Friday 29 October 2010

Ramble on.

When I started writing Alright Tit, it was never my intention to carry on for any more than a year after my diagnosis. When I hit that milestone, however, it didn’t feel like the story was over. There was so much more to write about – the new-nipple stuff; the Super Sweet stuff; the book stuff... Ending Alright Tit at my one-year cancerversary just wouldn’t have seemed right.

And so instead, I made plans to call a halt to blogging two years after my diagnosis. But, as the new deadline loomed, it fast became clear that those plans would also come a cropper, thanks to the bolt-from-the-blue discovery that I carried the BRCA gene (plus all the preventative surgery that would come as a result), and the even more surprising discovery that Mum carried it too. (I haven’t made a habit of blogging about Mum’s BRCA-Bullshit because, as I’ve said before, it’s not my story to tell – but I do think it’s important for you to know that this week she saw off the first of her prophylactic surgery with trademark brilliance, and that I’m enormously proud of both her and Dad.) ‘Okay then,’ I said to myself. ‘I’ll just wait until I’ve had all the surgery I need and then I’ll stop. There’s bound to be plenty of Bullshit-related tales to tell in the meantime.’ 
Lately, though, I’ve found myself running out of ammo.

It was always going to happen. For the past two and a half years my life, as you know, has been utterly consumed by The Bullshit. Even the down-time in between treatments, check-ups, surgery and hospital visits has been filled with a continual cancer-centred monologue in my mind, fraught with worry about my BRCA-heightened chances of recurrence. Until, of course, those chances plummeted like Rik Waller on a bungee cord after I took the decision to do away with my oestrogen-producing ladybits. Since then, there hasn’t just been a gap where my ovaries and right boob used to be – but what has also emerged is a gap in my brain; a gap where a colossal worry used to be. And I can’t even begin to tell you how fantastically emancipatory that feels. (If worrying that I’m worried about not having a worry to worry about. Or something.)

And it gets better. Because, when you add to my worry-vacuum the mood-enhancing, hairdryer-to-brain-fog benefits of having recently come off Tamoxifen (and onto an aromatose-inhibiting drug called Arimidex from which I’ve thus far seen no side effects), it takes liberation to life-changing extremes. So I hope you’ll appreciate that I’m not overstating my case to say that it genuinely feels – in a far bigger way than any final day of treatment or trouble-free mammogram or cancerversary milestone – as though a line has finally been drawn.

‘Everything is as it should be,’ said Always-Right Cancer Nurse when she handed over the clear histology report that followed my recent surgery. ‘Look at that sentence at the bottom: “No sign of malignancy”.’
I think my reply was something along the lines of ‘Omigodicantbelieveitbuggermethatsamazing.’
‘It says that everything they tested was unremarkable,’ she revealed.
‘Absobloodywonderful,’ I spluttered.
‘See? she said. You’re unremarkable!’ 
‘You know what?’ I replied. ‘That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said about me.’ 
And it truly is.

That, I think, is the moment at which the line was drawn. And when a line gets drawn, it’s as sure a sign as any that it’s time to move on.

You’ll have probably noticed from the frequency of my posts that there’s been less Bullshit-related stuff to talk about lately. But while that’s completely wonderful from a health point of view, it’s less wonderful from a blogging perspective. And it’s the very reason I’ve always intended to bring Alright Tit to a close. Because, I figured, what would I have to write about once the cancer stuff quietened down?

I said from the very beginning that I wanted Alright Tit to be a true representation of breast cancer. But what Ive realised while making my plans to finish writing this blog is that, in fact, I’d be failing in that mission if I bowed out now. Because, surely, a true representation of breast cancer wouldn’t stop the moment treatment ends, but instead show the hope of life beyond it, in exactly the same way that it described the struggle of life through it – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes uplifting; sometimes comical, sometimes upsetting; sometimes wonderful, sometimes less so.

