This is going to be one of those blog entries that is a bookmark work in progress. As I research the story of our breasts and bring in the context of cancer, I will modify this post into a whole chapter. Check back occasionally for updates.
My breasts are two of the smallest in the female population of my family, at least on my Mother’s side, yet I was still well endowed by the age of twelve. 36D breasts and a size 2 waist … I have no idea why I thought I was chunky as a teenager. Why do we torture our body image like that?
While I am no longer a size two – especially by 1980s standards – I did get back to my ideal size 4 self while working out at the gym, and am within a size of that now. I’m 5’4″ with my Mother’s sleek bone structure, so I try to err on the side of small. Except for my breasts. They are always the first and last body part to change size.
I learned the power of breasts at a young age … but immensely dislike having them talked to when my eyes are what you should be looking at during our conversation. At least outside the bedroom. Especially in the boardroom. Most certainly if we are on our first date. It’s a whole different game once we are erotically engaged. They are extremely sensitive for larger breasts … which apparently stretches the delicate nerves responsible for sensing stimuli.
We can debate the function of breasts – as it is largely cultural. In some countries, men and women would be bemused – perhaps a little horrified – that breasts were toyed with as a sexual pleasure. There is no doubt that the mammary primary function is to feed our offspring … but it’s not so unusual for them to have a secondary sexual function.
That’s like saying your hands are only available for grasping objects … not to caress.
My breasts swelled beyond 36DDs during my pregnancy and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding, along with my heathy diet were supposed to lessen my chance of getting breast cancer.
And my breasts turned against me.
Our breasts are, unfortunately, the body’s canary … one of the organs most likely to soak up toxins and pollution and express the negatives. Environmental, pesticides, alcohol, additives, medications … all transmit through breast milk. Alcohol changes the body’s estrogen receptors … the widely accepted limit of two drinks a day is too high for several cancers. One drink a week is a safer bet.
My breasts and my soul knew something was wrong before I did. I couldn’t look at the photo my friend posted on Facebook mid January – a carton of lemons depicting the signs of breast cancer. I didn’t have any sypmtoms except the last one.
Yet … I was diagnosed with highly invasive ductal carcinoma and Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
Dr. X, my handsome surgeon, performed a lumpectomy on my right breast and a sentinel node biopsy on the closest nodes sought out by the nuclear dye. I stormed, breasts first, onto the hospital scene in the Hello 911? I’m on fire! episode. My biggest worry at the time was not about my life, but about my breasts … Specifically Ms. Right. I need them both.
Dr. X was the last man to touch – and massage my whole breast.
The morning after my first chemo infusion I woke up with a hot pink breast … Fifty shades of pink. The entire surface of Ms. Right was alarmingly red and swollen. My right breast should technically be smaller than my left, considering the size of the tumour and the amount of tissue Dr. X removed during the lumpectomy. He went right down to the chest wall. However, this breast was not much looking like the shortchanged twin. It’s commanding attention because along with that pinkness, there is considerable swelling and inflammation. My La Vie en Rose push up bra could not contain Ms. Right so she was spilling over the edge of the bra and pushing against the confines of space. It’s uncomfortable because the cup is leaving red indentation marks along the top and by the side seams … I’m still that puffy. My left breast had an angrier, poutier, darker sibling who looked like she’s walked on the wild side and crashed with her lipstick smeared all over.
Yet, even with post-surgery scars, I don’t feel ashamed to shed my pushup bra. My tummy – post 9lb 8oz baby is still the only body part I would exchange for my youth. At least my hips bones are still visible. Andrew’s* favourite handle.
Sherri says she starts the timer when new medical personnel come into the room … to see how fast I shed my clothes! That, however, doesn’t yet translate into my personal life.
From a symmetrical perspective, the right breast is slightly misshapen. The first incision extends 5 inches from mid-nipple to my right side. The sentinel node incision is 3 inches ending mid armpit. Ms. Right is looking a little deflated and off centered, but Dr. X assures me that she will be perfectly perky this time next year! Yes, I will have reconstruction surgery and end up with more perfect, perky breasts. I just pray they feel natural.
Stay abreast of developments,
P.S. PLEASE check your breasts today! Both men and women get breast cancer. 1 in 9 women in Canada. 1 in 5 will die.
*Name(s) changed to protect the guilty!