Eventually, though, I had to get my ample arse in gear and think about what it was I wanted to say at the event. And what do you talk about at an occasion designed to raise funds for breast cancer charities that’s entitled Bowling For Boobies? The way I saw it, there was only one subject on the table: tits.
When I first read the press release for Bowling For Boobies, I laughed. Not at the event, I hasten to add, but instead at the word ‘boobies’, as though I were some kind of idiot virgin pubescent with a penchant for high-street honeys and pausing all the good bits of Baywatch. But alas, I am not an awkward adolescent, but a 30-year-old woman. Who, given her breast history, ought to be able to sidestep a titter (ha, titter) at the word ‘boobies’. You’d think, wouldn’t you, that after my run-in with The Bullshit, I’d be capable of talking with gravity and seriousness about breasts, and be able to see them in the solemn and humourless light that The Bullshit dictates. But no.
It’s not that I’m unable to talk about the seriousness of breast cancer – I like to think this blog proves otherwise – but more that I can’t help but be childishly entertained and fascinated by the area in which my cancer began to grow. For me, my tits are still every bit as fascinating as they were prior to my diagnosis. They might not be as hot (shit, let’s be honest – without a bra they ain’t hot at all) but beguiling and mesmerising they most certainly remain. And so when it comes to talking about my boobs – rather than the tumour that was in them – I am utterly incapable of avoiding joviality.
No surprise, then, that I got a fair few puzzled looks during my talk. But at a charity event where booze came included in the ticket price, I figured anything too sobering would be ill-advised, and so instead I spoke about what it was really like to have had breast cancer. Not about the treatment or the loss of femininity or the worries about your future. The stuff that doesn’t get talked about. Like how often people stare at your baps.
I’m not kidding. People look at my norks more now than they ever did before cancer. Surreptitiously, though. They’re not usually blatant about it. That said, my mate Sal’s parting shot from our pub visit the other night was: ‘And your tits look amazing, by the way. I hope you don’t mind, but I had a good look.’ (I didn’t.) She’s right, though. Despite the not-hot-without-a-bra comment a couple of paragraphs ago, when these puppies are safely ensconced in a boulder-holder, they’re positively smokin’.
Anyway, back to my point. Now that I’ve become aware of it, I tend to notice people’s surreptitious perk-peeks all. the. time. There’s one woman I know who barely even talks to my face any more, so transfixed is she by my cleavage. I’m not flattering myself here, I should add. I haven't suddenly begun to see myself as Eva Herzigova in the ‘hello boys’ Wonderbra campaign. Because, fabulous as my Smiley-Surgeon-crafted rack may be, I know that the woman in question is more fascinated by what cancer’s done to my tits than the curves that nature – and silicone – have gifted me.
‘So how’s it going?’ she said the other day, with the standard-issue head-tilt. ‘Is there any more treatment to the, er, y’know,’ she added, sneaking a look at my chest.
‘No, no,’ I said, ‘But I’m having another mastectomy soon to reduce the chance of getting cancer in my right side.’
‘Oh,’ she said, glancing down again. ‘Oh... I see.’
‘Too bloody right you see,’ I thought. I’m sure I even let out a little ‘hah!’ on her second perusal, but clearly it wasn’t enough to deter her, because the more we spoke, the more she gave it the Harry Hill eyes. And I wasn’t quite sure what etiquette was required in such a situation. Should I ask her politely to look at my face instead of my tits? Should I fold my arms across my chest to block her line of view? Should I change the subject and make a quick exit? In the end I opted for barefaced confidence. ‘Yep,’ I said, blatantly pointing at my left boob, ‘This one was done last February. So they’re going to have to make this one [now pointing to my right] match. Good job they’re not any bigger, eh, or my surgeon would have his work cut out!’ With hindsight it might not have been the best tactic, given that the poor lass just laughed nervously, backed away as though I were a newly lit firework and hasn’t spoken to me since.
The thing is, what she did was perfectly natural. When it comes to medical stuff, everyone has a natural curiosity – whatever it’s about. When your mate has broken their leg, you want to see the plastercast. When someone you know has had a nose job, you want to see the black eyes. And when a woman’s been unfortunate enough to have cancer mess with her maracas, you’re intrigued to know what it’s done to the way they look. But the difference with The Bullshit is that the patient in question will be less likely to, well, produce the goods. And so curiosity turns to fixation, as though the stuff beneath the shirt of a breast-cancer-patient is as magnetically intriguing as a giant red button that reads ‘do not press’. And fair enough. But, much as I’m proud, entertained and fascinated by them, I prefer to think of my boobs as like Monica’s secret closet in that episode of Friends: however much people might be intrigued by what's inside, the door to this bra is staying well and truly locked. Goodbye, boys.