I use the term ‘beyond’ breast cancer in strict contrast to the term ‘after’ breast cancer. Because, as I’ve said so often that it’s now formed in the shape of my freckles, there is no ‘after’, really. There’s no getting over it, pulling your socks up and getting back to normal. Because normal isn’t there any more. At least, not the normal that came before the word ‘cancer’. That’s not to say that life isn’t normal now – on the contrary – it’s just not a normal I’d ever anticipated. See, as magnificently freed, magnificently cloudless, magnificently mine as my mind feels now, I accept that The Bullshit will still be there every day. It’s there when I tuck into my pill-box breakfast; it’s there when I look in the mirror; it’s there in my mail and my conversations and my sex life and my wardrobe and the very fabric of my being. And, to varying extents, it will always be that way… but not enough to fill a blog.

And therein lies another problem. Because, two and a half years ago, I didn’t just discover breast cancer; I discovered blogging – something that’s become as much a part of me as The Bullshit will ever be. I often wonder how people even attempt to scrap their way through cancer without the help of a blog – I simply can’t envisage having done it any other way. I can’t imagine my life without it. When people ask how I made it through, I point them here. Not just to Alright Tit itself, but to the unbelievable opportunity it gave me to communicate exactly how I was feeling; to involve those closest to me in my experience in a way that would never have been possible otherwise; and to share with a whole horde of new friends – some of whom I’ve since met, some of whom I’ll only ever encounter online – the occasionally distressing, often ridiculous, regularly goofy, but always honest contents of my brain.

And so, dear friends, as of next week, things will be different around here. Because Alright Tit is no longer a blog about life with breast cancer. It’s a blog about life beyond breast cancer. It’s a blog about the stuff that The Bullshit put paid to. It’s a blog about what happens when your Grand Life Plan is fired a curveball. It’s a blog about love and laughs and family and friends. It’s a blog about the glorious trivialities that life is all about. It’s a blog about being a thirtysomething dork. It’s a blog about trying to make it as a proper author, about having your life turned into a film and about what happens when you’re not having kids. It’s a blog about a future I hadn’t exactly bargained for, but nonetheless adore. It’s a blog about the extraordinary life of an ordinary girl.

So yes, a line has been drawn. But that just means it’s time for me to pick up my pencil and start drawing new ones. And while the nature of The Bullshit dictates that there will still be updates about the state of my norks wherever necessary, I look forward to being able to finally write posts in which the c-word is never mentioned. Because, you see, just as I can’t quit breast cancer, nor can I quit blogging. It wouldn’t be right. I owe so much to this blog – both personally and professionally – and I owe even more to you for reading it. And so, if you’d be so kind, I invite you to join me for Version 2.0 of Alright Tit – a blog that’s changed my life even more than the cancer that created it.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Size matters.

I’ve mentioned before that, pre-Bullshit, I didn’t spend too much time worrying about my tits. ‘I’ve always been happy with my lot boobs-wise,’ I wrote in my first ever post, ‘and reckon that the few people who’ve seen them have been bloody lucky to do so.’ Recently, though, I’ve been having other thoughts: how-about-going-a-little-bigger thoughts; thoughts prompted by the necessity for reconstructive surgery sometime early next year. Because, I figured, swapping two implants can’t be that much different from swapping one, can it? And while, yes, I remain relatively happy with my lot boobs-wise, I wonder… could I be happier?

Well, obviously. Of course I could be happier. I’d be happier if my norks had remained cancer-free and hadn’t been threatened into oblivion by a BRCA gene. I’d be happier if they were natural. I’d be happier with them if wearing bras wasn’t so uncomfortable, if I didn’t have a dint in my left boob where an inflation port used to be, and if I still had feeling in my nipples. But I’m not talking about that kind of happy. I’m talking about size-happy.

Since my first post, my boobs have been seen by far more folk than the ‘few people’ who’d looked at them prior to my diagnosis. Which isn’t just ironic, but also bloody annoying. Because these puppies have, over the last two and a half years, been flashed an awful lot – but never at a time when they’ve looked their best. On top of that, though, their increasing exposure has – naturally, I suppose – caused whoever’s looking at them to comment on their size. ‘You’re lucky to have small boobs,’ people have said, for various reasons from not being as wonky after a mastectomy, to needing less lamb’s wool to stuff inside a prosthesis, to requiring fewer appointments to inflate my tissue expander. And all of those points might indeed be right… but each time it’s been said, my immediate reaction has always been: ‘Erm, hold on a second – my boobs are small?’

