Wednesday 26 May 2010


Last Friday I gave a little talk at a charity fundraiser called Bowling For Boobies. Despite having known about the event for a couple of months, I put off writing my speech until the teenage-standard 24 hours previous, as though it were revision for an exam whose existence I was denying. It’s the same logic I apply to packing: if I don’t think about it, it might not need to happen. Which, given that me and P are heading off on holiday tomorrow and there’s an empty suitcase on our spare bed, might not be altogether the best tactic.

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.


lilianavonk said...

I'm so glad that your gazongas are spectacular, at least in a bra--you deserve nothing less. I'm afraid my rack could be best described as, "Hey, you could totally work at Hooters!" in a bra (a Minimizer, of course--the only kind I own) and may verge into, "May double as a flotational device" territory without one.

Is it wrong that I think it's hella cool that Smiley Surgeon will be able to make them match? Just cos mine--and those of most gals--are less than symmetrical? Or is this just a Libra thing, trying to make everything balanced? (It certainly can't be trying to find an upside to your second mastectomy, or anything.)

I've never heard the term, "norks" before--forgive me, I am a Foreign Person--so thanks for once again broadening my vocabulary. I've used, "Grand Tetons" to describe the chesticular reason as well, and in terms of the XXL sizes, one can't go wrong with the classic Pythonian, "She's got huge...tracts of land." (I'm sorry, I don't know a lot of euphemisms for smaller breasts--apart from the downright mean, "mosquito bites"--as the whole concept is outside my range of experience.)

Having spent most of my adult life going, "Yo, buddy--my eyes are up here!" I admire the deft way you've described handling the issue herein. Y'know, it's almost as if that's a parallel to the way you've handled The Bullshit overall, or something. ;)

Burly Chassis said...

Great post, as ever, Lisa!

Norks, hooters, whizzbangs and funbags. I too have sneaked an occasional peek, though I've never been caught.. *cough*

Rhys Wilkins said...

Glad I could help out, even if it's just one word.

Anonymous said...

Firstly thank you SO very much again for coming on Friday and talking - and if it is any consolation people who hadn't been impacted in some way by The Bullshit also were in fits of giggles at the mere mention of the word Boobies ;)

Paula said...

Ha ha ... having just returned to work ... I am experiencing exactly the same issue! "I've had chemo ... and then surgery ..." and before I can mention rads the eyes have dropped 10 inches and are staring at my bosom ... poss trying to work out what has gone one and where!!

Am I bovvered ... nah ...

P xox

fixed gear said...

I admire the deft way you've described handling the issue herein.

Annah said...

Your blog is inspiring. Rock on!

Anonymous said...

"'Is there any more treatment to the, er, y'know,' she added, sneaking a look at my chest."

My ex-neighbour does this each time she sees me. I had a lumpectomy of a 3cm grade 2 tumour in March.

I don't understand how pointing furtively towards my breast with one's head is in any way better than saying the word "cancer" or even "treatment". *sigh*

I don't blame people for looking at my chest; I have looked in similar situations in the past. But I am quick to point out that I had a lumpectomy so that people don't try to figure out which breast I've lost.