sizes. Additionally it really didn’t look terribly comfortable and not something I could wear close to my tender scar. After searching and searching one of the assistants realised what I was looking for and showed me a leaflet which advertised another branch of their shop in one of the larger shopping malls. This looked really promising as it referred to a tailor-made service for women who had undergone surgery and for women who were looking for equalising bras (equalising bras? That’s a new one!). So we jumped back on the skytrain and off towards Chitlom. We quickly found the right place and asked for the special service which they offered. Blank looks. Confusion. I showed them the leaflet and finally they led us to a rack which had on it exactly the same bra as there had been in Emporium. I asked about the measuring and the tailor-made service and was duly measured and then led to the general racks and shown the regular wear in totally the wrong size for me! I saw a few different makes to those which have been available in Emporium and started to hunt again around all of the various racks. Finally I found something which looked reminiscent of a teenage training bra and seemed very soft and gentle.
I was also clutching a rather odd looking shape which looked a bit like a child’s soft toy, and could perhaps be a rabbit without ears. This was another product from the pink ribbon rack and was a soft fabric false breast. It was pretty inexpensive and I thought it would be useful just to have and if I was able to wear it I might start to make me look semi-“equal”.
It had taken nearly 2 hours to get this far and I finally left the store with my new equipment. My next quest, although I was really running late, was to try and find something to hide my baldie head -a wig!
We asked around and were told to try the second floor as they were wigs there. These also took quite some hunting but finally we spotted some hairpieces in one corner of the second floor. There was not much choice and on getting closer we realised that there were only half a dozen wigs and the rest were all hear pieces or extensions. An extension is not much good when there’s nothing to extend it on to. Out of the half dozen wigs there were two which were possible so I tried them both on. What I hadn’t realised was that the colouring was geared towards Asian colours. I tried the first one on it was too long and it was too thick for my head. The second one was shorter and on the model looks quite nice. However with the dark colour of the hair and the pallor of my post chemo complexion I looked alarmingly like either a goth or a vampire. To be fair it would probably suit the purpose but there were so few choices that I really felt it was not sensible to splash out and get this when I hadn’t tried any real alternatives.
By this time I was extremely tired, twang arm was squealing and I was still feeling a bit rough as it was the end of the groundhog days. So I returned to our apartment not quite empty-handed but certainly not with the goodies I had been hoping for. At least I had one teenage training bra and the odd looking falsie which could always double as a rabbit with no ears.