18 Hours

I am sitting at the kitchen counter. It is 3:20pm and I am waiting for my seven-year-old daughter to arrive on the “late” bus. She always takes the late bus on Wednesdays, which is early release day followed by a piano lesson. Any moment now she will ring the doorbell and possibly also flip up the metal flap of the mail slot, bend down so that her mouth is level with the slot and call out to announce herself.

I take a deep, satisfied breath and allow myself to slump a little in the bar stool. I have just devoured a leftover meatloaf sandwich (the meatloaf was leftover, not the whole sandwich) on toasted wholemeal bread with a generous smear of mayonnaise and some watercress, with cornichons (which the Breeteesh spellcheck changed to coronations — really?) and cherry tomatoes on the side. If there were Breeteesh speech correct I imagine it would be all offended now, and correct my pronunciation of toe-may-toes to toe-mah-toes with slightly softer “t’s.”

Up — there she is. Excuse me. Fast forward 20 minutes. Now she is seated across the counter from me, having brought in her lunch pack and washed her hands, which is the after-school routine. She is reading a book called “Crunch” which her friend Timothy lent her over the summer. She wants to know what “duh-rell-er” means. What? I say. Point to it. Oh, “derailleur.” You don’t come across that one every day. Anyhow…

I’m thinking about the last 18 hours. And wondering how things can change so quickly. How in that period of time, which does not seem very long at all, one can experience a fury of circumstances and emotions.

Last night after dinner I washed Charlotte’s hair. Actually, a more accurate recount of the evening might include the fact that she had refused to bathe two nights running, had succumbed to a quick bath which she gave herself (but no shampoo) two nights ago and was protesting again last night despite clear signs that she could not go one single day longer without a shampoo. She then had a tantrum and pretended to go on a hunger strike, refusing to come down for dinner “because I don’t like fish curry anyway” until we tried to convince her she might starve to death. “I don’t care if I starve.” She said. And I wasn’t concerned that she would or in fact that she was in any danger whatsoever.

Of course once she had sauntered down she cleaned her plate and said it was the best fish curry she’d ever had. And to think I bought that monkfish from some dude who was going door to door ringing bells and asking if anyone would “loik fresh fish” several months ago! He caught me at an opportune moment seeing as I had just returned from vacation and had neither help nor dinner plan. So I said yes in fact I would “loik” to buy fresh fish and then came the kicker — I had to buy 10 lbs of fish (not all monkfish tho cuz that woulda been weird). So I did and we are all still here today. You know, sometimes you just have to say “what the fuck…” Anyhow, I digress.

She got into her pyjamas and then I aimed the blow dryer at her while she slouched over the latest issue of “Match of the Day,” a magazine about soccer. She became soccer obsessed at some point — exactly when eludes me — in the past year. So she pours over these publications and the accompanying “Match Attax” trading cards ad infinitum. She even categorises the cards in clear plastic sleeves in a notebook, periodically pulling them out and reordering them according to her master — whatever that is — plan of the moment. So you get the gist. She was absorbed. She’s a woman who knows what she wants. And knows who she is. In fact, when asked to describe herself in one word by her second grade teachers, she reflected briefly and responded “Chartastic.”

Once her hair was reasonably dry and she had brushed her teeth and either actually flossed or claimed to have flossed, we settled down in her bed to read a chapter of “The Secret Garden” which we have been reading for a few weeks now. We are at the part where Colin, the little boy who has been told all his life he is disabled and going to die young, stands up from his push chair in the secret garden to prove to old Ben Weatherstaff that he is no invalid.

The bedtime routine is all very calm and cosy and warm, and at the close of the chapter I bookmark our place, lay the book on her desk, tuck her in, kiss her on the forehead and turn off the light. “I love you.” I say. And leave the room.

I trot downstairs — can one trot on stairs? Well I am using that verb. I seem to manage to trot while ascending and descending. And I begin to put away the leftover rice and monkfish curry when I hear what sounds like faint crying.

I trot back upstairs, calling to Charlotte, since I know that the other child, the 10-year-old, is in the living room practicing the clarinet. I reach Char’s door and open it. “What happened?” I ask. “I hit my head!” She cries. So I flip on the light and honestly I can tell you that I was not prepared because she wasn’t crying that loud. I had one of those text-book “don’t react this way in front of your child” reactions, mouth agape, exclamation taking the Lord’s name in vain, what have you. Because she is sitting in the bed and her right hand, sleeve and the entire right side of her forehead are smeared in blood.

Simultaneously, Isabel, who has followed me up the stairs (clarinet still in hand), appears at the door and has a similar reaction. Which of course escalates Charlotte’s crying. At this point Char starts yelling “I’m going to die,” which was actually, in retrospect, kind of funny because after we settled her down and cleaned her up it was clear that the bleeding was under control and that the gash was small, about 1.5 centimetres.

Having rediscovered my rational self, I assured her that she would not die and would be just fine but that we might have to go to the hospital to get the wound closed because it was rather “gashy” (that’s a medical term — did you know?).

I spent about ten minutes trying to decide whether we should haul ass to the Royal Free Hospital’s A&E department (this is the local NHS hospital for those not familiar), knowing that we would probably wait an eternity. But, once I ascertained that Bill was en route home from work, and after calling the GP, texting my plastic surgeon friend and having a good think about it, I decided to get things going and we prepared to leave. I told Bill, who was in a cab, to have the driver leave the meter running and we would jump in and go to the hospital when he got home. That didn’t leave much time, which is why Char was wearing a white, pink and purple bunny pyjama top smeared with blood, no underwear, red sweatpants with blue polka dots, my pink Mickey Mouse socks from H&M, Isabel’s old Uggs that are at least a size too small for her and a shabby green fleece. Oh and she was armed with Froggie, a favorite green stuffed animal that somewhat resembles the shabby green fleece though it is a different shade of green (which isn’t easy, I hear).

I was wearing a peach-coloured cotton sweater with large sequin lips on it (what?) and brown Lulu Lemon sweatpants. And I think I had on underwear, but can’t remember for sure.

We got in the cab and the driver said “Royal Free?” and when I responded in the affirmative Char hollered “I don’t want to go there — I’ll get Ebola!” “You won’t get Ebola,” I said. The driver backed me up on this. So it was kind of funny that the first thing we saw when we arrived was a huge sign that said EBOLA with signs and symptoms and pictures and information and shit. I have to hand it to Char though, because I know damn well she saw it and thought “what the hell” but she didn’t say anything. She doesn’t miss much, even with a minor head injury, so she must have decided to believe me or that her fate was sealed and resistance was futile.

They checked us in (I could use the term nonchalant but a more accurate descriptor might be “could not have given two shits” to describe the young man and woman behind the counter). I had not bandaged Char’s head after cleaning the wound because the bleeding had pretty well stopped so at this point I asked if a nurse could come put a bandage on hoping that would get things moving (hello, head injury!!!) but they just gestured for me to go into a waiting room and said that a nurse would be “right out” to triage us. I would say we waited at least half an hour to 45 minutes for anyone to come out, and this after I complained several times because the wound had started to bleed again and I wanted them to put something on it rather than just let her bleed from the head in the waiting room (duh).

