BOISE, Id – Women who survive breast cancer are often left with a scar on their body and their self-esteem. Many turn to prosthetics to recreate what they once had. But it’s hard to build a prosthetic breast. New 3D technology will help women in the Treasure Valley with the process.
Tessie VanHoff is a petite 47-year-old woman with spikey dark hair. She was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago. At age 43, she was left with a lot of questions.
Tessie VanHoff “What’s gonna happen to my body? What do you mean I’m gonna have a radial mastectomy? What do you means I’m not gonna have breasts after this, what am I gonna do, I’m not gonna be a real woman…and so that’s scary.”
VanHoff had a mastectomy. Her lymph nodes were removed. She didn’t want more surgery, so she opted not to have breast reconstruction. That left her with a lot of fear.
Tessie VanHoff “I’m still scared to death of somebody seeing this huge scar on me, it’s hard to overcome that fear of people, is it gonna scare them because it scares the heck out of me when I look at it.”
She says now she’s more comfortable with how she looks.
Tessie VanHoff “O.k., this is just a scar, just like anybody who’s broken their arm they have a scar on their arm. This is my war scar and I’m going to be proud of the fact that I’ve made it this far.”
Making it this far, means she lives with one breast. She’s tried to fill out the other side.
Tessie VanHoff “And I just went with a little form that the doctor recommended and it was just basically a little fluff ball that I stuck in my bra.”
She’s done that for three years and it hasn’t worked very well…Enter Sharman Lorimer.
Sharman Lorimer “Now technology has allowed us the opportunity to be able to custom cast women, which means we have the ability now to scan a woman’s chest wall, her remaining breast, and custom make her breast form specifically for her.”
Lorimer is a Certified Mastectomy Fitter at Idaho Orthotic and Prosthetic Services. She
fits women with custom breast forms and the right bra. She’s heard horror stories about forms that don’t fit.
Sharman Lorimer “We’ve definitely had the experiences of walking through Wal-Mart and someone’s breast form slipped out because they didn’t have a properly fitted bra.”
Custom breast forms look and feel real. Some of them even have blood vessels or freckles, to match a women’s skin. Lorimer has to take a plaster cast of a woman’s chest to get that level of accuracy.
Sharman Lorimer “But that process isn’t really feasible for a lot of women, for one, their dignity comes into play, it’s very difficult to stand there for two to three hours while I’m working on them.”
It’s a long process, but Lorimer says the final result is worth it.
Sharman Lorimer“And it’s really great that we can take something that’s been so traumatic and so awful in a woman’s life and really create something beautiful when maybe a lot of hope was gone if they got that diagnosis and oh gosh, you can’t have reconstruction, this is a way for them to feel really special and really beautiful.”
VanHoff says she wants that to feel that too. She will, without having to stand for hours, getting fitted. A company called Trulife will be to Boise next week with a 3D laser-scanning machine. The scanner is more accurate…the whole process takes around 20 minutes. VanHoff can’t wait.
Tessie VanHoff “I’ll be able to wear it swimming, I’ll be able to wear normal clothes again, I mean, with what I wear now I don’t necessarily wear a v-neck and I’m very self-conscious about being outside with a tank top on and it’s you know, a different way of life and I gonna get back to 100 percent normalcy I feel like, once I have the breast form.”
The scanner is in town for one day. Sharman Lorimer says that’s because the 100-thousand dollar machine is too expensive for most prosthetic boutiques in the Treasure Valley. She hopes that will change, because Lorimer says this technology is the wave of the future for cancer survivors.
Copyright 2011 BSPR