Wednesday 25 March 2009

Dotting the i.

Is there a Guinness World Record entry for the world's biggest nipple? Because I think I've got it. For verification purposes, I suppose it's strictly a nupple. And since there aren't even half as many nupples in the world as there are nipples, I'm skipping the adjudication and taking the crown. Well done me.

I've only caught a very quick glimpse of it, mid morphine-trip from my hospital bed when a nurse came to inspect my wounds (it might have been the drugs, but I'm sure her name badge said 'Mariwana'), but even in my stoned state I couldn't believe what I'd seen beneath the bloody dressings. Sheesh, it could have taken my eye out. Seriously, it's the size of a grape. It's not just the small mound I'd expected from Phase One of Operation New Tit, but in fact a fully-fledged, proud-as-punch, specially constructed imitation erect nipple. I know! Erect! Hell, that's not even something I can say for my right nipple. That's generally a lazy little bugger, only standing to attention when absolutely necessary. (Or cold. Or covered by the sparkly, see-through, soft-as-sandpaper bra that only ever sees the light on very special occasions.) Not so the nupple. This little baby (sorry, big baby) belongs on a newsagent's top shelf. Or, better still, beneath a smutty bikini in a Carry On film. (Oh behave.)

Actually I fear it might be better suited to a horror film right now, given the stitching and swelling and scabbing. Always-Right Cancer Nurse came to visit me on the ward before my surgery to explain the procedure, forewarning me that the new nip would be 'a bit on the large side' post-surgery. Smiley Surgeon has purposely made it bigger than it will actually end up. Since it's not made from living tissue, part of it will eventually die and fall off like the leftover bit of umbilical cord on a baby's belly button (enjoying your dinner?). So the nupple I'll end up with – thankfully, I think – will be considerably smaller once it shrinks down to a mere shadow of its current form. (Roll up! Roll up! Step right this way for the Amazing Shrinking Nipple!)

It was a brilliant surprise, seeing Always-Right Cancer Nurse. Given that she doesn't usually work on Saturdays, I hadn't expected to see her on the day of my surgery, and her visit to my hospital bed was the one calming tactic that actually worked on me. In many ways, heading back into hospital felt like the same old cancer-treatment routine: turning my nervous frustration into shouting at P the night before (this time about getting the blinds to sit straight, or some other such nonsense), blocking the loo before leaving home, sobbing on the cab journey there, then blocking the loo again when I got to the hospital (what can I say – nerves do funny things to your bowels). It was a surreal, emotional experience, being led back to the same ward where I'd spent several days last June, for the removal of what was about to be replaced. Both Smiley Surgeon and Always-Right Cancer Nurse mentioned that the months seemed to have passed so quickly since the last time we were discussing my left breast on a hospital ward. And I suppose it does seem speedy to them. They're doing this kind of thing every day, but for me it's been a lengthy, loathsome, laborious process that's gifted me my first grey hairs. ('No bloody wonder,' said Dad as he pulled them from my head.)

No amount of pre-op nerves could make me behave around Smiley Surgeon when he came to visit me before his Saturday afternoon melon-twisting session, mind. I was my usual, cringeworthy, goony self. Actually I was worse than that. I was a complete twat. He poked his head around the door and – this being the first time he'd seen me without long hair, a wig or a headscarf – for a couple of seconds he didn't recognise me. 'Wow, your hair!' he exclaimed, realising that he was in the right place and walking towards me purposefully with his clipboard. 'Huh, yeah,' I snorted, embarrassingly. (Goon alert...) 'Hey, look!' I yawped, pointing at his head. 'I'm catching you up!' From the corner of my eye, I saw P wince as his head fell into his hands, and felt my face getting hotter as I kicked myself for being more of a tit than the body part that Smiley Surgeon was about to create. Normally I'm a think-before-you-speak kind of girl, but whenever I'm around this man, I just cannot stop these ridiculous things from spewing out of my mouth. It's like trying to act cool around a Beatle. Though I'm sure I'd be more composed around Paul McCartney than I am around Smiley Surgeon. Hell, compared to him I reckon I'd be a picture of ease if I ever met the Queen or the Dalai Lama or Dave Grohl (well, maybe not Grohl). The man is a legend. Whereas I, on the other hand, am a twonk. (In a similar vein, I once found myself having a drink with the Stereophonics, and realised I was humming one of their tunes out loud as we sat around our tiny pub table. 'What's that you're singing?' enquired the lead singer, knowing full well that he'd recognised one of his own songs. 'Me? Oh, uhm, nothing... I dunno,' I mumbled into my beer bottle.)

As he always does so expertly, Smiley Surgeon delicately side-stepped my fame-blinded faux-pas (surely the breast reconstruction equivalent of 'I carried a watermelon?'), quickly moving onto the business of Operation New Tit. He stood opposite me as I sat topless on my hospital bed, sizing up my real boob against my meantime-boob, and explaining that he didn't think size and weight would be a problem, but that he might have to spend some time getting the projection right (which, I think, was a polite way of saying that my boobs are a good shape, but they don't stick out all that much). Apparently, in preparation for the surgery, he lines up all the available implants in the relevant cup size, then tries out the likeliest ones after he's made the incision before settling on the one that'll stay beneath my skin. I loved the thought of Smiley Surgeon standing behind a table filled with size-ordered fake tits, like a bell ringer ready to perform, and I focused on that image as the anaesthetist sent me off to sleep.

