Sunday 30 January 2011

The Wiz.

‘I suppose Smiley Surgeon is a bit like the Wizard of Oz,’ I said to P on the way home from our appointment this week.
‘How the hell do you make that out?’
‘Well, you know, he’s like the enigmatic man behind the curtain who you go to if you want your wishes granted.’
‘And, like, he’s really respected… he’s great and powerful, just like Oz!’
‘And yet his subjects all…’
‘Yeah, subjects… they talk about him in a strange way – even in his presence – as though he somehow doesn’t understand the world around him; like he’s disconnected from it or something… but only because he’s so mysterious.’
‘How many codeine did you take this morning?’
‘But, y’know, ultimately, he’s just a normal man,’ I added, thinking back to the time when Jamie and I bumped into him outside Ping Pong in jeans and trainers. It was most disconcerting. Like finding Batman in his pyjamas, or catching Superman picking his red pants from out of his bum-crack.

But despite P’s insistence that it was the drugs talking, Smiley-Surgeon-as-Wizard-of-Oz is an analogy I’m sticking with. See, the cyclone that was The Bullshit (see also: Wicked Witch of the West) landed me rather unexpectedly at his door, and it was he who granted me my wish of… okay, so Dorothy didn’t exactly request a new pair of tits, but if you consider this the PG-13 version of the movie, with the lead played by not Judy Garland but, I dunno, Lindsay Lohan or sommat, then – with sufficient codeine – you might just get my drift. I mean, hey, I got the ruby-soled slippers, didn’t I? How much of a parallel story do you want?

Anyway, imagine – up this acid-trip of a yellow brick road – a scenario in which, after the great and powerful Oz has bestowed his gifts on Dorothy and her friends, the Scarecrow nips back a few days later, complaining to the wonderful Wizard that the right side of his new brain was slightly smaller than his left, hampering his creativity and innovative thinking and general show-offy-ness, and might His Wizship be able to do something about it please? Well, the Wizard would be well within his rights to take a fag lighter to the Scarecrow’s straw-cushioned arse, would he not? I mean, the cheek of it! Asking for a return on a graciously given gift from the ruler of the Emerald City? Pah! Anyone lucky enough to have been seen by the Wizard ought to be grateful for his gifts; indebted to his expertise; appreciative of his magic… not critical of his handiwork.

Imagine my nerves, then, when I had to force myself into much the same conversation this week. Because, looking down after my surgery to discover that the right side of my chest was slightly smaller than the left – hampering not necessarily my creativity nor innovative thinking but definitely my general show-offy-ness – I had little choice but to suck it up, get tough, come clean and look my whiz of a Wiz straight in the eye. Or, as it so happened, chicken out and grass him up to his assistant on the phone. Yup, that Cowardly Lion ain’t got nothing on me.

‘So I’m told that you’re not quite happy with the symmetry,’ said Smiley Surgeon, as I sat down sheepishly beside his desk.
‘You’ve dobbed him in, you idiot!’ said the voice in my head. ‘The man who saved your life – your so-called hero, no less – and you’ve actually gone and dobbed him in. Nice work, supergrass.’
‘Well, y’know, it’s just that I think I’m… uh, it’s like I said to the nurse… um, I just feel like I’ve… okay, yeah – the left one’s a bit bigger than the right.’
‘Let’s have a look, then,’ he said, pulling back his emerald curtain and gesturing at me to unzip my dress with an undeniable hurt in his eyes.
‘Ooh, I don’t know,’ he surmised, squinting at my bra (a bra I’d purposely chosen in order to demonstrate the one-sided bagginess to maximum effect). ‘I mean, it might be slightly wider on this side, but as for size, hmm…’
‘But look!’ I said, tugging at my saggy right cup, ‘There’s space in here!’
(Let us be clear, here – I’m not talking about a massive difference.  It’s not like I’m so wonky that I’m walking around in circles; just that if you were to balance a spirit level on my left nipple nupple, the bubble would definitely wobble off to the left. And yes, I have tried it.)
‘Well maybe you need fitting for a better br…’
‘Whoa, hang on – this isn’t my normal bra,’ I admitted, unhooking it. ‘This is my mastectomy bra. I wouldn’t normally wear this… it’s just the comfiest one I have right now, what with all the dressings and…’