I looked at the signs on the walls. One boasted a 95% cleaning rating. I didn’t get close enough to see 95% of what, exactly. But a downward look revealed what I might call DIRT on the floor along with a discarded plastic bag and stuff like that.

Once the nurse attended to us, which encounter consisted of the usual wound cleansing and the application of some steristrips and a bandage, it took another two hours or so to be seen by a doctor who, after he confirmed that Char didn’t have a concussion (which I could have told him since she was her typical, sarcastic, Chartastic self), cleaned the wound again, pressed the edges of the gash together and glued the sucker. I noticed that during this Charlotte didn’t flinch or complain a bit and indeed I was proud of her stoicism.

When we got outside into the bracing cold she even suggested that we walk home. Um, no, I think we will take a cab honey, I said. It was half past midnight. But again I admired her determination and sense of adventure. Heck, she was probably thinking, it isn’t that often I stay out this late so let’s make the most of the situation and scare up some action!

I put her to bed for the second time that night. Froggie made a detour into the laundry room just in case he had come across any ebola. Char told me to wake her at the regular time for school and that she would see how she felt and reevaluate. And then I turned in myself. But a terrible wind kept stirring up this plastic sheeting covering the scaffolding on a building across the street and it took me a while to succumb. Or maybe it was the excitement of the evening or that I had other things on my mind…

The next morning I woke her and she voted for sleeping in so Isabel and I had an uncharacteristic breakfast together sans little sister and Izzy went off. Char woke up at about 8:30 and after another breakfast we set out for school.

I had to go out anyway because I had had a virus (otherwise known as the common cold) which culminated in serious laryngitis. The inflammation of my vocal cords combined with my loquaciousness, a trip to New Orleans and three weeks of house guests and my penchant for yelling from the ground floor of our house to the top floor didn’t help so after three weeks it was still hoarse. When I informed my mother that I had been hoarse for that long she gave me that look. And told me I needed to get it checked. Do you know what I mean by that look? Yeah, that’s the one. The one that says. Oh shit you had cancer so it could be cancer. And then I told my husband that I hoped I didn’t have nodes on my vocal cords (which is short for nodules — a benign callous like thing that people can get), then he gave me that look. So I said to myself, oh for fuck’s sake I’ll go to the otolaryngologist and determine that I do not have laryngeal cancer. That’ll shut everyone up. And I made an appointment to see a guy on Harley Street.

So I drop Charlotte off at school and make my way to Harley Street. I’m called into this nice dude’s office and we have a chat about my history of breast cancer and thyroid disease (at which point I sort of always feel like a loser because I am only 42 for crying out loud) and I explain the reason for my visit. He talks about the various sinister things it could be, such as, yes, cancer, caused by the HPV virus (ew, right?) etc. and then he sprays some anaesthetic on the back of my throat which he says will prevent me from having a gag reflex when he sticks this long metal thing down there to look at my vocal cords. Tempted though I was, I resisted the urge to mutter some totally inappropriate joke about — you know what? I am not even gonna say it. I’m above that (not really, but the parents are prob reading this so ya know).

So he sticks the probe in there and tells me to intermittently breathe and make a high-pitched “eeeee” and then after about three minutes he yanks it out, tells me I’m perfectly fine and let’s me have a look on the screen at my pretty, healthy vocal cords.

So I leave, my step noticeably lighter. And decide to hightail it to that mecca of all places in which to celebrate LIFE, the Oxford Circus Top Shop. Sometimes when I am in a great mood (or am not but need to be in one) nothing else will do, especially if they have a live DJ. And it is always only a matter of time before I scarf down some fro yo or Lola’s cupcakes. I’m telling you, the weird fake fur stuff I bought there today will totally require a separate blog entry. But let’s just say I plan to take funky to new levels before my time in London is up. And no, one really cannot own too many pink fake furs.

While shopping it occurs to me that a matter of minutes beforehand I had wondered — not outright worried but wondered — if somehow I could possibly be unlucky enough to have cancer again somewhere else on my body. At the age of 42.

And how only hours before that I was putting my daughter to bed and had tucked her in all safe and sound but she managed to hurt herself in her own room. And the fleeting yet unforgettable moment of terror I experienced when I opened her door, flicked on her light, saw the blood and thought she might have a serious head injury.

To better contemplate the unexpected twists and turns in life, I order a frozen yogurt and slurp it down, while balancing a purse, a parka and an entire large shopper full of ridiculous fake fur items.

And several unoriginal thoughts occur to me at once:  (1) that life is full of the unexpected; (2) that you have to leave the house because you cannot control everything no matter what your (quite possibly false) perception of safety and security and how ritualistic or careful your routines are; and (3) that there is nothing worse than worrying about your child and the other ones you love, and that this is precisely why my mother and my husband gave me that look, and why it was the right thing to do to take it seriously and get myself checked out.

This was a long one and I commend you if you read through to the end. I didn’t call it 18 hours for nothing, eh? Well, to quote an oldie but goodie, good night, sleep tight and don’t let the corners of IKEA shelving units slam into your foreheads while you are reaching for a toy in the dark — or something like that.

Spotty fur











I haven’t written since January 4th. Since Dryanuary. I cannot believe how fast time has flown this year but it has been four whole months and I haven’t written a single post. It isn’t due to lack of wanting to write or even lack of having anything about which to write. So why?

That is a very good question. And now I will try to figure it out. I think I know the reasons. More or less. You see, I kind of feel like I’m in purgatory. I’m between worlds. As time has passed I must admit that although — in some shape or form — I think about “the cancer” every day, I don’t think about it the way I used to and I really don’t dwell. It’s more like I catch a glimpse of myself naked or something and think oh yeah, cancer happened and shit. And then I move on. The passage of time has caused me to think about it less, pure and simple.

Sometimes I worry that this failure on my part to obsess on what was such a life-altering event is arrogant. That for such I might be punished. I mean, who am I to say there isn’t some nasty little cell taking hold in my liver as I type. I sit here in bed trying to block out the idiot outdoors who is drunk and having an altogether too loud conversation with his comrades and what I really ought to be doing is freaking out that hey — this thing could still kill me.

But I won’t do that. I am a realist, not a masochist. And there really isn’t any point to doing that. For now, I’m done with cancer. I’m not ever going to be done thinking about it or indeed talking or writing about it, I don’t think (although never say never). But for the most part I have moved on. And I should not feel guilty about that. I can still write about it — now with some distance and perspective, I like to think.

I consider turning this blog into a book. Something I would very much like to do at some point. And I consider that I never bothered to input SEO into this puppy (search engine optimisation) so that people would actually find and read my GD blog. This I do regret. Although I can and will do it retroactively, at some point, once I figure it out (what? It’s on my list…).

So why is the title of this post “purgatory” (which incidentally I didn’t know how to spell since the first time I wrote it I used an “e” rather than a “u”)? Duh. Well see it is because I have now begun the third and final term of my interior design course. And when I get my certificate I would like to start a design blog. I want to write. Desperately. Just it’s going to be about — as Monty Python would put it — something completely different. But I don’t know what that means. Does that mean I cannot still write killingitblog? Does it mean I do both? What do I do? Quel conundrum.