See, I’d never considered myself to be small-busted. I’m definitely not big-busted, mind, but small? I dunno; I guess I’ve always just preferred ‘modest’. Would you say a 36B is small? It’s relative, ain’t it? To some of you, a B-cup will be positively tiny; to others it might seem pretty ample. I recently read that the average British bra size has jumped from 34B to 36D, and discovered – in the same article – that small-back, large-cup figures are on the increase, while false breasts are waning in popularity. It’s enough to give a bogus B-cupped bird a complex. Not least when one of those cups is currently running on empty.

The ‘you’re lucky to be small’ conversation came up again last week, in the second of my inflation appointments with Stunning Surgeon.
‘We’ll do another 60mls today,’ she said, ‘so you might start to see a little bit of shape creeping in over the next few days.’
‘Excellent,’ I said. ‘I really miss my cleavage.’ (And how! It’s only after my recent surgery that I’ve been surprised to discover that my wardrobe is made up almost entirely of low-cut dresses and tops. Which, as much as it’s a right royal pain in the arse at the moment, doesn’t half give me a sly grin every time I slide open the wardrobe door.) ‘So how many more appointments will I need until it’s fully inflated?’ I asked.
‘Another three, I’d imagine,’ she said. ‘Five altogether, 60mls each time.’
‘Hm,’ I thought. ‘I have 300ml tits. Is that a lot?’ (I’ve since discovered that the volume of each of my boobs is more than a half pint but less than a can of Coke, and equal to such household staples as a tin of Mr Sheen, a tub of crème fraiche and a bottle of Gaviscon. Make of that what you will.)

Long before the 300ml discovery, though, I’d been spending a lot of time trying to be more realistic about the size of my bust and wondering whether increasing its size – only to a C-cup, mind you – would restore the kind of sweater-puff satisfaction that I had pre-diagnosis.
‘So I’ve been thinking,’ I said to Smiley Surgeon a couple of weeks ago. ‘And I wonder whether, when I come in to have my reconstruction, I could go a little bigger.’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll make sure they match in size,’ he said, misunderstanding my request.
‘No, no, I mean both of them. You know, just a little bit bigger. So I’m, y’know, more in proportion.’
‘Oh, I see,’ he said.
‘So is that doable?’
‘Well... yes, absolutely.’
‘And do you think they’d look okay?’ I asked, in a question which might have been better directed at P.
‘I’m confident we’ll get an excellent result,’ he confirmed, quoting the reassuring mantra I’ve often heard.
‘Do many women decide to do this after a double mastectomy?’
‘Mm, some do.’
‘But most women go the other way,’ added Always-Right Cancer Nurse. ‘More women decide they’d like to go a little smaller instead.’
‘Ah,’ I said. ‘Not me.’
‘Anyway, we can discuss this nearer the time,’ concluded Smiley Surgeon who, demonstrably, knows me well enough by now to only trust decisions that I’ve spent a good chunk of time mulling over. And rightly so. Because these aren’t the kind of considerations a girl should take lightly.

Or are they? The thing is, half of me just thinks ‘fuck it; you’ve been through so much shit; why not treat yourself to a reward out of it?’ And, until the last couple of weeks, there wasn’t even another half to consider. But since being out of hospital, and all the shite that comes with it, I’ve been wondering whether such a modest potential increase would even really be worth the end result. The other worry, of course, is that my C-cup would become some kind of ‘I am my boobs’ statement, and while that has been the unavoidable case for the past couple of years – and, to some extent, remains the case even now – it’d be a shame to find myself, say, five years past diagnosis with an even more prominent reminder of what’s happened staring back at me in the mirror.

Perhaps, then, it’s my perspective – more than my pillows – that requires augmentation. Because, I suppose, with the current 300ml/120ml imbalance, I’m bound to have a bit of a skewed outlook. And maybe – not least given the clandestine cleavage-confidence behind my low-cut wardrobe – once that balance has been restored, I’ll be less inclined to present an attitude of ‘I’ve beaten breast cancer and all I got was this lousy B-cup’ and instead find myself grateful for small modest mercies.

