KANSAS CITY-Mo. - More breast cancer survivors are coming forward to share their stories with after an Independence, Mo., woman said she was subjected to an embarrassing pat-down at Kansas City International Airport.
Marcia Deitrick of Independence and Susan Grose of Overland Park, Kan., say their battles with breast cancer were finally beginning to take a backseat in their lives, but the pat-down incidents at KCI were as much a violation of their privacy as a reminder of the toughest moments in their lives.
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The women’s stories are strikingly similar.
"I'm standing there with my arms in the air and somebody is feeling my chest and everybody is looking at me wondering 'What’s wrong with that woman’s chest,'” Deitrick said about her experience.
Grose said she had a similar feeling.
"There you are in front of everyone and they’re patting you down. You feel like you must have done something wrong, but you know you really haven't," she said.
When Grose heard Deitrick’s story, she knew she had to come forward.
"My reaction was just like hers. I was completely surprised," she explained. "And then you don't want to say anything to call attention to yourself so you go along with it, and you're forced to do something uncomfortable."
In Grose’s case, she felt compelled to reveal a secret to the TSA agent that she often hides with a vest or sweater.
"My first thought when she said she needed to pat down my chest was she's going to be embarrassed if she feels me there and doesn't find what she's expecting to find," Grose said.
Grose lost her breasts to cancer 25 years ago.
After going through security and a body scan at KCI, she didn't expect to have her chest touched -- especially without being offered a private screening.
"I went through with it, then all of a sudden I just started to cry. Twenty-five years out, I don't think about the fact that I'm missing my breasts every day," she explained. "It reminded me of my special situation and that was sort of emotional."
In Deitrick’s case, she explained to the agent that she has silicone implants from reconstructive surgery, and that chemotherapy left her breasts with 20 inches of scar tissue. Yet, the agent she said, never asked if she wanted a private pat-down, or if her breast area was too tender to be touched.
TSA officials tell us all passengers have the right to ask for a private pat-down. But both Deitrick and Grose said they were caught off guard and forgot to ask.
"I was just dumbstruck,” Deitrick explained. “I just stood there while she ran her hands around my breasts and across them. That moment, I felt violated."
TSA spokesperson Ann Davis admits the agent should have asked both women if they preferred a private pat-down, and that her organization is now investigating.
The women tell 41 Action News they came forward for a reason. They hope the TSA will educate agents about what bodies look like after cancer, so the agents can decipher a medical condition from something suspicious.
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