At the end of the day, I think that my voice is my voice. Irrespective of whether I write a blog about cancer or about design. Because either way I will probably write about more than either of those things. Either way I will be writing about life. Either way it will be me (yes I am being agrammatical on purpose) and you get what you get. I will not pretend to be cute. I will just be myself and, as usual, will let it all hang out. Like it or not.

The hard part is to know how to make the transition and when. And whether it will be weird that if people Google my name this funky cancer blog pops up in addition to whatever design thing I eventually have going on. But then I think, “oh who cares.” Why shouldn’t they know. It’s amazing what you can tell people that might shock the hell out of them and what they will forget — or at least won’t focus on for long.

And speaking of letting it all hang out… Today I went to work out at my gym with Anna, my personal trainer. Anna has helped take me from a pathetically skinny figment of my former self (I was pretty much skin and bones after chemo, let’s face it, not to mention bald and pale so generally looking pretty hot) to my current fit self.

After my workout this weirdo who likes to strut around the gym wearing a Richard Simmons outfit (if you don’t know who that is Google him for crying out loud), generally all red or all blue, with shorts soooo short that at any minute you could have a loose ball situation, came up and told me that I work out too hard. “What?” I asked him, incredulous. “You don’t need to do all that with the trainer. You are already fit. She pushes you to the limit.” I blinked and for a moment thought I would just smile and get on with my stretching, but then I let him have it. “You have no idea where I’m coming from,” I said. I told him I had cancer two years ago and I was skin and bones. All this muscle we have put on since my treatment. It didn’t just happen by itself. And furthermore I am not being pushed “to the limit” because it isn’t like I am throwing up. He looked pretty surprised and was speechless for a moment. And feeling rather satisfied for having shocked him, I threw in “bet you didn’t know that, didja?” “No,” he said.

But before I could feel all self-righteous he started babbling about how I shouldn’t eat dairy because “it’s a killer” and how soy is okay and how he only drinks goat’s milk. Then he went on about some Japanese mushrooms that will keep cancer away for sure and some weird salt that I have to go to Croydon to get. “Cancer won’t touch you then,” he said. Well gee, great. If only he and his too-close-to-being-loose balls had been readily available when I moved here I could have dosed up on shrooms and designer salt and cancer would not have touched me. Alas. No such luck.

So of course I immediately regretted having spilled the beans, which I almost always do. Because people don’t know what the hell to say to you so they fill the void with nonsense or just irritating bullshit — wait is that redundant? Rather than just saying, wow, that’s something else. Right on, motherfucker, keep killing it at the gym. Serves me right. When I left I said goodbye to him and he looked thoughtful for a moment and then offered up another turd — ahem — kernel of wisdom: “you know, sometimes people’s stressful careers can cause it too.” “Yes,” I agreed. Wondering why on earth this person decided to take it upon himself to try and figure out why I got cancer, when the top doctors in London and Boston cannot answer this question. “I guess I was just lucky,” I said.

But really I do feel lucky. I feel like Andy Dufresne, who crawled through a river of shit and came out clean on the other side. And I feel particularly lucky that I haven’t been assaulted (yet) by a loose ball from my pal at the gym. But there’s always tomorrow. Anyhow, I got pretty off topic there, didn’t I? But that’s okay. Let me know your thoughts about creating a new blog and what to do with this one. I’m all ears. And meanwhile I will be hanging here in purgatory, just trying to figure out how to get to the place I need to be.

Drop and Fluff

You must think I’m a bit of a tease. Talking a good game about the big reveal in my last post and then going all radio silence on you for nearly two weeks. Sorry. But have you tried that cod recipe yet? It’s pretty delish…  See Main Course.

So here I am three weeks post op and things are looking and feeling pretty good. These puppies are definitely an improvement over the hard-as-petrified-wood expanders that preceded them (husband says they are “night and day” and I have some idea why he thinks that, considering my right “boob” was previously only a couple of inches under my collar-bone for crying out loud). Also there are no metal parts that can set off anything at airport security. So I can stop carrying that surgeon’s letter around declaring that I have legitimate bionic bits should anyone suspect I have a couple of ak-47s under there.

Now I just wait. Wait and see what will be. How they settle. Whether that right side behaves or whether it decides to get all sclerotic and tight and squeeze things out of shape… creep back into collarbone territory. I tried reading a little on the internet about what to expect after implant exchange surgery and there is a lot of talk about “dropping and fluffing,” which also applies to good ole breast augmentation post op. These are terms I had never heard before — not sure if they use them here in the UK or whether they just say “settle and soften.” But the former sound exciting and a little bit naughty, don’t they? Like something someone who isn’t paid nearly enough would do to one of the male actors in a certain kind of film before the cameras start rolling… If you don’t know what I’m talking about you need to get out less and rent more pay-per-view.

Sorry. It’s nothing that exciting. The process of dropping and fluffing seems to be about the newbies finding their right spot after the muscles and the skin round them chillax a little. I don’t know what to expect and have learned throughout this ordeal to expect the unexpected… although I certainly hope not to wake one morning and find that one boob has taken up residence under my armpit or some bizarre such thing. Seems unlikely so I’m not going to worry too much about it.

It occurred to me as I was thinking about the last year that much of this process (being sliced and diced and blasted with drugs and radiation and then sliced some more…), well it’s really been an exercise in patience and tolerance. Now I am being patient again, or at least trying to. I’m back at the gym, but can only work out my lower half, of course. Today at the grocery store I bought too many things and had trouble carrying the bags the one block home because I knew they were heavier than what I should be carrying at this stage. So I stopped and rested at the bank on the corner. And for a few more weeks I will dutifully continue to forego my lacy fluorescent bralettes and opt instead for an armour-inspired sports bra to hold things in place and encourage the twins to behaaaave, baby. Yawn. Borrrrrring.

But that will all just be a flash in the pan.

When I was first diagnosed I spoke at length to my plastic surgeon friend, Beth, who encouraged me to find a good cosmetic surgeon from the outset because, as she put it, once the cancer part is over, what you are left with is your cosmetic result and that becomes your focus. There is much truth to this. At present, my focus is indeed on my cosmesis. But that in and of itself is a beautiful thing. Because even if, in the end, the cosmesis is not ideal, it sure is nice not to be living, breathing and sleeping cancer and the killing thereof.

The key is not to become obsessed. And not to be tricked into the pursuit of perfection, which is something that befalls many who go under the knife for cosmetic reasons whether it be purely by choice or in order to reconstruct something that needs reconstructing for some medical reason (such as a dog bit your face off or you had cancer or what have you).

When I stand in front of the mirror, it is impossible for me not to see that things have been done to me. Strange things, at this point, given that there is still tape over my incisions. I try not to dwell on it. Or if I even begin to dwell I am reminded (often by my husband) that few people our age look “perfect” even without having had all this crap befall them. He does have a good point… I mean I am forty. And a forty-year-old person has (usually) forty-year-old body parts. Forty just ain’t twenty, is it now?

You know something? It is odd that ageing is a foregone conclusion, that by virtue of being alive we age. But by virtue of being human we fight so desperately against ageing and, in many cases, fear and loathe it and all that it brings.