Friday 15 October 2010

Special forces.

There’s a new breast surgeon on the block at Smiley Surgeon’s clinic. A breast surgeon so breathtakingly beautiful that it’s only fair she is awarded the moniker Stunning Surgeon. And yes, I know I have a weird crush on everyone there who’s ever treated me (hell, anyone who’s ever even taken my name on reception) but this particular clinician-crush, dear reader, is more than warranted. Seriously, she’s a sharp-dressing, shiny-haired bombshell of a knockout. With the bust of a goddess. Which, when you think about it, is probably a prerequisite for the job. I haven’t mentioned her before because, well, I wasn’t sure how long she’d be sticking around. But since I now see Stunning Surgeon as often as I see Smiley Surgeon, it’s time she was officially introduced to the blog.

Someone else I don’t think I’ve previously mentioned is another of the nurses at the clinic. You see, long-time blog-favourite Always-Right Cancer Nurse is actually part of a team of two – let’s call them ARCN1 and ARCN2 for simplicity’s sake. ARCN1 is the nurse with whom I’ve had the most contact – she’s the one you’ll have heard me gushing about on every conceivable blog-and-book occasion – but I think it’s important for you to know that ARCN2 isn’t any less wonderful. I just don’t see her as much, is all. Or, at least, I didn’t see her as much until recently, thanks to all the prophylactic surgery shizzle.

In fact, I’m seeing a lot of everyone at the clinic at the moment, given the plentiful post-op care being bestowed on my squashed right tit. (Which, if you’re interested, currently looks like it’s been ironed out by a wicket roller.) And so, lately, the Dynamic Duo of Smiley Surgeon and Always-Right Cancer Nurse (who – don’t tell the others – will always remain my fangirly faves) have, for my post-surgery treatment at least, doubled in size to become The A-Team. Cue bullet-hole-animation opening creditsIn 2008, a crack clinician unit was sent to examine a 28-year-old woman for a lump they didn't like the look of. These doctors promptly helped the 28-year-old escape from a maximum-shit-causing tumour to a clear histology report two and a half years later. Today, still wanted by the now-31-year-old, they survive as soldiers of Bullshit-beating success. If you have a problem; if no one else can help; and if you can find them, maybe you can hire... The A-Team. Doo do do dooo dum dum dumm.

Aaanyway. Where was I? Oh yes – my plentiful post-op care. There was a time when I’d have blogged about every single Bullshit-related appointment I went to, but that was back in the heady days when having The Bullshit made me interesting. (As opposed to the current, far less interesting – but exponentially more preferable – status of having had The Bullshit.) But just because I haven’t blogged about my favourite medical team for a while doesn’t mean that they’ve been any less present. In fact, with all the excitement of the past couple of weeks, they’ve effectively gone from doctors to mates. Which is weird given that, on the last two occasions I’ve seen them, I’ve left the clinic looking like I’ve done several rounds with Floyd Mayweather. So when I say ‘mates’, then, I suppose I mean the kind of ‘mates’ who get you in a headlock in the playground and give you a dead arm on your way home from school.

It speaks turned-up-to-eleven volumes that despite my last two eye-watering appointments – one in which a plastic valve beneath my skin was tweaked like a radiator key, and another in which minor surgery was required – I’ve still found myself leaving the building with a smile on my face. If those things had happened anywhere else, I’d have sobbed like a reality show finalist, become traumatised to the point of insomnia and would have demanded cake as soon as I got home. Instead, however, I laughed along with each procedure, listened in on the department in-jokes and told The A-Team how much I was looking forward to seeing them again next week. (I still demanded cake, mind. I'm not a complete robot.)

