The woman with three breasts

I am a freak. I now have a choice of breasts to wear. Well, in truth, I have had one silicone prosthesis AND a swimming prosthesis since last Spring so the three breasts bit, written to lure you in, is not strictly true. I have 2 silicone and the swimming breast and none of them seems to be me. Obviously they are not me in actuality but they don’t seem to look like me. It surprised me how much a breast is supposed to weigh. They are not light and delicate things. There is also something strange about going into a room with someone who is trying to match you up so that your frontage doesn’t look lopsided. Janine, my fitter, is very nice and agrees my current prosthesis is not doing the job and tries me with several before she is happy. I have to quietly confess that I don’t see much difference but she is thorough and is pleased with the result. She also finds me a bra which seems to fit better than some of the others I have experimented with so I buy that and then take away a phone number which I can ring and order them at a discount if I quote her name. Bras for prostheses are pretty dire, though, and do nothing for my shape. In the room there is a cupboard full of boxes of breasts. Quite surreal. I am reminded to treat my breast like my own. I shower with it and if it gets a scratch, a plaster will help stop the silicone from leaking out. I am also supposed to put it away in its box at night, as though I am putting it to bed. This, I think, is a step too far and it will have to take its chances on the top of my chest of drawers. Toughen up, silicone breast. This is the real world.

In other news, I am going to go to Bangkok to see Miss Mason and Mr Safaie so I can pretend to help out with wedding arrangements whilst having a nice holiday. Miss Mason has had a few setbacks in the wedding dress department. A svelte size 10, she has gone to a few bridal shops in Bangkok thinking she will try on styles of dress before having one made, only to be met with cries of “No! No! We don’t do fat dresses!” Thai women are so slight that even a slim European size 10 is considered fat and, being Thai and straight talking, they have no hesitation in telling her she is fat. Stuffing herself into tiny size 4 and 6 dresses is a depressing task so she has been looking at styles on the internet and they have been pinging back and forth between us as she chooses the final design. No wonder she is drinking pints of gin and tonic. It is not until I have booked my flight that I consider what I have done and I think it demonstrates that I truly am an optimist. Or else I am impulsive. One of the two. I book my flight with excitement and think about all the things we will do together. Later on, it occurs to me that I have booked a flight to a country which is in a state of turmoil at present. Just last week someone threw a grenade into a shopping centre and some children were killed. They were not the first child casualties of the political turmoil, either. I do not consider the possibility of being blown up or shot when I book. Just a thought.

And finally, we are not speaking to Dog. He has been a very bad dog and is consequently sent to Coventry which is a severe punishment for a pack animal. Mr Mason drops me off at Charing Cross Hospital on Wednesday so I can go to my weekly Maggie’s meeting. After this, he drives to Tesco to buy a few essentials such as cat and dog food. Dog is not allowed out to do his customary wee there. Dog always likes to get out at Tesco and wee in a corner of the car park. It does not matter if he only had a wee five minutes before. Weeing in Tesco’s car park is an essential component of the Dog experience and on this occasion, he is denied it. This, we think, enrages him, together with the fact that there are no squirrels to chase in the park. Dog thinks he has been hard done by and will not come back to have his lead on. He decides the best thing to do is run out of the park, crossing the busy road and prance about with a massive adrenalin surge telling him to run in and out of the traffic coming to a halt in the middle of the road. Mr Mason follows him in a sort of  stoic rage and eventually lures him so he can put his lead on. I suspect at this point there may have been some swearing but I was not there so cannot comment. You must fill in the dots yourself.

When I arrive home, Dog rushes to meet me but with slightly less fervour than usual. I do not greet him. I do not say “It’s the incredible jumping Dog!” as I usually do as he launches himself at me on just two feet (Dog is on just two feet – I am always on two feet unless something has toppled me). I go to the postbox without saying “See you in a little while” which is the signal I am coming back. He worries and frets and casts covert glances at me. Mr Mason goes out on the town to see the band of a friend’s daughter. Oh, how old that makes us sound! He leaves without saying “Goodbye” to Dog. Dog sleeps in his basket quietly and when I tell him to come and have a wee before I go to bed, he does so quietly and without fuss. I go to bed and leave him on his own. In the morning we don’t greet him. I don’t say “Good morning” which is the signal that he can come and see me in bed. He skulks about, disconsolate. The door into the breakfast room which can be a source of terror for him if it is not fully open becomes one he can easily slip through, so desperate is he to please us and have amicable relations restored. Mr Mason and I go out to the shops and Dog stares with his prize-winning sad eyes at us through the window. As soon as he has successfully come back to the lead on his walk, we can be friends again. The risks of him getting killed outweigh the distress the temporary withdrawal of contact makes. Many moons ago, when Dog was quite a bit younger, he failed to come back to the lead. I think I may have told this story already but I really feel it is worth repeating. Mr Mason, after trying many times to capture the very speedy Dog, lay down on the path in the park and whimpered, feigning illness. Dog, being curious, came up to see what was the matter whereupon he was caught and Mr Mason was able to stand up and cough a few times whilst ignoring the stares of astounded onlookers. He has not repeated this obviously successful technique, no matter how many times I ask him. Spoilsport.