I say bring it on. When people bitch about ageing, I get it. I do. There is a lot about it that isn’t very fun and so much of it is out of our control. But to be able to age, that’s why I did all the shit I spent the last year doing, isn’t it? I did all of that so I can watch my children grow up and find their own way and experience all of those bittersweet things that life, that ageing, brings with it.

Besides, forty is the new twenty, at least as far as my tits are concerned. Now if you’ll excuse me I have some dropping and fluffing to attend to.

Photo on 21-02-2013 at 13.21 #2

We Welcome With Joy…

So I always wanted a third child. Looks like that’s probably not in the cards, although technically it isn’t impossible… but anyhow in light of recent events I think I am owed a birth announcement.

Therefore, tonight I write to welcome with joy… our new twins.

I haven’t named them yet. It’s just too soon to tell. They are so young, so new, so… covered with tape. I figure it would be wrong to pick names before I get a proper peek at the goods. That day shall soon come. On February 14 we will go for their unveiling. Maybe Cupid will shoot me right in the ass at that time and two wonderful, catchy, witty names will pop into my head. Until then let’s call them Jane and Marjorie Doe.

First impressions are good. They seem well-behaved, rather soft and pleasant. A more pleasing slope. Less fembot more female. And I swear about an hour ago when I bounded down the stairs I felt an ever so slight bounce in the pectoral region.

My mother flew over for the birth and then got stuck here because of the superstorm that dumped over three feet of snow on her hometown in Connecticut. But that was nice because then she just got to spend more time with me and my girls and of course with the newborns.

Waking up after being out for two hours with different body parts is a strange experience. I guess anyone who has had reconstructive or cosmetic surgery knows the drill. But when I look back over the year I have had a lot of different looks (and not just in the pectoral region but certainly there). It’s weird because I have gotten used to each look and now I really cannot remember very well what my original “twins” looked like or felt like. Not really.

Sorry girls, but you’ve been replaced — and oh yes I forgot to add that they are indeed identical. Sometimes surgeons use fraternal twins but mine definitely share the same DNA, so to speak (I asked).

I know it’s customary to enclose, or in this case, attach a photo of the babies in a birth announcement. But I don’t want to get kicked off Facebook for inappropriate content and considering the amount of tape on Jane and Marjorie at the moment it wouldn’t really be a very good picture. It’s better to use your imagination anyway. (Let’s face it, 99% of the time with this subject matter the imagination is better than reality because we don’t all look like the girls in FHM).

I’ll tell you what, I’ll take a picture of them with their clothes on when things have settled down a little. And I’ll attach it to a later post. Maybe I can do a redux on my earlier post, entitled Boob Retrospective, and go through the last year of transformations leading to this ultimate step.

Well I have to go now because the girls are tired and it’s their bedtime. I forgot how much work newborns can be. At least these two only get me up a couple times a night so far and they don’t seem to eat much. It’s nice they can sleep in my bed but it will be nicer when I don’t fear rolling over on one of them and injuring her. Should be a-ok in a few days.

Sweet dreams.

Top Bollocks

So, I’m living in London, right? Might as well take advantage of that and learn some really useful expressions. And try them out. Feel how they roll off the tongue. Such as the title of this here post. Top bollocks.

Now if you don’t know what bollocks are (yes I do realise that this is a household word for my British readers) it’s most literal meaning is testicles. And of course used as an exclamation it means, among other things, rubbish, in the British sense of the word (a/k/a crap). But what, exactly, are top bollocks?

My husband came home the other day and asked me to look it up because he’d heard it at work and wasn’t sure what it meant. “I think it means boobs.” Said Bill. Well, sure. That’s the obvious answer. But it occurred to me that it might have more than one meaning, particularly if it’s being used so liberally around the office.

Anyhow, I told him that I thought it also meant something good — like the bees knees or ne plus ultra or the like. You know how they made us yell out “top banana” at the Panto (if you don’t know what a panto is you will have to look it up because it is too lengthy an explanation but let’s just say it is a quintessentially British form of entertainment involving, among other things, acting, singing, making predictable off-colour jokes and beefy men in drag) for no apparent reason? Well if we have “top banana” why not “top bollocks.”

So naturally I looked it up on Urban Dictionary and I was right. One of the meanings is “something or someone that is the best in their company or position.” See here for examples of sentences using this brilliant term. Oh and yes it also does in fact mean boobs. As in, “she has lovly [sic] top bollocks.”

Well after about a nanosecond I realised that I had to write a post about top bollocks. It is so apt, you see. Because as you know I’m going in on Tuesday morning to get my very own set of “lovly” top bollocks and I’m fortunate enough to have a surgeon who is the top bollocks. I’m not making that up. He is. It even said so in Tatler’s who’s who a few months ago so it must be true.

You really don’t want just anyone fiddling around with your bits and pieces. You want the very best. The top bollocks himself.

This brings me to another term, one that I had never heard or indeed read before this evening. I came across it quite by accident whilst (oh yes I did just write whilst) looking up the expression “plumb forgot.” I had never written that down before and wasn’t sure about it. And to my great delight, the word “plumb” was used in the definition and example sentences for another really excellent expression. One that has catapulted itself to the very top of my list. I’d even venture to say that it is among the top bollocks of expressions and I am now going to try and use it as frequently as possible, although perhaps not in polite company.

The expression is “fuck eye.” Now don’t go confusing this with the verb “eye fuck,” which as you know or could probably guess if you are not a daft prick means to fuck someone with your eyes. No, not literally, just, you know, give them that look like you want to.

No. Fuck eye is a noun, not a verb. And here’s what Urban Dictionary has to say about it:

1. fuck eye
1. A person who can’t read a tape measure, cannot reasonably determine if something is plumb/level/square, or cannot tell if two (or more) different objects are the same color. Generally speaking, someone you don’t want doing any type of finish work on your house.
2. Someone who, at an early age, has been hit about the head something fierce, and now one eye wanders.
1. Johnny: Ma!?! How does this picture look on the wall?
Ma: Johnny, have your brother hang it. You’ve got fuck eye, son. It’s not even close to level.
2. Dude 1: Dude, seriously, you’re not even looking at it with your right eye.
Dude 2: Dude, you know I got hit in the head with a baseball when we were kids.Dude 1: Oh, that’s right. I forgot you’ve got fuck eye from that! My bad.

Um, if you don’t think this is funny you are a right wanker. “You’ve got fuck eye son.” I mean, seriously. I’m still laughing about it and I looked it up by accident about two hours ago. And try saying it, as I imagine it, with a Texas accent, which makes it even better. I have to believe that this is a very American expression.

So, to conclude today’s lesson, let’s use my British meets American expressions in context, shall we? Mix things up a bit, just for shits and giggles.

Friend: “So, Emily, are you excited about getting a new set of top bollocks this Tuesday?”

Me: “Why yes I am rather chuffed (that’s “pretty stoked” for my American readers). I’ve got a top bollocks surgeon who is the top bollocks himself.”

Friend: “Brilliant. You would hate to have some fuck eye do the job.”

Me: “Indeed.”


Well, here I am one week before the last “major” step in my fun-filled journey. That’s right, people. It’s D-day. Time to get my new tits.