I’d better give you the background to all that melon-twisting, hadn’t I? Forgive my complicated technical language here, but currently residing beneath my flattened-marshmallow of a right nipple is a beermat-sized deflated lilo known in the trade as a tissue expander. The idea behind it is that, once everything’s been ice-cream-scooped out of your nork during the mastectomy process, the expander is inserted flat, then left alone until the tissue around it has had the chance to heal... which is usually around the same time it takes for this board to revolve the X-Factor boot-campers to become finalists. At the live finals, then, the beermat-lilo is gradually blown up (read: injected with a needle and filled with saline) until it matches the size of the other tit. Later on down the line – presumably by the time Louis has lost all of his contestants – when the skin encasing the fully inflated beermat-lilo has had time to adjust from bee-sting to B-cup, said tit (and, you’d hope, the woman attached to it) gets whipped back into hospital for an operation in which the beermat-lilo is replaced with a fully-fledged silicone falsie, and Bob’s your uncle. (Is it just me, or are beermat-lilos suddenly looking like a good product? If you ask me, Team Apollo missed a trick with that one on this week’s Apprentice.)

But of course this beermat-lilo is beneath my tit. And, as history has taught us, my tits don’t play ball. Hence, when I trotted in to what was due to be the first of my inflation appointments, neither Smiley nor Stunning Surgeon could get my expander to inflate. (And you thought blowing up a lilo was a pain in the arse.) They each took it in turns to try, but no dice. Because, as far as they could tell, the beermat-lilo valve (or ‘inflation port’ to those without the mind of an adolescent boy) had somehow turned in on itself and become wedged in place by the tissue that had healed around it: a rare and unpreventable malfunction known in the medical world as ‘a bit of a fuck up’.

‘I’m so sorry, Lisa,’ said ARCN1. ‘There’s always a slight chance that this can happen.’
‘And how often does it happen?’ I asked through watery eyes as SS 1 and 2 continued trying to manipulate my plastic valve as though it were a tie that had disappeared into the waistband of my trackie bottoms.
‘About, ooh, three times that I can remember,’ said Stunning Surgeon.
‘Of course! Well, you might’ve known I’d be the awkward one,’ I said.
‘So we’ll have you back in next week,’ said ARCN2, ‘And if it hasn’t rectified itself we’ll have to do a small surgical procedure in which we open you up and turn the valve around the right way.’
‘Is next Thursday okay?’ asked ARCN1.
‘No probs. I’ll bring cupcakes,’ I said. Because, of course, ‘I’ll bring cupcakes’ is everybody’s first response upon being told they need surgery.

So in I skipped yesterday with my plastic toy box full of strawberry cheesecake cupcakes, cracking awful jokes and acting like a twonk in front of the four ‘mates’ who were about to cut me open. (I know, I know; I am the very definition of a dork. Honestly, I pity the fool who’s charged with my treatment.) When the local anaesthetic went in, I goofed about preferring a bottle of gin instead. When the lights above the operating table were switched on, I tittered about feeling at home beneath a spotlight. When the incision was made, we gossiped about which of the four of them got a kiss from Rod Stewart at last week’s Breast Cancer Care fashion show (all except Smiley, it turns out). When they asked if I could feel any pain, I told them it tickled and giggled so much I had to be asked to lie still. When ARCN1 was cleaning up the blood that had dripped onto the floor, I told Stunning Surgeon to watch out for it spilling onto her lovely suede boots. And when the four of them eventually unpicked the valve from my enthusiastically-healed tissue and successfully fixed it into an inflation-accessible position, I squealed ‘bingo!’

Is this normal behaviour around mid-surgery doctors? No it isn’t. Is it normal behaviour around mates? Well, no, it probably isn’t that either. But see, after two and a half years of countless appointments in which the four of them havent just got to know me, but have got to know my husband, my family, my writing and my colleagues (yep, folks, they’ve already been in touch with the film-team at the Beeb), and have been witness to me experiencing more emotions than I even knew existed, it’s completely impossible to retain the same kind of doctor-patient professionalism that typified our first meetings. But whether it’s the cupcakes and the candour or the gossip and the goonery that have got us to this gloriously unprofessional relationship, I don’t care. All I care about is that my A-Team have, yet again, come to the rescue. Don’t you just love it when a plan comes together?

Monday 4 October 2010

Plan B.

At the risk of sounding like a bit of a plank, I’ve been spending so much time mourning my missing tit that it’s only just hit me that my ovaries (and fallopian tubes, rather unexpectedly) have gone for a Burton too.