I was this close to invoking the spirit-level defence when the curtain drew back again. ‘Oh yep, it’s definitely a bit smaller, isn’t it?’ interrupted Other Always-Right Cancer Nurse, bang on cue.
‘Ooh yeah, have a look from this angle,’ she said, beckoning SS over to the foot of the bed on which I was now lying.
‘Ah,’ he said, his disappointed forehead reading like a but-I-can’t-accept-anything-other-than-perfection subtitle. ‘Okay, I see. But it’s just a projection thing.’ He went on to describe how the implant on my right side is, in fact, bigger than the one on the left, owing to the muscle (taken from my back) which makes up for the shape he didn’t need to recreate in my second – less drastic – mastectomy; and how, during my most recent reconstructive op, he had to spend time cutting away calcified scar tissue which, without being removed, would have affected the cosmetic result. ‘But the shape is actually very good,’ he added.
‘Oh, yes! Absolutely, yes! The shape is amazing!’ I enthused. (It is, too. Even despite the size discrepancy, I keep sneaking into the bedroom and lifting up my shirt to have a look at them in the mirror, and I haven’t done that since… hell, I’ve never done that.) ‘Indeed, yes, the shape is really very good. Very good. Thank you so much.’ I felt like a proper git for ever having said anything in the first place. ‘Yeah, thanks for rescuing me from the top of that burning building, Batman, but that dismount when we landed was shite.’

But what could I do? I’ve come this far; giving up on flawlessness (well, flawlessness through the eyes of Bullshit-ravaged boobs) at this point would be like Leonardo da Vinci finishing a painting, smudging his signature and going, ‘aw, sod it, it’ll do’ (in an Italian rather than Derby accent, obvs). Not that I’m comparing my reconstructed bust to a masterpiece, you understand. Actually, fuck it – they are a masterpiece. And, when I’ve been off to see the Wizard for his next bit of work – switching the implant for a slightly bigger one to get the symmetry 100% spot on – they’ll be even more of a masterpiece because… well, because of the wonderful things he does.

Friday 21 January 2011

Killer tits.

‘I mean, bloody hell, what’s up with these men?’ I said in a conversation about Katie-Price-admirers over dinner with P, Weeza and Jonny this week. ‘Come on, boys, tell me – a child’s body with enormous tits… is that honestly attractive?’
‘Well I’d never be daft enough to say that your average bloke isn’t partial to a naked woman with her baps out,’ said P. ‘But that look? No. No way. Absolutely not.’
‘I totally agree – she used to be gorgeous but now she’s just a bit of a freakshow,’ added Jonny, as Weeza and I exchanged contented nods at our husbands’ good taste. (Or, depending on the way you see it, exchanged relieved looks at our husbands’ diplomatic answers.)

Before you roll your eyes and reach for the back button, I’m not about to get on my high horse and give you a blog-bashing about the objectification of women and the disgusting nature of using one’s chest as an attention-seeking device. Quite the opposite. Because – despite my insistence that Katie Price looks like a bigger-busted Pete Burns, and despite the fact that the likes of Nuts magazine don’t exactly celebrate women in the way its readers would blindly assure their girlfriends – I’ve never been more in favour of page three than I am today. Because, right now, through my Bullshit-blinkered sight, topless shoots are doing something I’ve found impossible for way too long: equating boobs with fun.