I guess C-day would be a more apt description of the event since Ds are not in the cards. Actually I have no idea what cup size they will be because we are sooooo scientific and just above all that pettiness — we go by cc’s, not cup sizes. Where was it that I read or heard or saw in some 80s movie that more than a handful is wasteful, anyway (cough… bullshit)?

So I’ll be all cliché and ask you to please send me positive vibes next Tuesday at 9:00am Greenwich Mean Time (and those of you who started to cry after you read that I will, alas, not be restored to my former bodacious glory can pray for a miracle after you stop blubbering. Just stop it. You know who you are).

Seriously though. It has been nearly a year since I went to the very same hospital where I’ll be going next Tuesday, let a man draw all over my boobies with a Sharpie, waved good-bye to my husband and was wheeled into the OR (or the theatre as they call it here — sounds so dramatic doesn’t it?) for the removal of my breasts. You know, it’s a funny thing. I was not nervous. Not at all. I slept like a baby the night before my double mastectomy. Because I wanted that cancer out of my body and frankly felt as though the day couldn’t come soon enough.

I’ve had a year to think about that now. I’ve been through a lot and have gained some perspective. For one year I have had expanders for boobs. Expanders are like implants but they are not meant to be permanent. They are place-holders, pocket-preparers, envelope-makers. Each expander has a metal port into which a hypodermic needle can be inserted (once it has pierced the skin covering the expander — you cannot see the ports) either to inject or remove saline, thus changing the size of the “boob.” And I’ve tried just about every look under the sun. From “pumped up” to pretty darn flat and everywhere in between. This is for a number of reasons, having to do with slowly inflating to create a good pocket and allow the tissue to stretch and recover around the expander, and having to remove some liquid temporarily to get a good angle during radiation treatments.

The other day I had a strange experience. I attended an exercise boot camp with a couple friends. There I was, struggling on a treadmill at an uncomfortable incline, jogging at an impossible pace (interval training is a bitch, particularly uphill), for me, not having been much of a runner for the past ten years. There was a big ole mirror about two feet from me and I didn’t recognise myself. I looked so slight and sort of weird. And then I realised it was because those jugs of mine weren’t there any more. And what was there wasn’t moving at all (I mean AT ALL). That plus the short hair made me feel kind of boyish. And it dawned on me that my boobs were really part of my identity.

It was just weird. I thought, “gee, my shoulders don’t look as broad as I thought they were.” And “gee, I’m awfully scrawny and lanky…” And I guess it’s because my boobs were sort of my thing, not that they were all-defining or anything but let’s just say they were one of my things. And now they’re not. It’s kind of an odd experience, really.

There are other physical changes too, which no doubt contribute to the sense of otherness. I work out more than I did before this happened. And I am a little older now. So yeah, maybe I am a little more sinewy and lanky. I guess it’s the new me. I’ll tell you something, though. The new me is definitely ready for some new tits. I hope that they move, even a little. These expanders have been better than nothing, for sure, but I’m so over them.

Want to get technical? Here’s the plan: my surgeon is going to go through the same incisions that were made during the first surgery. I’d say my healed incisions are about 3 1/2 inches across the very centre of each breast. He will remove the expanders and pop in — now here’s where it gets creative — my cohesive gel silicone implants. These implants are silicone, yes, but they are “gummy bear” implants, so-named for their cohesive rather than liquid silicone structure. They are still in clinical trial in the US even though they have been around for some twenty years (I don’t know why — ask the FDA). They are particularly appealing for breast reconstruction because they are anatomically shaped (think more tear drop less m&m but they won’t melt in your mouth or your hands) which is supposed to impart a more lifelike look to my breasts. And if I got stabbed in the boob they purportedly wouldn’t leak ooey gooey silicone all inside my insides. Rather, they would stay together, just like a harpooned gummy bear (thus the nickname).

Here’s the bad news: implant reconstruction is tricky in people who have undergone radiation. Radiotherapy damages the blood supply to the tissue that has been subjected to radiation and it also increases the likelihood of capsular contracture — or hard scar tissue — forming around the implant. It also increases the likelihood of other complications none of which I am going to discuss or am particularly concerned about. There’s always something, for Christ’s sake. The gist is that after radiation things can get kind of fucked up and sclerotic and sometimes skin and tissue don’t behave properly. Ah well.

I’m hoping that this doesn’t screw up my results too badly on the side that got zapped. Six months following radiation, that side is already firmer than the non-radiated side, which is nice and soft and ready to behave. The surgeon will try to release some of the scar tissue on that right side in the hope that the new implant will settle and form a better more natural shape. Not so firm and not so high.

I figure if it really gets bad I can just use that boob as a drinks table. Screw it. At least I won’t be setting off any more metal detectors in the airports of the world. Because I really wanted to learn how to say “I’m not packing, I just have breast implants with metal ports” in Thai.

Anyhow that’s about it for tonight’s instalment. Feel free to ask me any questions about any of this. Really you can. I like to be technical. And you might be curious. Or not. Whatever.

One-Trick Pony

So it’s sort of my anniversary. Or should I say cancerversary? Wait… I think I just threw up in my mouth a little in the face of such a cheesy, fabricated word. Anyhow, it has been a year since my diagnosis. To be completely accurate it has been a year, two weeks and one day. The date I got the call (“yes it does show a cancer … but you’ll have perky tits forever”) really isn’t what I think of as the anniversary, however, considering I was at least 66 2/3 % convinced that the results of the biopsy would not be good a week before the call came in.

I was not being pessimistic, people. I was being realistic. I had looked the radiologist in the eye, said “I am a big girl; what do you think” and she had levelled with me. She was “reasonably concerned” there was cancer present. So although lots of well-wishers told me not to worry and that everything would turn out fine I kind of knew that wasn’t how things were likely to go down. That was when I started dealing.

Which probably explains, at least in part, why this past December was such a tough month for me, as I mentioned in a previous post.

So how is this relevant now that December has come and — blissfully — gone? Well it got me thinking. That’s sort of a lie, actually. Because I am always thinking. In fact I wish I could turn off my brain sometimes. But it got me thinking, specifically, about what the hardest things have been about this experience to date. And I came up with something sort of interesting and to some people, maybe unexpected.

When I think back over the last fourteen months, from finding a lump in the shower, to the investigations, to confirmation that something sinister had taken up residence in my body, to surgery, chemo, radiation and all the delightful direct effects and side effects of such, to recovering after it all, the answer is as clear as a bell.

The hardest things have been (1) the waiting period between finding out that I might have cancer and formulating a plan of action (surgery + ?) after I found out I definitely had cancer, with a little bonus period after my surgery during which I had to wait yet again for more detailed pathology results leading to a further plan of action (chemo + radiation) and (2) most of the month of December, about a year from the beginning of all this crap. So there’s a pattern here, see it? It’s before and after. Those have been the hardest times. By far the most stressful. Not during. Hmm.

People who have been through this or something like it and those who have cared for them or who otherwise know warned me that the initial waiting period would be the worst. And that I might feel “down” after it was all over. The waiting was awful. It was terrifying and just plain old difficult to bear. I concur. But I did not feel down right after the treatment was over. Maybe a little adrift at times, but not really down. Until December when I got hit with a bad cold and a nasty clenching crimp in my back. That reminded me of being weak. Of having limitations. And things sort of deteriorated from there. Part of it was an obvious thing. I did not feel good physically, so it follows that I didn’t feel so hot mentally. The cold persisted and turned into a sinus infection and the back persisted such that I was uncomfortable for a good part of the day, every day. That doesn’t make for a great mood. I was downright cranky.

