As a freelance writer it is always good news to be commissioned to write an article on a subject close to your heart. And my boobs are definitely that, literally and figuratively, so I am happily researching and writing for an online magazine on the subject of breast reconstruction. Those who have read my blogs before may recall that I was diagnosed with breast cancer 4 years ago, came through treatment successfully, but waited 3 years before I made the decision to put myself back under the knife and be ‘rebuilt’. I am now at the stage where as a 40 something mum of two teenagers I am getting my first tattoo (albeit with little choice about where it is sited and what design to have… see my previous post The Incredible Tattooed Woman) .
As I have been pulling together the research for the article, I have become acutely aware of the complex relationship we as women have with our own breasts, and those of other women. We are horrified – and fascinated – to see that Katie Price has given herself back pains by increasing the size of her bosom to the equivalent of two basketballs in her bra cups, (although at least that has given her something else to talk about in OK magazine.) Giselle Bundchen has created a furore by suggesting that breastfeeding should be mandatory, with scant regard for the rights and feelings of women who are physically unable to feed their babies, or choose not to for personal reasons. The Daily Mail reports story after story suggesting that if only we would stop eating grapefruit, drink more/less alcohol, gorge ourselves on beetroot, use the right deodorant (or none at all and lose all our friends) we would avoid getting the dreaded Big C. And that is not a cup size. Believe me, I had all the protective factors in place and I still got it, so I feel strongly that we should not be made to feel as if our bosoms are ticking time bombs by a sensationalist media keen to place the blame for the rise in breast cancer cases on something women are or are not doing.
Given the things that have happened to me over the past four years my relationship with my chest is obviously a complex one, but I genuinely think breasts are great. They shouldn’t define us as women, but we should know and appreciate their role in how we feel about ourselves, our sex lives and how we choose to feed our children in their earliest months. We need to take care of them, check them (or let a willing partner do it, much more fun) and take note of any changes. But despite my experience – and to be honest it was a pretty horrible one that I would do anything to help other women avoid – I still want to have two in my bra, making a t-shirt look nice or filling out a dress. Since the mastectomy I have on occasions had to apologise to women friends of mine with significant cleavage as I find it hard to take my eyes off the beauty of it, and I must admit the desire to buy something pretty in La Senza was one of the reasons I began to feel the serious operation that reconstruction is (far more so than the original mastectomy) would be worth it. I admit it may seem shallow; a little bit girlie and not necessarily in line with my determined view that the exploitation of women as sex objects is wholly unacceptable.
But now, when I lay down to sleep at night, with a little, cool light coming in through the curtains highlighting me in silhouette I look down the length of my body and once again see two (admittedly rather little, but it was ever thus for me) rounded bumps, and for me that makes any discomfort I have gone through over the past year worth it.
Photo credit Boliston (statue at the Eden Project)