‘Shit,’ I said to P the other night. ‘I actually can’t have children now, can I? Like, physically. It’s not won’t any more; it’s can’t.’
‘Um, well, no. You can’t,’ he admitted. ‘But you knew that, right?’
‘Yeah, course. I just don’t know how I’m meant to feel about it, is all.’
‘Well how do you feel?’
‘How do you feel?’ I deflected.
‘Happy. I only care about the fact that you’ve reduced your chance of recurrence. Anyway I was asking about you; how do you feel?’
‘Dunno really. Like I should be upset about it.’
‘And are you?’
‘I probably should be.’
‘But are you upset?’
‘Well… no,’ I confessed, cautiously. ‘Not upset, exactly. I suppose it’s just hit me that that’s it, you know. The genes end here.’

In a nutshell, then: yes, I’ve lost my ability to have children. But the desire? Well, that wasn’t exactly there to lose. Allow me to explain.

In choosing to have my ovaries removed to help reduce my risk of a cancer recurrence (breast or ovarian), I haven’t lost anything other than my ovaries themselves. I don’t mean to sound glib by saying this (I do appreciate that, for most people, choosing to go ahead with this kind of prophylactic surgery is an enormous deal) but for me there was no decision to make. I’d already had a grade-three cancer at 28, I’d just discovered the presence of a gene which made its return extremely likely – and, anyway, I’d long since given up on the idea of my almost-certainly-menopausal ovaries producing anything other than trouble. Hence, my ovaries are now over-ies.

See, after discovering the alarmingly oestrogen-receptive nature of my original diagnosis, P and I immediately resolved that we’d rather not risk ramping up my hormone levels by getting pregnant (again), and that was that. And, as I’ve recounted both in this blog and in my book, it wasn’t the tragic, complicated, heartbreaking decision it might have been. Instead, we were surprised to discover that, actually, it was exceptionally simple. If becoming pregnant created even as little as a 0.01% chance of producing the kind of oestrogen that caused my original tumour, then it simply wasn’t a risk (or even a non-risk) we were willing to take. What was even more surprising, however, was that choosing not to have children didn’t affect either of us in the way we expected.

‘The thing is,’ I once said to Mr Marbles when he queried my calm reaction, ‘If it came down to it, there are other ways...’
‘Precisely,’ he said. ‘Adoption, surrogacy…’
‘…but, to be honest, I really don’t think we’re bothered.’
(This is everyone’s immediate reaction – well, everyone except for the most senior doctors, I find – however well they think they’ve disguised it. The kind of startled ‘oh’ that my paranoia interprets as a judgement that without becoming parents, mine and P’s lives are suddenly rendered meaningless. Paranoia aside, however, I can’t really condemn the ‘oh’, since I’m as surprised by my conviction as anyone.)
‘See, all of this has made us question whether we were originally trying for a baby because we really longed for one, or just because we felt it was what we ought to do… And we can’t help but think it was the latter.’
‘That’s very candid,’ he said.
‘It’s the truth,’ I said.

I don’t doubt that some people put that response down to the shock of our original diagnosis, and the emotional impact of potentially losing one half of our couple. And while there might be something in that (admittedly, we often trot out the ‘after you’ve been through what we’ve been through, you’re happy just to have one another’ line), it’s nonetheless impossible to make a judgement call on this kind of stuff from the outside. Countless people have said ‘wait and see’ and ‘you might feel different a few years down the line’, and you know what? They might be right. But for now – and for the foreseeable future – me and P are fine as just me and P. Better than fine: perfect. Kid A has become Plan B, and that’s fine by us.

I’m annoyed with myself for continually justifying our reasons for not having children (mind you, I expect ‘we’re unable to’ provides a far more acceptable answer than ‘we’re not interested’ – not that I should give a shit) but, hey, that’s the self-doubting society in which we live. Besides, the backstory is necessary here given that my intention with this post was not merely to restate my case on the no-kids clause, but to accept – once and for all – the can’t rather than the won’t.

