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