Tuesday 14 July 2009

Jogger's nipple.

I was hoping to begin this blog post with the sentence: ‘I just ran 5k’, but that, I’m afraid, would be a bit of a fib. Which is a shame because ‘I just shuffled 5k’ doesn’t pack quite the same punch. But however I travelled – be it running, shuffling or being lapped by zimmer frames as I crawled on my hands and knees, I just did 5k. And, as a result, I’m about, ooh, 14% less nervous about doing the Cancer Research Race For Life on Sunday. (Thank you, by the way, to anyone who has sponsored me so far. If you haven’t sponsored me, and you have a few quid to spare, you can buy shares in my exercise-induced embarrassment by clicking here.)

I dare say it’s less the exercise that worries me, actually, and more the thought of 13,000 pink-clothed women descending on Hyde Park in feather boas and cowboy hats like some sort of terrifying giant hen weekend. And so, like the miserable bastard I am, I’ll be doing the Race For Life on my own in head-to-toe black, with Led Zeppelin on my iPod. It’s not that I don’t want to enter into the spirit of things – it’s just that, to me, the spirit is less being part of the Wacky Races, and more a simple case of raising as much as I’m able for a charity that’s close to my heart, while simultaneously using it as an excuse to peel my massive arse off the sofa and into something resembling sportswear.

In the interest of wearing a bra only when it’s absolutely necessary (the sodding things have become bordering on torturous since my mastectomy), I did today’s 5k in a tight-fitting vest rather than a sporty boulder-holder. Even pre-Bullshit, my bust was always thankfully modest enough for me to go bra-less, and the case remains today – even though it does look a bit weird that my right tit bounces about and the left’un stays resolutely fixed in place like a spare tennis ball tucked into the pocket of Rafa Nadal’s tight shorts. I had worried that running in a vest could result in a touch of chafing in the nip-department, but brushed aside my concern when it became clear that my pace was more Tony Christie than Linford Christie, and I only had one nipple left to do any real damage to anyway.

Technically, I guess, you could argue that I’m now symmetrical in the nipple department, having been for the colour-tattooing a few weeks back. Usually, with a cancer-significant moment such as the creation of a nupple, I’d have blogged about it straight away. But given that it’s all been rather non-event-ish – both in terms of the process and result – and that its birth date coincided with my clear mammogram result, the story of my nupple has been pushed to the back. Which, in some ways, rather undersells it. Because, although the reconstructed ‘after’ picture is rather different to the pre-mastectomy ‘before’, the exciting part is the feeling of finally being put back together again like some kind of 3D jigsaw puzzle. And whether or not my nupple is identical to its twin, at least now there’s something to replace the nipple that Smiley Surgeon took from me last June. That may not be the best way of putting it. ‘Took’ makes it sound as though he nicked it while I wasn’t looking, with a ‘hey, what’s that over there?’ and a swipe of his surgeon’s knife before waving my nipple in front of my face in the ner-ner fashion of an embarrassing father who’s just done the ‘I’ve got your nose’ trick. Smiley Surgeon didn’t take my nipple from me; he relieved me of it. I do still wonder where it went, mind. Do they incinerate cancerous nipples? Is it pickled in a laboratory jar somewhere? Or has it skipped off to the great big farmyard in the sky with my childhood rabbit? (Nipple & Nibble: the new Thelma & Louise.)

With appointments slightly behind schedule at the rather swanky-looking Nipple Clinic (how I wish it were really called that), my hospital-buddy Tills and I took our chance to gossip like a pair of teenagers on the first day back at school. So much, in fact, that I almost missed it when a high-pitched voice spoke my name. I looked up to see who’d called out so cheerily, and there stood a bubbly blonde burst of energy, all impressive eyeshadow and bright pink cardigan. Everything about her – her clothes, her make-up, her hair, her shoes – screamed ‘colour is what I do.’ The Pink Lady, as it turns out, is a breast care nurse by trade, but took additional training to become a nipple colour specialist who helps women replace the areolas that were lost as part of their mammograms. I expect ‘colour specialist’ is the wrong title. It’s bound to be something more medically impressive than that. Substitute Areola Consultant, perhaps, or Professor of Nipular Restoration. ‘Colour specialist’ makes her sound like a painter and decorator but, mind you, having seen her skills with shades, I dare say she could turn her hand to that, too.

The Pink Lady leaned over me and inspected my non-nipple against my right one. ‘Hmm,’ she pondered. ‘They’re a lovely pale rose pink, aren’t they?’ I could have kissed her. What a wonderful compliment. It may have been the loveliest I’d ever had, and so I overlooked her use of the plural when I was demonstrably singular in the nipple department. ‘I think we’re going to need a very pale pink with a hint of fawn or brown,’ she continued. As she buzzed away at my breast with exactly the same kind of tattoo-machine that had created the star on my wrist, I tried to think back to my days in interiors magazines, frantically attempting to recall the names of pink paints with a hint of fawn so I could freak her out with my own colour knowledge. ‘Hm yes, I imagine it’s a good match for Farrow & Ball’s Ointment Pink, wouldn’t you say? Or Dulux Strawberries n Cream, perhaps?’ Thankfully, I stopped short of being such a smartarse, which is probably wise given my cheeks’ tendency to turn Cinder Rose.

