One of these things is not like the other…

When I was returning from  the Tampa Project Lead breast cancer advocacy meeting a couple of months ago, I was chosen for the Star Trek transporter-like security thing. You know the glass booth, arms outstretched etc.

After I exited the machine, a male TSA employee told me to wait. It was humiliating as other passengers eyed me, clearly wondering why I had been detained. Plus, I was feeling separation anxiety, as my bag and laptop were knocking around at the end of the conveyor belt.

I heard the TSA guy call for a female screener. There was a few minutes delay which felt much longer. “I have breast cancer!” I said in the hysterical tone someone else might have used to declare “Soylent Green is people!”

When the woman TSA employee arrived, the guy said something about “left chest.” Now I was just mad. “I had a mastectomy!” I said in what many primary school teachers would call an Outside Voice. “I have Stage IV breast cancer!”

The woman smiled sympathetically and gave me a very cursory pat down. The man looked embarrassed.

I was practically shaking with anger as I collected my belongings and put my shoes back on. Who knows, it may have had nothing to do with my missing breast, but I did wonder.

All liquids, gels and foobs must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag…

A Google search revealed women with prostheses have been stopped.

According to this November 2011 article from MSNBC:

Musa Mayer has worn a breast prosthesis for 21 years since her mastectomy and is used to the alarms it sets off at airport security. But nothing prepared her for the “invasive and embarrassing” experience of being patted down, poked and examined recently while passing through airport security at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.

“I asked the supervisor if she realized that there are 3 million women who have had breast cancer in the U.S., many of whom wear breast prostheses. Will each of us now have to undergo this humiliating, time-consuming routine every time we pass through one of these new body scanners?” she said in an e-mail to msnbc.com.

How  about you?

I have flown several times since the Tampa TSA incident and I haven’t been subject to extra screening. (I can’t recall if the  airports in question just have the “regular” magnetometers or the high-end scanners.) But how about you? Have you been stopped? What did you do?

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3 thoughts on “One of these things is not like the other…

  1. Liz3791 says:

    There have been quite a few reports from women (breast cancer survivors) who’ve been singled out because of their prosthesis, implants, and/or scars. At this URL you can see a boatload of personal stories of outrage and humiliation:
    http://community.breastcancer.org/forum/82/topic/760947?page=1

    Thank God someone is trying to do something about it – have a look at this list of states that currently have legislation or other action in the works:
    http://www.akhealthcaucus.org/TSA.php

    Thank you for posting YOUR experience.

  2. Dawn Younani says:

    I, too, am a breast cancer survivor of almost 9 years. This past September I was patted down at LAX. I was there to pick up my son who had just completed a pre-college program at NYU. He is only 15 and was traveling as an unaccompanied minor. Once I went through the xray machine, I was singled out for a body pat down. At that time, I told the TSA worker that I was a breast cancer survivor and that I had bi-lateral mastectomies with reconstruction. I asked if that was why I was being patted down. I got no answer just a grunt telling me to stay where I was (in plain view) with my feet planted on the plastic marks on the floor. THIS WAS IN FULL VIEW of at least 60 people (including two friends). The female TSA inspector walked back over to me and told me that she would have to “pat down” my breasts, even though I told her I was a survivor with implants. She then proceeded to pat me down on the breasts in such a way that it was almost more thorough than my own oncologist. I was humiliated beyond words. Something MUST be done. Privacy perhaps. A better understanding of breast-cancer survivors. Something. I feel Lori’s pain, as I suffered it weeks before her and neither her nor I nor anyother breast cancer survivor who has gone through this should ever have to go through!

    Dawn Younani

  3. Sara says:

    Brain tumor survivor here. I followed your link from Stupid Cancer. I usually get selected to go through the scan, but on all but one occasion, I’ve refused and opted for the pat down. Once, the agent asked me if I knew that the scan had less radiation than my cell phone (note: when I speak on my cell phone, I rarely hold it against my head and try to use my headphones). I said that that had not been proven and I was a brain tumor survivor, so give me my pat-down, please. Ugh.

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