He's got a tough job, old SS. In one appointment he's telling someone they have breast cancer, the next he's congratulating them on getting so far through it (or, better still, letting them know there's nothing to worry about). And, from the looks on the faces of the couple who saw him immediately before us, that woman had clearly been thrown down the rabbit-hole of the former category.
She stared straight ahead as she walked out of the room on auto-pilot, subconsciously tearing the edges off a crumpled tissue. Her husband followed close behind, his hand resting helplessly in the small of her back, carrying his wife's coat and handbag because it was the only helpful thing he could do. And, just as we did after hearing the same news, they turned left out of SS's door and walked towards a room down the corridor where a core biopsy would be done to assess the extent of the tumour. As I wondered whether the woman would also come to loathe watercolour paintings – as I do – as a result of the artwork on the wall of that room, I tutted, shook my head and turned to P. 'Poor sods,' I whispered. 'They won't be able to enjoy the snow now.'
I sure as hell wouldn't have been able to appreciate a picturesque capital after hearing that news. The glorious mid-June day on which I was diagnosed completely passed me by. But – eight months on – there I was, a decent way around The Bullshit's racetrack, running downhill while another unfortunate bugger was blindly limbering up at the starting line. It would have been too soon – and too foolish – to stop her on her way down the corridor to assure her that it can get better (albeit eventually), however much I might want to tell the world that things are finally improving for me. (I certainly wouldn't have thanked anyone for offering me any advice at that moment. I dare say they'd have skulked off with a split lip.)
But, for P and I at least, London looked even more beautiful when we came out of our appointment, having heard from Smiley Surgeon that he was impressed with my attitude throughout treatment (he clearly missed this post) and that my radiated skin was healing well enough for him to book in a date for my first reconstructive surgery. A vote of confidence from SS is like getting a gold star from the teacher you've been brown-nosingly, arm-wavingly busting your gut to suck up to all term. And since it's no secret how much I adore the man, I'm not embarrassed to boast about it. (Ner ner ner ner ner.)
And so, the chapter-ending goal of Operation New Tit has since been scheduled. I'll be going in for the first part in a month's time – that's the surgery to ensure a better shape for my boob (at the moment I fear it looks like a clenched fist) and to fit me with an A-list implant worthy of a modest-busted Dolly Parton. ('Fit' is the wrong terminology, I'm sure. That makes me sound like a BMW going in for a service.) I then have four weeks to recover before going back for the second, smaller procedure. And that's the one that fascinates me most, because its purpose is to make me a nipple.
I know that getting a new nipple is hardly life-changingly necessary. I was never a topless sunbather, nor does my livelihood depend on me having the perfect pair. (I wonder whether Keeley Hazell's earnings would halve if she were a nipple down?) The new nip won't serve any purpose on a cancer-curing front, and I'm not even going to have any sensation in it – there's next to no feeling in my left boob, and it can't be restored. So I'm kind of thinking of it as a gift to P. After all, he's going to be the only one who sees it. Then again, after my mastectomy I happily showed off my non-tit to any interested party within a ten-mile radius, so maybe there's hope for my page three debut yet.
The nip-op will most likely be done under local anaesthetic, which I'm really chuffed about – hell, this is a process I'm going to want to be party to. Not least after the way Smiley Surgeon described it. If you'll excuse the non-medical terminology, in short what he'll be doing is lifting the skin that lies where my nipple was (the skin that originally came from my back, as those of you who've been concentrating will remember), then twisting it into a point which he'll then fix in place to form a small mound that pretty much matches the height of my right nipple. It'll be higher than a bee sting, but flatter than a coconut macaroon. More of a nub, I suppose. (A nupple, if you will.) As Smiley Surgeon described this to me (not in confectionery terms, I should add), he opened his suit jacket slightly and mimed the process by pointing to his own nipple. In much the same way that it's impossible to say 'spiral staircase' without doing that twirly motion with your index finger. I couldn't help but titter like a pubescent boy at the back of the class, of course. P looked mortified.
I doubt I'm alone in wanting to witness a medical marvel such as the creation of a nipple. And I'm sure that, for SS, being able to answer 'I made a nipple' to the 'what did you do at work today?' question is worth his doctorate alone. I wonder whether he uses the same mould as the faux-nipples made famous by Samantha in Sex and the City? Or whether it's more like the plastic tits made famous by Gazza? Either way, it's a project that's more than worthy of a Blue Peter badge. 'All you'll need today, kids, is the lid from a Fairy Liquid bottle and some sticky-back plastic. Here's one I made earlier.' (If the BBC are looking for a new scandal, I'm happy to hand this one over.)
A washing-up-bottle nozzle is probably a bit ambitious, actually. Nozzle suggests erect, and I think that's a nipple-status-quo I've kissed goodbye, at least on the left side. I'm not too bothered by it, really – it's a fact I've got used to over the last few months, particularly since my bra drawer has had to remain unopened. (This winter, I've been smuggling peanut.) But still, any nipple (sorry, nupple) is better than none at all. Right now, here in my white vest, I look like the second image in a spot-the-difference game. Something's wrong with the picture, but you can't quite put your finger on what. But, like a once-glorious but now destroyed building, I'm slowly being restored to my former glory. A bit like The Hawley Arms after the Camden fire. It'll never be quite the same again, but hopefully the regulars won't be put off going back.