I know now that everyone and his dog seems to have had a nasty cold over December — some even got two colds. I am not special in that regard. It just especially affected me because it made me think about feeling unwell and the last time I had felt unwell was while I was undergoing chemotherapy. It was a lack of patience on my part. An “I’m well now and it’s over and there is no time or space for being sick because I refuse to be limited.” And the back thing was similar. It screwed up my workouts, deprived me of endorphins, made me lose a little muscle. Made me see a dip. I don’t like dips. I’m into crescendos.

I feel much better now. Much. It’s a new year and I have a feeling that despite the conventional wisdom, thirteen is going to be my lucky number. Or at least better than twelve, which, as a friend put it who also had a hell of a 2012, can totally kiss my ass.

In retrospect, although undergoing treatment was not pleasant, it really wasn’t that hard, relatively speaking. My mission was clear; beautiful in its simplicity. It was sort like I became this one-trick pony and the pony’s focus was this: kill it. I was an assassin. Single-minded, willing to do whatever it took to carry out the hit. The wire had already hit my numbered Swiss account and I would go and go until the hit was carried out.

What else made it bearable? It was temporary. I’ll shave my head today, but my hair will grow back tomorrow. I’ll feel shitty and have metal mouth and queasiness today but I will have my appetite back tomorrow. You get the gist. It was something to slog through, not a permanent state of affairs to which I had to adjust. And I started to write and then I learned a hell of a lot about myself.

I was also incredibly fortunate to handle the meds pretty well. Although I rested in bed on the afternoon following treatment and went to bed early every night, I wasn’t in bed all day and I still exercised and generally enjoyed a good appetite. None of my side effects landed me in the hospital, even though some were infuriating (such as the swollen thumb episode).

What’s my point? I don’t really have one. I’m just musing. People say I have been strong. That I sailed through treatment. I don’t really know if that is true. Maybe it was just easy for me to have a singular focus and to get through something I needed to get through. Put all life’s little stresses on hold. Sleep well at night because I knew what mattered and what didn’t. Wasn’t going to get worked up about the little bullshit over which I had spent plenty of time obsessing in the past. Big deal.

We’ll see how the next couple of months pan out. I have a date on the calendar for the acquisition of my new tits. That’s pretty exciting. Sort of. If you told me I would move to London and a year and a half later be going in for a set of silicone tits — ahem — after having had my original tits removed — I would not have believed you. I still find it hard to believe except that anything has to be better and more comfortable than these saline expanders with metal ports that feel about as hard as boulders sewn under my skin. I’m ready to move on. Ready to take the next step. We’ll hope for the best. See where it takes me. Plan on bikini shopping in the near future.

And then the world is gonna be my oyster again, bitch.


Titty McTittenheimer

Have you seen the movie Friends with Kids? There is one particularly uncomfortable scene where the couples go for a ski weekend in a log cabin where Jon Hamm (you know, the hottie from Madmen), having had a few too many (one over the eight for my English readers), refers to Megan Fox’s character as “Titty McTittenheimer.” This, during a rant in which he declares that the romance between the male protagonist and Megan Fox’s character will never work because she is basically just an immature pleasure-seeking pair of tits who isn’t interested in settling down.

Why the fuck am I telling you this? You might ask. Well, ever since that scene and my deflation many months ago (see Smaller Tits in Sixty Seconds if you have no idea what I am talking about), I have wanted to have a reason to write a post with this title. And the day has come, my friends. The day has come.

I realise I ain’t no Megan Fox. But a year ago I had a reasonably sized set so it wouldn’t have been totally out of the question to refer to me as Titty McTittenheimer. What? About a month ago when I went to my plastic surgeon, you may have read, I was turned away… no enhancement to be had. Some mumbo-jumbo about wanting things to settle down a bit more post-radiation. I walked out of that office rather pissed off. Realised I had been totally prepared to bust out of there, literally.

Last Thursday I went back. Expecting to be turned down for the second time in a month. Turned loose once again on the streets of London sporting the small-chested waif look. Listen, by the way, if you are flat-chested or small-chested, please do not be offended. This isn’t about you and how great you look flat-chested. Because I could give a shit that being flat-chested is a good look. It is a good look and I even got used to that look on my own body. You can argue all you want but believe you me it is just plain weird to have a very different-sized body part that has been a part of you for most of your life suddenly gone, or at least drastically changed. It may be a good look but it just hasn’t been my look. You dig?

Anyhow, about five minutes after I went into the office I found myself on the table getting bigger jumblies by way of a magnetic device resembling a stud sensor, a generously sized hypodermic needle and some saline.

I went to a dinner party that night and in front of all the guests I asked my husband if he noticed anything different about me. In case he needed help, I gestured to my chest. Don’t worry, all the guests are friends and knew what was going on. Not that I mightn’t have done the same in front of complete strangers, mind you, because Honey Badger really does NOT give a shit.

Then it dawned on me. I have truly become shameless. It’s sort of free license for me to be the complete ass that I always have been. Now I just have an excuse.

I can now get away with statements such as “hey, how do you like my tits?” And “want to have a feel?” And these are received as completely normal and some people even take me up on the offer. (NB: do not have a feel uninvited because I been working out and I’ll kick your ass, MF). Our friend Peter wanted to know if my temporary boobies were filled with air. I said hell no, it’s helium! Wouldn’t that be a trip. So to speak.

Okay let’s get serious for a moment. What the heck is going on? So we are doing this all in preparation for phase two of my reconstruction, or as my friend Mark puts it, my “intercambio de tetas” a/k/a tit exchange iffa ju don speek eh-Spanich.

We are “preparing the pockets” for my silicone buzzies. I am supposed to get them in February. And finally after some progress I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Or should I say the mountains at the end of the valley. I told my surgeon I was going to rewrite the song All I Want for Christmas in light of recent developments. Stay tuned for my inspired version in a future post…

The last year has been a real doozie. And soon I will put myself in the hands of my surgeon once more (well, not just any surgeon, but Mr Titty McTittenheimer, to be precise). This time the directive will be a little more lighthearted. This time he won’t be excising a life-threatening tumour to save my life. This time, he will be, simply, making me my own version of Titty McTittenheimer. Restoring balance and order to the universe. What goes up must come down. What gets cut out must be put back. And so forth. You know the drill. Just call me TM for short.

Déjà Vu All Over Again

You’re probably used to my cheerful, optimistic posts and my sunny disposition. Maybe sometimes you even want to know if I’m for real or if it’s hate hate hate and more hate when I close the MacBook Air for the evening, despite the fact that most posts end on an up note.

Well if you’ve been skeptical you’re in for a treat tonight because I am royally pissed off. I had a hell of a morning.

It all started last night when I had trouble falling asleep. I deliberately don’t look at the time when I have trouble settling down because knowing just how little sleep I am about to get in the best case scenario just makes it worse. I highly recommend this tack if you haven’t tried it. To further induce the Zzzz’s I put in one earplug in the ear facing up. The pillow against the ear facing down muffles sound enough on that side and I don’t want complete sensory deprivation in case the riots start again or the rats come back and run up the stairs or something.

