Life Deconstructed: A buddy for your chest, heart and soul

Life Deconstructed - Maria Jiunta Heck

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and with the stark reality that I’m a shameless self-promoter, I’d like to share with you a little product I’ve invented to help every single breast cancer patient who ever walked the face of the earth. (I think you also know I have a shameless love of hyperbole, as well. It was my major in college).

After my own mastectomy six years ago, I was released from the hospital and assisted into the car with the instructions to “buckle-up!” I looked at the (very cute) (male) nurse in astonishment, as if he’d just said “hop onto your broom and fly home.” How in bloody hell was I supposed to buckle-up over my depleted chest, stitches, bandages, drains, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree?!

I knew, even with the stupid pillow I stole from my hospital room, it would be painful. When I refused to buckle-up, he offered me another option, I kid you not: a stuffed lion. I stared. Those paws would claw! No way! So we traveled the 30 miles home seatbelt-less, although I was so medicated, I could’ve flown on a broom and not even known.

I’ve had nine more procedures, and each time I was sent home with nothing more to cushion my seatbelt than a few inadequate pillows. With the amount of big, fluffy pillows I’ve stolen from hospital rooms, I could fashion an entire couch and three dog beds.

Somewhere around procedure five, I thought, I need to come up with something to cushion that freaking seatbelt against my vacant, yet sensitive chest area. I fashioned dozens of prototypes on my sewing machine, which was laughable. Prior to this experiment, iron-on tape was my go-to method for New Age mending. After a year, I finalized the perfect “seatbelt cocoon” and it was baptized The Chest Buddy. And, sadly, because mastectomies will never go out of style, I’m happy to report that this company has been running on high octane ever since.

Running my own company has been enlightening and fulfilling, although taxing on my mid-level brain capacity and half-assed operating procedure mentality. I’m a lone-woman operation, employing only one local seamstress, but somehow we make it work. I patented the product and trademarked the name (try explaining to the representative at Legal Zoom that The Chest Buddy is not a stripper’s friend) and it has hit the ground running, or the boob, as it were.

Not everyone is invested, however. I tag, label, package and ship every Chest Buddy myself. (Although Nancy is my delivery boy). My kids will help only if I start to cry or negotiate time-off active groundings — but only if they can do the task during “The Walking Dead” marathons, not during Xbox marathons. Last time my son labeled a shipment of Chest Buddies while playing “Call of Duty,” every label was upside down and backwards. I fired his a#$. I mean, really, it’s not neuroscience.

My father’s proud of me, but I’m not certain he knows what the Chest Buddy is used for, despite the name. His chest is sore from a car accident, so I just brought him a new model. He said (direct quote): “Ohhh, good! I used the last one to wash my car and it got so dirty!” Sigh. It takes a village.

Shameless self-promotion aside, I can tell you from the bottom of my soul, I know, you know, someone who’s had breast cancer. I know The Chest Buddy is a comfort to them when very little else is. That’s an amazing feeling. Plus, think about how many stuffed lion’s lives were saved with the introduction of this product!

Fight on, my breast cancer sisters. Fight on.

You can check out the product here:

Life Deconstructed

Maria Jiunta Heck

Maria Jiunta Heck of West Pittston is a mother of three, a librarian and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life.

Maria Jiunta Heck of West Pittston is a mother of three, a librarian and a business owner who lives to dissect the minutiae of life.

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