I realised I hadn’t yet looked him in the eye, and quickly met his gaze with, ‘But it’s all good stuff! Very good. Really very good. Of course it is; it’s all true.’ I forced myself to stop talking.
‘Well, wow, that’s wonderful,’ he said, obviously entertained by my clumsiness. ‘When will it be out?’
‘April. End of April,’ I beamed, catching sight of P beside me, sitting relaxed in his tub chair, smirking like a front-row punter at a comedy club.
‘And who’s publishing it?’
‘Arrow at Random House,’ I answered, simultaneously shooting P a stop-finding-this-so-entertaining look.
‘Oh!’ said Surprised Surgeon. ‘Random House! They’re big!’
‘Um, yes,’ I said. ‘I suppose they are.’
For a split second, I took offence. ‘What, did you think I’d be publishing it myself like some kind of Mel C solo album?’ I thought, mildly hurt by his surprise. But then, I realised, of course he was surprised. Smiley Surgeon is one of the few people in my stratosphere who doesn’t know about this blog – who still doesn’t know about this blog – so, as far as he was concerned, I was just some part-time branded content editor who figured she could sell books, like a call-centre worker at an X Factor audition proclaiming to be the new Mariah Carey.
The door handle turned, and we craned our necks to watch a cheery Always Right Cancer Nurse (who’s Always Right Breast Nurse in the book, just to confuse matters) and her equally cheery sidekick, Other Always Right Cancer Nurse pull up chairs to P’s right, each giving him a pat on the shoulder as they did.
‘Lisa’s written a book!’ exclaimed Smiley Surgeon. ‘And Random House are publishing it!’ (Despite his happy demeanour, Smiley Surgeon isn’t a man to often warrant exclamation marks at the end of his dialogue, but in this case I assure you they’re necessary.)
‘Ooh!’ they both chirped, as I wondered whether Other Always Right Cancer Nurse might take offence at not being a character in The C Word. ‘Will you send us a copy?’ asked Always Right Cancer Nurse The First.
‘Oh yes, you must,’ interrupted Smiley Surgeon. ‘Signed, please.’
‘Haha!’ I giggled, trying to be coy but secretly lapping up their interest. ‘Well, if you’re happy for me to devalue it with my scrawl, that’s your call,’ I said, trotting out my now-standard line. ‘But yes, I’ll make sure you have one as soon as I do.’
There was a reason for my consultation other than breaking the book news, of course. As far as Smiley Surgeon was concerned, this was an appointment at which he’d have his first chance to evaluate my New Tit since my nupple was tattooed. P winked in my direction as SS raved about my falsie. ‘It’s a really wonderful result,’ he beamed, as though looking at a Monet rather than a fake boob. He studied it with a furrowed brow, mentally patting himself on the back. I half expected him to do one of those Ali G-style finger-snaps. ‘It’s a shame I don’t have my camera today,’ he said, ‘as I’d love to show this in my lectures as an example of an excellent cosmetic outcome.’
‘Whoa now, steady on,’ I thought, instead opting for a calmer, ‘Oh, blimey.’
‘No, I’m serious,’ he said, gesturing at me to pull my dress back up. ‘I do hope you’re as pleased with the result as I am.’ (It had never occurred to me that surgeons have the same pride in the aesthetics of their work as Michelin-starred chefs. Perhaps I should pitch Mastersurgeon to the BBC?)
‘I really am,’ I assured him. ‘You’ve done a wonderful job.’
Perhaps it was because he’d done such a brilliant number on my New Tit that I then brought up a concern I’d spent some months agonising over. For Smiley Surgeon, this appointment was for the purpose of the above paragraph. For me, however, it was to bring up the issue of elective mastectomy.
Being, as I am, at a higher risk than most of getting The Bullshit again, it’s fair to say that I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about what’s going on beneath my right nipple. And so, probably unsurprisingly, I had been considering the removal of my right breast to further reduce that risk. ‘Considering’ puts it lightly, actually. I’d done more than that. I’d read excessively about the procedure, had long conversations with P, my folks and my best mates about their opinions and had even looked ahead to see which month might be best for me to have the operation.
It’s perhaps a fatalistic view but, in my mind, I remain utterly convinced that this wasn’t to be my only scrape with The Bullshit. I don’t have any evidence to support that opinion – and perhaps it’s more a case of wanting to be prepared for a diagnosis next time, and not have shock make such a fool of me – and I’m loath to give such a wanky excuse as ‘I’ve just got a feeling about it’, but the truth is, I kind of have. I’m not being defeatist – I like to think of it more as accepting. And in accepting that there’ll be a rematch with The Bullshit, I’m more than prepared to pull on my gloves ready for round two, arming myself with all the defensive tactics that medical science can offer, be they an elective mastectomy, the removal of my ovaries, a hysterectomy… whatever. I will simply do anything necessary to (a) reduce my risk of this happening again and (b) make sure I’m as prepared for another cancer battle as a person can possibly be.
Which is why, prior to our conversation about my book, I asked Smiley Surgeon if he’d remove my right breast, with a tone that was less ‘if’ and more ‘when’.
‘No,’ he said.
‘Oh,’ I said.
‘I really would advise against it,’ he continued.
‘But I want to do whatever I can to stop this happening again,’ I protested.
‘Of course you do, that’s perfectly natural,’ he added. ‘But I promise you – I’m going to keep you under such close observation that if ever there was an occurrence of cancer in your right breast, I will get to it.’ I instantly believed him, trusting him, as I do, with my life.
‘Lisa,’ he assured me, with a quick look towards my left tit, ‘It will NEVER get to that stage again.’
‘Okay,’ I answered sheepishly, trying not to cry.
‘I’m not saying that there never will be another cancer,’ Smiley Surgeon went on, ‘Just that if there is, we will find it, and I will do anything necessary to remove it.’
‘Good,’ I said, still swallowing tears.
‘But let’s not put you through that unnecessarily,’ he said. ‘Not after everything you’ve already been through.’
P reached out to hold the hand that was wiping nervous sweat onto my knee. A moment ago, it had been clenched into a fist but now, with the reassurance of the only other man I’d trust with my chest, it was relaxing.
‘So come back to see me in June,’ said Smiley Surgeon at the end of our appointment as P and I were leaving the room. ‘We’ll do your mammogram then and I’ll make sure you have the results the same day.’
‘That’s brilliant,’ I said, remembering those torturous, sickening few days earlier this year between my scan at another hospital and the phonecall with my results.
‘No problem,’ he answered. ‘But send me a book first, won’t you?’
‘Gladly,’ I smiled.