Then I had a series of nonsensical and mildly disturbing dreams none of which I can quite recall but some of them involved my two illegitimate children with different fathers and my attempt to explain this situation to someone in an office I have never been to for unknown reasons. I promise this was just a dream, dear. When I woke up I immediately knew something was wrong because there was far too much light in the room for it to be 6:30. I looked at the clock. It was 7:09. My older daughter’s bus comes at 7:30.

I uttered expletives à la Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral although I wasn’t late for a wedding and hurtled myself up the stairs to wake the kids.

“Get up, sweetie,” I said to Isabel. “Mommy overslept and it’s already ten past seven.” You only get away with referring to yourself in the third person if you are a mother, a grandmother or Bob Dole. Miraculously she kicked into action, realising the gravity of the situation. She was downstairs, dressed, with teeth brushed within about seven minutes. I even managed to make her lunch, brush her hair and argue with her about how cold it was or wasn’t and why she did or didn’t need a parka before the bus showed up.

I then ran upstairs and took a Tamoxifen, which I normally take at 6:30, right when I get up. At that time I also normally take a levothyroxine for my underactive (formerly overactive) thyroid — yes I only get weird things for which I have to take daily pills, ruining forever any desert island fantasy I ever start having (it goes something like this: I am stranded on a desert island… oh crap if I don’t have my pills I would die — fantasy over). I take the thyroid medication at 6:30 for good reason; I am not supposed to eat for one hour after taking it (or take it for two hours after eating) and I want my breakfast as soon as possible.

But this morning I did not take the thyroid medicine with my Tamoxifen because it would have meant waiting until past 8:00 to eat anything. Unacceptable. I figured I would eat first and then wait the requisite two hours after eating and take it then.

A bit later this morning I was in my room studying my reflection and came to the conclusion that as much as I don’t want it to be true, my eyebrows and eyelashes are falling out AGAIN. I am not very happy about this. I heard it could happen but I had really thought the issue was done and dusted, as we say here in England. Yogi Berra’s quote came to mind: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” But that was the only funny thing about it. While studying my patchy lower left lid, the phone rang. I missed the call. Plus our land line is broken anyhow so although you can place or receive a call, the instant the call connects it is dropped. So you get to hear or say “hell-” and click it’s dead. WTF. I pressed the caller ID button and saw that it was my husband, who was calling the landline even though he knew the phone was broken. WTF again. Maybe he had heard about my two illegitimate children…

I called him back on my mobile phone. While speaking to him, I hustled over to my night table where I was supposed to take that thyroid medication, having eaten breakfast a while before. Because I was distracted, however, I took another Tamoxifen. Swallowed it right down about a nanosecond before I realised what I had done. “Shit,” I thought. I got off the phone with my husband and then called the nurse to make sure two pills in one morning wouldn’t kill me. Of course it wasn’t that big of a deal. They said it would be fine and that I should resume the normal dose tomorrow. That was a relief, because I didn’t really want to have to shove my fingers down my throat even though I had just seen Clare Danes do a hell of a job at it on Homeland only last week.

After suffering about five minutes of psychosomatic nausea, I took the thyroid medication as previously planned and decided to try to fix the phones. I rebooted the base station for the cordless handsets, which of course did nothing. That means I have to call Virgin and try to talk to an actual person tomorrow, since the computer and the automated call centre have informed me that my line is working perfectly (super). And the last time I had to talk to Virgin I reached a nice lady at a call centre in India and had to explain that they had given me a phone number that had already been assigned to the urology department at the Royal Free Hospital. You cannot make this shit up, people.

So, let’s take stock of my day so far: slept through alarm, felt like head was run over due to not enough sleep, confirmed eyelashes and eyebrows thinning, phones broken and attempt to fix them unsuccessful, almost poisoned myself with anticancer medication. Not great. Oh and did I mention the nagging post radiation pain on the underside of my right “boob” that drove me nuts all weekend because it not only hurt, but along with the newly thinning eyebrows and eyelashes, served as a constant reminder that I had cancer and have had all this revolting draconian crap done to my body in the recent past?

So I did the only thing I could do to turn things around. I rallied and went to the gym. And it did help. What really helped, though, was meeting my husband for a greasy cheeseburger at The Albany (pub really near Great Portland Tube Station) after my workout. A burger was just about what the doctor ordered. And now I am going to bed, sort of on time, thank you. Right after I ever so gently remove my mascara and try not to disturb any weak lashes in the process. Those fuckers had better grow back fast.

If this continues I might have to get lash extensions or just flat-out fake lashes. Fake boobs, why not fake lashes too? Hell by the time I’m through I might be 75% plastic instead of 75% water.

Here’s to hoping tomorrow is a better morning. G’night.

Life After Treatment

I don’t feel like I’ve been writing very much about cancer (per se) these days. Maybe it’s because I am done with treatments going on three months now. In fact, this Saturday will mark the three-month anniversary of my final treatment and it also happens to be my eleventh wedding anniversary. Hot spit.

Being done is super. I’ve been tooling around London a fair bit and when I step back and think about it, it feels oh so different to be going about my business as “a normal person” rather than as “a cancer patient.” Of course, when I was a cancer patient I still tooled around and did things, but somehow it always felt like I was squeezing the good stuff in between appointments.

For a period of about seven months, appointments formed the scaffolding of my existence. First, a myriad* of appointments with surgeons and oncologists and the requisite imaging and scans and preparations for surgery, then the surgery itself and the follow-up appointments. And shortly after that, chemotherapy every other Thursday for four months. Then, two-and-a-half weeks following chemo, five weeks of radiation, five days a week. Plus a ton of extra appointments for random crap like the shingles on my head, a 7mm-deep collection of blood under my right thumb which caused it to look like a sickly Goodyear Blimp and other tedious but not-too-serious medical travails.

When you look at it that’s a busy schedule. So, getting out and doing things not related to killing cancer or dealing with the spate* of problems that killing it spawned seemed extra. As in extracurricular. “Outside of.” It’s Latin you know.

*My dad will be so proud. I used myriad and spate in the same post.

Now that scaffolding is gone. It’s been disassembled and put back in the shed and I am building a new one all on my own. Unless you count the every three-month check-ups. But those aren’t often enough for me to consider them the same way structurally. Not even close.

There was an article in The Times last weekend by a breast cancer survivor (Gail Rolfe). She wrote about life after treatment and how she battled depression. Here is the link but you have to subscribe to The Times online in order to read the whole thing, I’m afraid, unless you get the times delivered and have last weekend’s still lying on the coffee table or awaiting recycling in your blue recycling bag (are they blue outside of Camden? I dunno).  http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/health/mental-health/article3572415.ece

I suppose I am entirely too subjective to judge whether the article resonates with people who haven’t been touched by the topic. It was easy for me to understand what she was talking about, even though I am, thank goodness, not personally struggling with depression. Because I do struggle with a lot of things post treatment.