It’s something I got to thinking about after chatting to Tills about tits earlier in the week. Y’know, as you do. Or, at least, as you do when you’re staring down the barrel of a week in which your Mum is having a double mastectomy and you’re having reconstructive surgery on your right’un. Talk about timing, eh? But more of that in a moment. First, tit talk with Tills.
‘When did breasts suddenly become something to worry about?’ I asked.
‘It’s funny,’ she said, ‘I remember a lecturer at university talking about the difference in people’s reactions when they hear the word ‘breast’. She was saying that women under 30 associate breasts with fun and bikinis and sex and stuff… but as soon as we hit 30 we automatically associate them with cancer.’
‘That seems to make sense,’ I admitted. ‘Much as I hate to say it.’
‘The thing is,’ said Tills, ‘I didn’t believe it at the time. I just thought that what she said had to be more about her than the lecture; that she’d recently had a friend diagnosed or something. But now I understand. It’s like all of a sudden they’ve become something to be afraid of.’

I couldn’t help but feel a bit of guilt for being the person responsible for changing the perception of boobs for Tills and my other friends, but I suppose there has to be one in every circle; a giant buzzkill who ensures that nobody looks at their tits in the same way again. And, frankly, it’s something I could have done with being warned about when I was a teenager.

Or could I? Perhaps ignorance really is bliss, and it’s best to see your fun-bags as exactly that for as long as possible, untainted by the Bullshit associations that come later. Because, God knows, once you’ve experienced them as something decidedly not fun, the days of equating what’s beneath your bra with bikinis and sex and stuff are as over as the Roman Empire. Or mixing denims.

It makes me wonder how long ago Mum started thinking of her own bust as something potentially dangerous. And whether she ever took the threat seriously before discovering last year that she carried the same breast-cancer gene that caused havoc for her daughter. I’m sure it’s something we’ll talk about while convalescing together after our respective operations but, whatever her answer reveals, it can’t make me any more proud of her for the decision she’s taken to go ahead with preventative surgery; a decision that must seem so ludicrous in light of a clean bill of health. Because, on the face of it, it’s an utterly ridiculous thing to do to yourself, having your breasts removed in order to limit the number of places The Bullshit could reach. Can you imagine chopping off your legs on the offchance that you might one day lose them? Shaving your head to eliminate the risk of alopecia?

I didn’t react well to the result of Mum’s genetic testing, creating the kind of you-can-mess-with-me-but-don’t-go-near-my-Mum histrionics that everyone concerned could have done without, then immediately begging – you might even say forcing – her to go ahead with whatever surgery was necessary. It wasn’t the right way around any of it – my folks had enough on their plate without their daughter storming in and insisting on the way to deal with things – and I’ll always regret the way I acted. But despite the dramatics and despite the insensitivity, what I’ll never regret are the reasons behind them. Because, to my mind then and now, whatever it takes to prevent Mum from a round with The Bullshit simply MUST be done. But of course that’s easy for me to say. For Mum and Dad, it’s been a heartbreaking decision which will not only be a tough road physically, but will see them confront the same 360-degree relationship with boobs that P and I have experienced. (If, by the way, you’re wondering where P and I nicked the blueprint for an exceptional marriage, look no further than this pair.)

There is undoubtedly a grieving process when your tits are taken by the God of Bullshit – or, in this case, the God of BRCA-2. My head’s method of dealing with it was to press play on a continual movie-style montage of all the fun I’d ever had with my boobs (or, indeed, all the fun someone else had ever had with them): the first Wonderbra I ever bought; the low-cut tops I’d worn; the photos they’d looked good in. And I don’t doubt that Mum will experience a similar thing. It’s a kind thing for your brain to force you into doing, really, remembering all the good times like a lost old friend. Because – like friends, like fun, like good times – boobs should be celebrated. Hence this mammary-mutilated breast-cancer survivor declaring her support for page three: a place where breasts are never associated with cancer.

