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MELVA'S STORY

This is the story of BOSOM BUDDY® as told by Melva Smith, who designed the breast form and founded B & B Company:

Melva Smith inventor of the Bosom Buddy Breast Form, Founder of B & B CompanyMy mastectomy surgery was in September of 1965. After discovery of a lump under the left arm, a biopsy was made under local anesthetic and found to be malignant. This meant that the cancer was in the lymph gland as a secondary location and that the primary source was logically the left breast. This was removed a few days later, along with the lymph glands, and the tiny lump found against the chest wall, so small it was unable to be felt. A skin graft was necessary because of the removal of so much tissue, and follow-up treatment of 28 cobalt sessions was given. Dr. Richard O. Vycital, a fine surgeon, was in charge.

At the time of my cobalt treatments, the Radiation Department of St. Luke's Hospital, Boise, Idaho, was under the direction of Dr. Alfred M. Popma, who later became President of the American Cancer Society. He gave me so much encouragement that I would be well again, and I discussed with him many times the fact that the only prostheses that were available not only seemed uncomfortable but very expensive. Remember that this was in 1965, and the only types available were plastic filled with liquid (mine cost $25 and leaked when someone pinned a nametag on me at a luncheon!) and the foam and air-filled ones. He urged me to experiment with other solutions, as he had many patients who "hadn't the price of a sandwich". This was also before Medicare or any hospitalization plan paid for any of these prostheses.

I might say right now that the idea of using seed was not original with me. Somewhere I had read that pioneer women used that solution to the "stuffing" problem many years ago. I made a breast-shaped form and poured seed into it, and stitched it closed. Of course, this necessitated a washable cover that could be removed, also.

Friends who had had the surgery and others who heard of these forms began getting in touch with me, and I made them to fit each case and gladly donated time and material. The pleasure of meeting and helping these women to be more comfortable was most rewarding. The thought that women are having to pay exorbitant prices for something as necessary as an artificial breast is almost unbelievable. I was determined to do all in my power to fight this "rip-off".

When my husband and I began traveling during the winter months, I first left a box of 25 of these forms with Dr. Vycital, to be given to his patients if they wanted one. This would have been about 1970. I was a member of "Reach to Recovery", an organization composed of women who have had mastectomies, and doing hospital calling on new mastectomees. This group supplies a temporary form for each patient, filled with fluff, to be used until she can shop for another.

In the fall of 1972, Dr. Vycital was asked to speak to the State Nurses Association meeting at Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise, Idaho. He asked me to show them the breast form.

Patterns for four sizes -- A, B, C, D -- were drawn on paper and mimeographed, along with complete directions for making the forms. I believe these are still being given away to patients in some of the smaller towns of Idaho, and I'm happy about that.

Dr. Ronald Koontz of the Radiation Department there, and his wife, Shirley, who was Director of Nursing at Mountain States Tumor Institute, were both enthusiastic about them. Dr. Koontz specifically requested that the patients wear no plastic or rubber prostheses during the period of their treatment.

I began leaving 25 or more, also, with MSTI when we left for the winter. Patients receiving them as a gift from Mountain States Tumor Institute were asked to make a donation to that facility, if they wished.

In the spring of 1974, a friend, Mrs. Bert Colwell, urged me to go into the business of selling these breast forms through the stores and by mail. It seemed a good idea to apply for a patent, so I did. Several names were thought of by many friends. The one suggested by the wife of my doctor, Mrs. Richard Vycital, was voted the best. It was Bosom Buddy®. Registration of the name was issued in June of 1976 by the United States Patent Office.

The breast form now being sold nationally is an improvement from the original design and differs from it in many features. We invite comparison with any breast form on the market today in comfort, appearance, adjustability and price.

It is my hope that every woman having the mastectomy experience can be as comfortable and happy as possible.

Sincerely,

Melva Smith

 

 

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PO Box 5731
Boise ID  83705

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Last Updated on 06/13/03

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