She made a number of points that I have made in previous posts and have noodled about in some detail. The obvious first one is that it can actually be hard/weird/disquieting/scary (I could go on) when your treatments are over and you are on your own. This is true. That scaffolding has been removed. And you sort of feel like, okay, I made it through that unbelievable shit show, so now what the fuck am I supposed to do?

It’s like that solid, stable bridge you’ve been walking over has just become invisible but you have to move forward because you can’t turn back and you can’t stand still. It is, to say the least, unsettling. And not easy. Did I mention that the bridge has become a suspension bridge, that it shakes when you walk, that the drop below is fatal and that most of the people walking along beside you have fallen back? Now you’re getting the picture. You need a lot of core strength to walk over that bridge. If you are strong and centred it makes the movements easier and more natural. But it takes focus and will and strength. It doesn’t just happen by itself. Unless you are truly unthinking.

I’ve talked to so many people who said they were depressed or freaked out when their treatments ended and had that walking over the invisible bridge feeling. Whose friends didn’t get it because they thought it would just be party party party when the last drop of crap went into the vein or the last photon beam zapped the problem area.

It is so very personal. So very individual. What you feel at that moment.

The biggest deal for me was being done with chemo. Sure I had radiation ahead of me but that didn’t seem like that much of a thing, compared. Being done with chemo was the biggie. As you may have read, I had a number of visitors that last time. My husband and two fellow survivors came to hang out, not all at once. But by the time the treatment was winding down my guests had left and I was alone. And it was great. To have the last bit of that nasty liquid drip in and then get disconnected and bid the chemo suite adieu.

I didn’t feel anything negative in that moment. Of course it may have helped that I was wearing a pink, fringed bob wig, a feather skirt and rubberized leggings at the time. How can a person feel bad in that? Really. It’s like happiness armour.

The point is that for many people that isn’t such a triumphant moment. Or at least it is a moment of major ambivalence or even terror. Keep that in mind if you know someone going through this so that when they are finishing you say “how do you feel about being done” rather than “so you must be so excited to be done!” How the hell can you know how they are feeling? You can’t.

Back to the bridge.

Sometimes my mind wanders into troublesome places and I have to extract myself from that and force myself to take another step on that rickety-ass contraption. Force myself not to worry about the what-ifs and for the moment not to dwell, at least, on the topic. At times like that, being able to forge ahead and take that next step is sort of like having faith, but also just accepting the futility of obsessing over things over which we have very little control. Squeeze the core and advance. And don’t forget to breathe. That’s sort of what life is like even without cancer. Isn’t it? A leap of faith. Letting go. Moving forward.

In her article, Gail mentioned being a member of the club no one wants to join. I get that for sure. I wrote about that very thing. I am downright pissed off that even though I am done with treatment, I am still not really a normal person. I’m a little bit bitter about it. I think about it. It affects my actions daily. What I eat and drink. I get a little antsy if I feel that I am exceeding my self-imposed limit of alcohol (bad for cancer) or that my diet is too high in fat (bad for cancer) or sugar (bad for cancer). It irritates the hell out of me to have to think about things in this way.

You might retort: you don’t have to but rather you choose to. Fair point. But see even when I go “aw, screw it” and say, have those two chocolate Oreos and wash them down with a cup of hot chocolate despite the fact that I had a small bowl of vanilla ice cream two hours earlier, I think “oh crap that wasn’t so good.” But as my oncologist said, you have to live your life. I can’t live it on a seaweed and raw cabbage diet, people. And I can’t let myself go and not take care of myself either. I am not into extremes. So I take the middle road which goes something like this: eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, indulge from time to time and try not to beat myself up about it too much.

You will say that over time this will change and I will think less about these things. This may be true. In fact I hope it is true. But knowing myself, I will always be careful. Or at least more careful than I was when I felt a little less mortal.

I got a newsletter from the lady in charge of the organic farm that delivers produce to me every week explaining that she had found a lump in her breast and had a scare but that her biopsy had come back clean and she was exhilarated and felt “immortal.” Interesting. I think if I had had that result rather than the shit luck I had I still would have come out feeling a little more mortal, not the other way around. I mean, something’s gotta get you. Think I should call her up and suggest that she might have a heart attack tomorrow? I know, probably not.

So this other thing on my mind post treatment is, go figure, boobs. Why not since they seem to be on everyone else’s mind too.

To wit: a day after the article about depression after cancer treatment was a spread in The Sunday Times magazine (the cover of which featured a model with a t-shirt on that had a rather grotesque–I thought–photo of naked breasts on it) about the longstanding obsession with breasts and how prudish we have become about naked breasts. It touched on topics such as the topless pap pics of Kate Middleton, how uncomfortable English women feel about sunbathing topless, how bipolar America is about boobs (simultaneously prudish and obsessed) and it contained a timeline about the naked breast including “historical” events such as Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction. It even had a quote by Marilyn Monroe lamenting being defined by her tits (well, and ass).

I didn’t really get the whole point of it. But I guess I am jaded. The article promised that I would not think of breasts the same way after reading it. Um, whatever. Like I needed to read that to get some perspective. I mean, step into my office for a minute, honey…

Just a week ago I visited my plastic surgeon, thinking that at long last he would put back some of the saline that he was instructed to remove from my temporary implants prior to beginning radiation in June. If you didn’t read my posts about that, it had to do with exposing more of the left breast to radiation than was desirable given that my cancer had been only on the right side. (The temporary implants, called expanders, are really place-holders for my permanent implants which I should get sometime early next year. The process of inflation is to form a good “pocket” in which the permanent implants will lie). The long and short of it was that I was too, and I quote: “pumped up” for them to get the correct angle so they had to partially deflate me. It was not an awesome experience.

It has been a few months and frankly I’ve grown used to a flatter look. But for some reason, (maybe because the killing it part is over) lately, I had sort of gotten focused on getting some volume back in the rack. So I was rather nonplussed when my surgeon told me that in fact he thought we needed to wait a little longer before inflating me. The skin looked good, better than it had the last time he examined me, he assured me, but things were still a bit inflamed from the radiation and he wanted to see if they would settle down and soften up a bit. Which of course raised a number of questions. What if they don’t? What if this is as good as it gets? Will I have to settle for a smaller size? Will the surgery get screwed up regardless of size? What kind of implants should we use? Has the plan changed? Is there a plan?

I felt like yelling “but I want bigger tits and I want them NOW” à la Veruca Salt in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Just to see what would happen.

It’s really quality not quantity that concerns me, at the end of the day. Oh shut up, male readers. I am being serious. If he can make them look decent I don’t care if they are petite. It would be nice to feel a little less like part of that club no one wants to join and a little more like just another chick with boobs, hanging out in the ladies locker room. Not that I am planning to parade around topless once I have my new set. At least not at the gym. But I might if they are really top quality. Just to see if anyone notices they’re plastic.

My surgeon once told me about a breast reconstruction patient he had once. She was an ageing rock star’s (don’t worry he didn’t tell me who) girlfriend, who the first time she came to his office, produced a tiny dress from her hand bag and said “do what you have to do but it has to look good in this.”

You know what, I can really respect that. Honey badger don’t give a shit as long as it looks good.

How I got from deep thoughts about life after treatment to this point I am not quite sure but it’s all part of that journey on the invisible bridge.