You see, sometimes, the celebration of all things breast comes from the unlikeliest places – one of which Mum discovered herself this week when catching up with some friends for the last time before her surgery.
‘Only Ian could have got away with this,’ she said of my parents’ neighbour and friend of many years, ‘but when he and Margaret were wishing me good luck with the op, he gave me a big hug on my way out of the door and said "I know it’ll all go okay, Jane, but do you mind if I make a final request before you go in? Can I just have one last feel?"’
‘Cheeky sod! What did you say?’ I asked.
‘Well I told him to bugger off, obviously,’ she laughed. But do you know what, Lis? It was exactly what I needed to hear.’

And that, in a nutshell, is exactly my point. Not to mention the same reason why, as soon as the squashed chicken fillet that I currently call a right breast is healed after reconstruction, I’ll be flaunting my killer tits in as many low-cut, tight-fitting tops that my wardrobe can hold… and then, when she’s reconstructed and ready, encouraging my brilliant, brave Mum to do the same. Because sometimes, when your boobs have been tainted by the bullshit that is The Bullshit, it feels pretty good to have them objectified.

Monday 17 January 2011

As luck would have it.

If I had a quid for every time someone commented on my shit luck throughout 2010, I’d have spent new year on Necker Island.
‘I always thought I was unlucky,’ said a colleague, ‘…until I met you.’
‘Better steer clear of that ladder,’ declared one mate, ‘Your karma’s fucked up enough as it is.’
‘If I didn’t love you so much,’ said another, ‘I’d think twice about being mates with such an unlucky person.’
But, as the kind of idiot who breaks her back on the first day of her getting-over-cancer holiday, such quips aren’t just expected, but entirely justified.

As it was, however, P and I spent new year in Malaysia which, let’s be honest, is still quite the lucky escape.
‘And no falls or hospital visits or broken bones this time?’ asked my neighbour (by which I mean EVERYONE I KNOW) this week.
‘None to speak of,’ I answered. ‘Dare I say I’m pretty much in tact!’
‘See?’ she said, ‘You’re already luckier in 2011 than you were in 2010!’
‘I suppose you could say I am,’ I admitted.
‘You know what, love?’ she added, assuredly, ‘This is going to be your year, I can just feel it.’

I do appreciate people’s this-is-your-year wishes. Each January since The Bullshit, I’ve tended to get a lot of them, and hope that I will for many Januarys to come. But, lovely as they are to hear – and kind as folk are to offer them – I’m not daft enough to let myself believe such it’s-my-year guarantees, in much the same way that you can’t allow yourself to take on board the you’ll-definitely-get-its when you’ve had a job interview, the it’ll-be-okays when you’ve had a biopsy or the of-course-he’ll-call-yous when you’ve lipsticked your telephone number onto a bloke’s forearm. Because, as we all know, luck doesn’t work like that.

Or does it? It’s a funny old concept, is luck. One which I doubt any of us can fully get to the bottom of. But since that’s never stopped my eyes lighting up at the prospect of an impossible task (hello, befriending Dave Grohl while wearing denim hotpants and hatching a plan to reform Led Zep), I’ll crack on regardless. See, as I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, despite the admittedly unlucky nature of much of my last three years, I’ve nonetheless always thought of myself as a lucky lass. But, as the Necker Island Savings Account testifies, sometimes so many people tell you something that you just can’t help but start to believe it. Hence, in light of the running joke that is Lucky Lisa’s Life, I’ve decided to spend ‘my’ year searching for ways to become luckier – and then write about what I find. Kind of like a university thesis, but one in which I’m infinitely more interested, much less likely to plagiarise, and for which I’ll hopefully require far fewer Ginsters pasties.

A hefty chunk of good fortune is, of course, down to the fate you create: the positive attitude you choose to embrace; the lemons you turn into 7 Up; the gameshow answers that prompt a sudden urge to cough. But that isn’t the kind of luck that I want to learn about. Nope, the fortune I’m interested in is more of the down-and-dirty, dying-seconds-FA-Cup-winner, chips-piled-high-on-a-Vegas-poker-table, lone-survivor-of-a-plane-crash, bumping-into-your-long-lost-twin stuff. I want to find out if it’s possible to make that kind of luck the way you make the luck that gets you a promotion or a successful marriage or a gold medal.