When I woke up three hours later, I caught myself mumbling P's name (thank God it wasn't Smiley Surgeon's) as the anaesthetist who'd put me under handed me a tissue to wipe my tears. I was utterly overwhelmed. There I lay, gowned up and drowsy from the drugs, in the same recovery room I awoke in after my mastectomy, directly opposite the same silver clock and surrounded by the same familiar smells of detergent and dressings that I hadn't realised I'd remembered from last time. There was a woman on a bed beside me, whining loudly after what I gathered had been a minor op, giving the staff a hard time because she was thirsty and they weren't bringing her a glass of water. I rolled my head drunkenly over to look at her, itching to spit out some barbed comment about thinking herself lucky she had her own (massive) tits, but I stopped, instead comforting myself with the thought that my cancer-card-playing days are, hopefully, almost over. 

I quietly cried all the way back to the ward, too, and even once I was back in my bed. I couldn't help it. It wasn't necessarily out of pain or discomfort; more out of anguish. Trauma, even. I was shell-shocked by the months of treatment I'd been through to get to this point, yet completely surprised that I'd finally – finally – made it here. The whole experience was unexpectedly turning into a bitter reminder of everything I'd fought so hard to forget, and the disbelieving, impossible-to-stomach impact of my diagnosis was hitting me all over again. From months of trying so hard not to discuss my cancer, and instead talk to my family about Coronation Street or clothes or cooking, I suddenly found myself needing to talk about it. Recounting memories. Asking questions. Expressing shock. Mum reminded me of the people who'd visited me in hospital last time around; of the lovely day we'd spent at Wimbledon before any of us knew what was coming; and of the ward sister who, when Always-Right Cancer Nurse introduced me ahead of my mastectomy, looked with suspicion from my face to my bust, as though we might have been having her on about the breast cancer.

Thankfully P knew just the trick to put a stop to my tears and, perching on the side of my bed, produced a tiny Tiffany bag that brought me round from my morphine-induced sobbing-stupor faster than you can say 'bling'. Inside the little bag was a card that read: 'For my wonderful wife, a wonderful ring to mark our wonderful future.' Of course that set me off all over again, even before I'd seen what was in the box. 'Well,' said P, gesturing to my new tit. 'You've gone through all this to give me something new to play with. The least I can do is give you the same in return.' And what a deal! I'm going to snag some tights on this baby, I tell you. He's right; it is wonderful. A sparkling, proud-standing and fabulously show-offy cocktail ring to wear on my middle finger – our way of sticking one up to The Bullshit. I can't help but think that P's got the raw end of the deal, though. After all, his toy's going to shrink. But not mine. Mine's staying middle-finger-erect forever.


Megan said...

Tit-riffic post! I mentioned in my last comment that I love your ring, and I also love the fact that it symbolises the middle finger up at the Bullshit. I've never thought of it that way, but I've worn my ring on my middle finger for the last two years.

Oh, and by the way, maybe its something the hospitals put in the oxygen, as I always find myself making a prat of myself to some nurses or Docs, and saying rediculous stuff.

Anyway, end of an era, start of an even better one, ey?! Xx

Anonymous said...

Great post, and I read on the Bostin site that you are writing a book, which I think is a brilliant idea. You have a story to tell to offliners as well as onliners. So start the bidding for a signed copy now, might make some extra money for charity!

PS: Love the headline :-)

Unknown said...

Saw the ring on Twitter. Your husband has good taste, well of course... he married you :)

Anonymous said...

God i love you. love, love, love you. You did it. You are my hero. xx

Anonymous said...

Awww, I'm so happy for you! Is it wrong to be curious about another woman's nipple?! lol.

Eeee! That is a most fantastic gift and P sounds like the most romantic man in the history of mankind! You should definitely get some pics of the ring up!!

Hope your wounds heal quickly and you can get your new cleavage out on display! :D

Lots of love,

Erin. x

DJ Kirkby said...

I am completly overwhelmed by your post. I went through every emotion possible reading this. I have only read your twitter updates before now. You amaze me.

Fletcher of the Day said...


You are SUCH a remarkable woman and I am so thankful for my UK Glamour Subscription that led me to your blog. My husband has been on a journey since he was diagnosed, but it has been your journey that has helped me to better understand some of what he has been going through. Your clever, witty, open balls out approach to everything has been a gift and I thank you. As everyone says (and you can't argue with everyone!) YOU. ARE. AMAZING. And Big up to your man too...Although now I think it's time to get my cowboy a big prezzie to mark our next chapter. Way to go Lisa and Hup hupple for you new Nupple!

MBNAD woman said...

One brave lady.

KSK said...

Wow, congrats on getting past the reconstruction! (Just found your blog via a connection at LIVESTRONG and twitter.) And, you have a supportive hubbie - gotta help! I am going for my reconstruction in 1.5 weeks - must admit I do fantasize about ripping smug surgeons and their type new ones... :)

gemmak said...

Fabulous post...made me laugh out loud and cry all at the same time!! That Tiffany box kept me on my toes for days waiting to see, damn twitpic! ;o)

Good on ya and enjoy the middle-finger-erectness and the wonderful future!

GO girl! ;o)

Anonymous said...

Have just combed your twitter for a picture of the ring but it's not up anymore. Can I request a photo please? I'm beside myself with admiration for P. As for you, well you're a ridiculous off-the-charts brilliant bird (I miss that word). Seriously I'm a bit teary with how amazing you are and how much I wish I could be there to bring you toast and two tea-bag tea and some Hills dvds. Love you Macalicious xxxxxxx

Leaky said...

Crying! You get me every time lady. Gawd love P

Leaky said...

Crying! You get me every time lady. Gawd love P

Andy Koehn said...

Here's my take on a woman that has to go through all the crap a breast cancer diagnosis forces on her. My wife is stage iv...and she is so frickin' brave...and strong...even though she can't be that way every day.

This is a cool blog. Cancer people need show others that it's OK to be "normal."