I can’t pretend that I didn’t check my nipple against a paint colour chart when I got home, mind. Nor that I was rather pleased that it matched up to a matt emulsion called Flawless. (Part of the Crown range, if you’re interested – I’m tempted to start a campaign to get it renamed Tit Pink.) Rather oddly, it’s surprisingly similar to the colour in my living room. Perhaps there’s some psychology in that. Are a person’s colour preferences dictated by their nipple colour, I wonder? Now there’s a question for Mr Marbles. Or Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen.

Another thing I haven’t mentioned is that that my nipple-tattooing experience also saw my debut as a topless model. At the beginning of my appointment, The Pink Lady passed me a photo album that filled my head with more images of boobs than a year’s subscription to Nuts. As I flicked through the pages, I marveled at ‘before’ pictures of one-nipple busts alongside ‘after’ photographs showing proud, completed racks of double-nippled glory. I tried to make all the right noises that suggested applause rather than arousal, but I dare say it was all a bit Kinky Changing Rooms, with tattooed areolas as trompe l’oeil (LLB would be proud), and with my tit as the next candidate for a makeover. And so The Pink Lady took out a Polaroid camera (I assumed she had to use an instant camera – I couldn’t see the Boots processing counter turning a blind eye to a film full of tits) and took a photograph of my ‘before’ boob. During which, of course, I giggled like an idiot.

I’m heading back in for the ‘after’ photo at the end of the month, when The Pink Lady will review the colour that has revealed itself now that my rather fetching scab has fallen off. There’s every chance that she’ll top up the colour a bit, too. (Any good paint job requires a second coat, right?) But, pleased as I am to have an optical illusion of a nupple whose colour finally resembles its mirror image, I can’t help but be a teensy bit disappointed. With my new boob, the replacement silicone implant didn’t just make up for the one that was taken away, but positively pissed on its bonfire with its perky, shapely, A-list roundness. The replacement nipple, however, is – let’s be honest – merely the poor (I’m stopping short of in-bred) cousin to my right nipple. Because, as impressive as The Pink Lady’s tattooing obviously is, it’s not that good. And so I dare say that colouring in the twisted bit of skin that I call a nupple is a bit like putting Mac lipstick on a pig.

Thus my page-three career endeth here. (As a million Sun readers breathe a sigh of relief.) Because, unless The Pink Lady is intending to take the ‘after’ Polaroid from the distance of a Race For Life running track, I can’t imagine that anybody will stop at my page in her photo album and struggle to tell my real nipple from the fake. That’s probably a little hard on my nupple. And in no way do I want to demean the excellent work of The Pink Lady. I guess all I’m saying is that, in the sprint-finish for a spot on the podium, my natural nipple takes the gold medal. Still, it’s about time it had a moment in the spotlight, eh?


gemmak said...

Hey...good luck Sunday flower, you'll do grand :o) I was hoping to come along to offer support but I find myself stuck in the Midlands house-sitting.

The Bookish Reader said...

My lounge is painted in 'Flawless'! You are revealing a side to breast cancer and reconstruction I never knew existed but I'm impressed of the attention to detail from the NHS.

Good luck on the Race for Life, I'm marshalling this year as I'm crap at running.

Anonymous said...

Actually, her arse (which was far from big in the first place) is shrinking before our very eyes. I saw her this week, and there's practically no arse to speak of at all. And great cleavage. Mac is back, and looking fab x

lilianavonk said...

I laughed so much at this--especially the Nadal bit--that my baby kitty jumped off my lap in great alarm. (Though admittedly she is of an easily alarmed disposition overall--whenever she expresses an interest in what I'm eating and I put down a skosh, she invariably regards it like I've just placed a bomb in front of her.)

Though, "the areolas that were lost as part of their mammograms?" *unzips pajama top to double-check* Uhm, mine are still here...?! O_O

Much like my largely hate/hate relationship with my boobs overall, I've never liked the colour of my nipples either (oh, you lucky things that get to go braless--haven't been able to do that since I was a lissome teen, alas)--but once again, you've made me remember what's truly important, and I'm now just immensely grateful I've got the standard-issue set.

Good luck with the race on Sunday! Though I'm pretty sure that the vast extent of good karma you've piled up should see you through (and the training don't hurt none either!).

Unknown said...

I just revisited this post and laughed my little socks off. You have such an entertaining way of explaining things that I'm sure at the time were far from entertaining for you.