See, as much as I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’ll never genetically be anyone’s mum, the finality of my oophorectomy has nonetheless had me thinking about the reality of what having no ovaries means. Not in a longing or regrettable way – more simply auditing the facts as they stand. Just as accepting the loss of my remaining natural tit has called a halt to a low-cut autumn/winter wardrobe, experiencing any feeling in my nipples or going topless inside Zoo magazine (which, would you believe, was right on the cards before all this Bullshit bullshit); so has the removal of my ovaries brought about the acceptance of a definitive menopause, the end of my genetic lineage, and the reality that I’ll never be a biological mother.

I keep expecting to feel a stinging pang of remorse whenever I write that sentence, but it still doesn’t affect me any more than realising that I’ll never play in an FA Cup final or fit into a size 10 or spend a night with Dave Grohl. It’s not that I think I’d have been a crap mother – on the contrary, I actually think I’d have been pretty bloody awesome. Not only would I have had the benefit of following the lead of the World’s Best Example (or ‘Mum’ for short), but I’m a dab-hand with homework projects, make a mean child-friendly playlist and can teach a kid the rules of apostrophes in the time it’d take them to watch an episode of In The Night Garden. Put it this way: if being a mother were a role you had to apply for, I definitely think I’d at least make the interview round.

‘So what qualities do you think you could bring to the role of mother?’ the Sralan of Parenting might ask.
‘Well, I think I’m responsible, I’m nurturing and I think I’m caring, too,’ I’d say, straightening my power-shouldered blazer. ‘I give 120% and I get results.’
‘I’m not interested in what you think you are; give me concrete bladdy examples,’ he’d sneer, staring down at me from his booster chair.
‘Sorry Sralan. Okay, well recently, my cat had a dodgy few days after a scrap with a fox that left her scratched and frightened, and I proved I could be nurturing by giving her all the right medicines and nursing her back to full fitness.’
‘Are you really coming in my boardroom and telling me about your bladdy cat? I don’t give a shit about your cat.’
‘Sorry Sralan. Well I’m caring, as well. When my mum was worrying about her pre-surgery scans recently, I coached her through what to expect and tried to give her the benefit of my experience with cancer-preventing operations.’
‘I’m not your bladdy therapist, young lady. And don’t tell your sob stories in here, this isn’t The X Factor.’
‘Sorry Sralan. In that case I think the most important thing to tell you is that I’m responsible. And other people think I’m responsible, too. My friend Tills recently asked if I’d be guardian to her daughter Bea, and I don’t think she’d have done that if I wasn’t both responsible, trustworthy and…’
‘…and what about your ovaries?’ he’d ask. ‘They working okay?’
Cue black cab, and a drive along the Embankment with ‘you’re wasting my bladdy time’ ringing in my ears.

When I was 14, the school careers advisor told me I had all the necessary attributes to be a brilliant librarian. But of course I didn’t want to be a librarian. And again, I suppose you could say that I’ve got the CV to back up another role I don’t really want. But then, of course, it’s not always the best qualified person who gets the job – sometimes it deservedly goes to the person who wants it most. And, ovaries or no ovaries, I ain’t that apprentice.

I stand by the attributes I’d have preached to Sralan, mind you. I’m not saying for definite that I’ll never fancy being a parent (nor am I saying for definite that I’ll never fancy being a librarian) but that doesn’t render any of my relevant skills useless. After all, homework-completion, playlist-making and apostrophe-instruction aren’t reliant on genetics… and my mates with kids know exactly where to find me for any of the above (see also: Beatles lyrics, offside rule, first gig, swearing in context). So, yes, losing my ovaries has ensured that my ability to be a biological mother is now a can’t – but as for losing my desire to be motherly? That’s a big bladdy won’t. Because, ysee, I think its possible to occasionally do the parent thing without actually wanting to be one.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.

There’s little more I need to say here. Everything I know (and will continue to learn) about the reality of breast cancer remains (and will continue to be written) on this blog. So if you’ve ever read Alright Tit and had even the tiniest pang of wanting to do something helpful, now’s your chance. I shan’t repeat my reasons for wanting to direct donations to Breast Cancer Care (though I urge you to read them here); I’ll just leave you to click this button and say thanks.
I support Breast Cancer Care