(The following won’t make any sense to you unless you know this about me: I’ve had breast cancer – twice. Total of four surgeries to remove tumors and breasts, with extremely little tissue left in that area.)
“You know what I wish I had? One of those lead vests – the kind they put on you at the dental office when you’re having x-rays.”
That was me, a few months ago, while shopping with my friend Lori at our favorite thrift store, the Goodwill Outlet we lovingly call "Bin World."
“What in the world . . . ?!” she says, though not entirely surprised. After all, both of us like crazy-talk and are, on occasion, really quite silly.
I ignore her and go right on shopping as if wanting your very own lead vest were high on everyone’s list.
“Seriously?,” she says, “What would you do with a lead vest?”
I lower my voice* and begin explaining how, in the evening when I’m tired and want to relax in my recliner, the scars across my chest are like an over-tired child. “The nerves kick and scream and make a fuss; it’s like I just woke up from surgery and the pain meds haven’t kicked in.” I tell her it feels like an electrical storm in my nervous system. “I fold my arms across my chest to keep my nerves from jumping out of my skin.”
Without pause, she says “Well! have I got a remedy for that!” Her tone suggests I might have known she could fix something as simple as an electrical storm in my nervous system. She offers no more, and I don’t ask. That’s just the way we play the game, Lori and I.
A few days later she is at my door with a goofy grin and a tissue-topped gift bag.
“Don’t let the tissue paper fool you,” she says as she offers me the gift – one hand holding the handles, the other supporting the bottom of the bag.
I take the bag by the handles. It is surprisingly dense. (By this time, of course, I have completely forgotten our conversation about the lead vest.)
“It’s a Chest Crusher,” she says excitedly. “It’s Model 1.0, awaiting evaluation!” Of course I knew, then, it was her invention and handiwork, knowing how innovative and creative she has always been with a sewing machine.
Indeed. Chest Crusher 1.0, that evening, turned out to be quite the comfort. (Shown below with its eight pockets of aquarium stones, separated for even distribution, and its sporty slipcover.) It is the best, most repeatable, long-lasting hug money couldn’t buy.
Not only does Chest Crusher 1.0 bring relief in my recliner, it goes to bed with me as well, offering all-night comfort for messed up nerves.
'Next day I naturally express sincere gratitude, and just as naturally, she asks if there are any improvements that might be made to Chest Crusher Model 2.0.
I tell her 1.0 is the essential bed partner because its ample length means I can drape it over my back and around the front of me when side-sleeping. “If I had a slightly shorter version for use in the recliner,” I tell her, “it would just reach across the scars and not create bulk under my armpits.”
And, of course, she is happy to indulge me with Model 2.0 – the ultimate Chest Crusher for daytime and evening relaxation.
I love my Chest Crushers! One lives in the bedroom upstairs. The other stays on the first floor. What a privilege it is to have thoughtful friends who enjoy being creative with a sewing machine (and also knitting needles). You know who you are, all four of you.
Should this story reach others who might be comforted in this manner, please email Mary.firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m sure Lori would be tickled to provide DIY instructions for either model.
*I’m pretty sure I didn’t have the good sense to actually lower my voice, but can only wish I had that kind of tact and presence of mind in public places.