But before you picture me rubbing a rabbit’s foot and casting spells beside a Yoda-like Maharishi in a lucky temple (mind you, if that’s what it takes…), I should state that I’m not intending to change the essence of my karma or the way I think or increase my chi or any of that shite. I don’t want to feel more lucky; I want to be more lucky. This isn’t about belief; it’s about physics. See, I’m a practical kind of girl. And while I accept that many things are down to good fortune, I also believe that good fortune is down to you. Which, you might argue, is the very same bull whose horns I’m intending to cling onto. And given that every luck-based conversation I’m party to these days tends to conclude with a knowing smirk in my direction, I think I’m the girl to do it.

Besides, I’m doing this for you as much as me. (I know, right? I’m all give.) Really I am. You see, I’m not foolish enough to think that, just because I’m one of the few twonks gobby enough to have broadcasted my shit luck to the world, I’m the only one to have had any. I’m acutely aware that into every life a little rain must fall – so consider this your welly-stall at a wet Glastonbury, where all I’m asking in return is your help in the comments below.

What I’d like to do, then, is meet the people, try the things, research the theories, test the methods and live the superstitions that claim to make people more lucky. Perhaps you know of some lucky places to go, lucky people to visit, lucky clothes to wear, lucky charms to buy or lucky courses to take? You might have once read about a lucky spell or lucky potion or lucky ritual. Or maybe you don’t have any interest or faith in luck at all and just think I’m a bit of a lunatic – in which case, good luck to you. But whichever camp you fall into, I’d feel very fortunate indeed to receive any assistance or ideas you might be able offer.

I assure you that it’s not out of greed that this is something I’m keen to look into (I’ll say it again: I might not be perceived as lucky, but it’s certainly something I’ve never considered myself otherwise), but more out of curiosity. My aim isn’t to finish this exercise as The Luckiest Person In The World; simply to know that I’ve done everything possible to stack the odds in my favour. (And anyway, a Google search of ‘the luckiest person in the world’ returned answers including Cher Lloyd, Christopher Biggins and an America’s Next Top Model winner, and I can’t say that’s exactly what I had in mind.) Nope, it’s simply that, whatever the situation, I like to know that I've done everything in my power to help myself. So, y’know – wish me luck.

Saturday 8 January 2011

A test of resolve.

Given that I’ve spent the first week of the new year sat on my arse on a beach in Langkawi, I’ve had a fair chunk of time (in between reading Great Expectations and Robbie Savage’s autobiography… talk about eclectic) to think about what I want out of 2011. So, in the spirit of Obvious January Blog Posts, here are my resolutions for the new year.

1. Trust the force.

‘That woman was talking about me,’ I said to P as we took our seats in a restaurant a couple of nights ago.
‘How do you know?’ he asked.
‘Because when I looked up I saw her stare at me, say something to her husband and then he turned around and stared too.’
‘Then what?’
‘Well, they saw me looking at them and stopped.’
‘It was probably nothing, babe.’
‘It was probably my wonky tits, more like.’
‘Of course it wasn’t. I can’t even notice that.’
‘Then it was probably my massive arse.’
‘For crying out loud, woman!’
‘Bloody hell, Lis, you are a one, aren’t you?’
‘A one?’
‘Yes, a one. Your looks, your personality, your writing… you’re continually worrying about what other people think.’

He’s right, of course; I am. And I always have been; it’s innate. But I suspect the time has come to stop blaming said insecurity on my genes. See, Mum’s just the same; as was my Nan – she even used to get paranoid when I’d call her from my bus ride home from work. 
‘What must people think of me?’ she’d ask. 
‘But Nan, nobody can hear you!’ I’d say. 
‘They must all be thinking what a daft old woman I am,’ she’d say, regardless of any comfort I could offer (or, indeed, the truth that she couldn’t have been further from a daft old woman.)

My 1993 school report read: ‘Lisa occasionally takes diligence to extremes, but is often puzzlingly unsure and in need of reassurance,’ and it’s fair to say that little has changed since. Hence, having more confidence in myself is a resolution I could make any year – and probably do, on the sly – but lately (translation: since getting a bit of a telling-off about it from Dad and P) I’ve suspected that it might be getting in the way of the things I’m trying to achieve. My new book, for one. Given that it’s not a story borne out of a blog through which I’m getting immediate feedback from readers, it’s as different to writing The C-Word (y’know, that book I said I’d stop mentioning this year) as chalk is to cheese. And so frightened am I of people thinking that it’s a bunch of toss (read: that I am a bunch of toss) that I’m using my fear as a reason to write on go-slow, when there’s absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t be powering ahead with it at bugger-the-consequences speed.

I’m hoping that having said that out loud will give me the momentum I need to stop putting fretting before typing. Because, I suppose, nobody but me can administer this kick up the arse. (The same arse that I still maintain that the woman in the restaurant thought was massive.)

2. Operation Legs ’11.

I can’t help but think that the above resolution will be greatly remedied by losing a stone. Nor can I help but think that my previous sentence makes me a predictable, vapid bore of a dullard. But be that as it may, this is something I must do. Not that I believe losing a stone will help with my next book, mind. (Actually, that’s a massive fib. In my mind, losing a stone will give me all manner of superpowers, not least the diligence to fire out four novels a year, the ability to tan beautifully at the merest hint of sun and the gift of being able to wear skinny jeans without looking like I’ve been fed through a sausage machine.) It’s more that, pre-Bullshit, I was exactly a stone lighter than I am right now. And very happy I was about it too. And yes, the gain in the meantime is more down to steroids and menopause and Tamoxifen than sweets and muffins and Tunnock’s Teacakes (sort of) but, if I’m to do my soon-to-be-reconstructed bust the justice it deserves, it’s time to get back to Fat Club and into some low-cut tops. *backs away from caramel macchiato*

3. Avoid asterisk abuse.

*gets a kick out of putting things in between asterisks to denote action*
*appreciates it can be rather annoying*
*resolves not to do it so often*

4. State the obvious.

Lisa Lynch… is going to stop beginning her Facebook statuses with auxiliary verbs. Which is a relief, as she’s sick of referring to herself in the third person. After all, shes not a football manager. Or Robbie Williams.

5. Admit defeat.

Stop trying so hard to maintain a friendship I’ve laboured over for far too long. And that, in the words of Forrest Gump, is all I have to say about that.

6. Travel like a mofo.

Stick to last year’s pledge to never go six months without a holiday (and thus write more blog posts from hotels with views as incredible as this).

7. Keep out of hospital.

2010 saw a lot of hospital action: the BRCA stuff, the back stuff, the continued check-ups... So I don’t think it’s an altogether unfair request of the universe that I remain out of the place as much as possible in 2011. I say ‘as much as possible’, given that I’m scheduled for reconstructive surgery two weeks today for the reconstruction on my right’un – and, more importantly, that I’ll be visiting Mum when she heads in for her prophylactic surgery a few days afterwards – but even without those instances I’d be making an ‘as much as possible’ request rather than an ‘altogether’ one. I mean, come on, this is me we’re talking about. I fully expect that there’ll be a shark bite or a chopped-off finger or temporary amnaesia to deal with at some point, or that I’ll wake up one day to find that the tooth fairy has extracted each of my teeth in return for a fifty-pound note, or that my left ear has somehow been replaced with my right buttock… but, dear universe, to simply remain away from hospital more than I managed last year would be, well, exquisite. 

9. Own up.

Whatever happens – even if I end up an increasingly paranoid, asterisk-obsessed, third-person-referring, friend-starved, one-book-wonder of a fatarse, unable to travel further than London thanks to a broken neck sustained after being crushed by a piano – the least I can promise is that I’ll blog about it.