Here comes the sun

I am becoming new and improved every day. Every day, in every way I am getting better and better. Or something. Today was the acquisition of the much awaited compression sleeve and gauntlet. Mine is a snazzy all-in-one, caramel in colour, naturally, and very tight. It runs the entire length of my arm, from just beneath my arm pit stopping around the knuckles on my left hand. Hand-washing is very difficult. If I ‘get on with’ this one, I can have another one. I can wash it gently but mustn’t leave it to dry on a radiator. After it was fitted, I whipped my tattoo sleeve out of i’s bag and began to put it on. The man who was helping me – I don’t know his exact title – was surprised. “I’ve never seen one of those before” he said. I explained I didn’t want to be controlled by my sleeve but meant to have some fun with it as I have to wear it. He nodded approvingly.

This afternoon was the formation of the new singing group at Maggie’s. It’s only for 4 weeks but I thought it would be fun. An amazing amount of people I had never seen before came and we sat in an awkward L-shaped room while a very nice man put us through our paces. We did breathing exercises, panting. yawning, tapping and clapping. Eventually we separated ourselves into groups – soprano, alto, tenor and men. Our choir master has decided we should sing ‘Here Comes the Sun’ which is fine by me. The problem is, some ladies in the group can’t understand that you should only sing your own part, not the part of every group. It leads to endless confusion when, say, the tenors are singing their part and women from the soprano and alto sections are singing along. I clearly need to be more tolerant and possibly buy some earplugs.

Waiting in the car park for Mark to arrive, a woman I have never met before accosts me. ‘Wasn’t it fun?’ she asks. We discuss what we liked about the afternoon. ‘As soon I saw you come in, I thought “she’ll be a right laugh”‘ she tells me. ‘You came in with your tattoo, chatting with people and I thought you looked amazing’. How fascinating to see onesself through the eyes of others. We discuss our various cancers. Her tumour was 11mm and she had had it removed. She is due to start chemotherapy on Friday. I tell her I had chemotherapy before surgery. ‘Was that to shrink it?’ she asks. I tell her yes. ‘Did it work?’. I tell her it shrunk to 8cm. She looks aghast. ‘8cm? Mine was only 11mm!’ I remind her it’s not competetive cancer. Cancer is cancer is cancer. She tells me her chemotherapy is made from the bark of a tree. With horrible familiarity I know exactly which drug she will be having and, skipping the horrible side-effects, I tell her it will stop her cancer in its tracks. Mark arrives and we part.

Coming home I get to remove my external accoutrements. My prosthesis, my new compression sleeve. The relief of discarding the improvements is immense. The joy of sitting in pyjamas mis-shapen and puffy-armed is huge. I don’t yearn to go to restaurants, clubs, gigs, the cinema or have dinner with friends. I long for the sofa at the end of the day, pyjamas and sheepskin slippers.

Wailing not whaling

It’s been a funny old day. Today is the day I got my permanent prosthesis and I had a bit of a wobble getting dressed, putting in the old prosthesis (I called her Wanda on the basis that she used to) and seeing that nothing looked the same as me. I was hit by a wail – I’m so glad I can spell. Under clothes no doubt it’s all much of a muchness but when I bend forward it looks all wrong. Having a couple of useless post-surgery bra fittings hadn’t helped and I don’t feel terribly confident in what I’ve ended up buying. But I digress.

Mark dropped me off at the station and I even got a seat on the tube.  Hammersmith station is a nightmare with people selling stuff and chuggers and I got caught with the latter today. It was the British Red Cross and they really should train their team to have at least the basic people skills. You know how it goes. One of them catches your eye (which is usually being drawn by anything other than the chugger) and then you are fair game. A tall young man made a bee-line for me. ‘Got 10 minutes?’ he asked, a little optimistically, I thought. ‘I’m going for a cancer appointment at the hospital’ I said. ‘You can postpone that for 10 minutes!’ he said. If I didn’t look puzzled, I certainly felt it. ‘Did you hear what I said?’ I asked. ‘No’. ‘I’m going to the hospital for an appointment about my cancer’. I didn’t think he needed to know the exactly what I was going for. ‘Yeah, you can postpone that for 10 minutes!’ he said, grinning inanely. I replied politely that this was not going to happen. ‘I’ll catch you on the way back, then’, he said, still gamely pushing his luck. It struck me then that this young man has clearly never been close to someone who has had cancer. It also struck me that, although he wasn’t a teenager, I’ll be generous and say he was young, he clearly hadn’t much imagination or sense, either. As I walked on, shaking my head, I entertained myself with the exchange we might have on my way back.

My new prosthesis was fitted and sorted in about ten minutes. Made of silicone and, of course, caramel in colour, it fits nicely and weighs more than Wanda so shouldn’t be appearing near my left ear any time soon. I have to treat it as I would my own skin and might be able to have a different one for swimming. The prosthesis lady will ask.

I then had to see my GP to get a whole host of drugs and a new medical certificate. I was peturbed to see she was wearing a normal striped work shirt beneath a black, off-the-shoulder gypsy top. I wanted to say ‘You’re a young, attractive woman! Have you dressed yourself in the first things you laid your hands on this morning?’. This is also the preferred method of dressing by Mark who will see nothing wrong in this approach. On the grounds that I don’t belong to the fashion police, I kept quiet. She listened to my chest and prescribed antibiotics for my cough. Mark was waiting to see what she said about my cough before he bothered to go about his own. It’s sort of remote healthcare. I am now signed off for a further 4 months which sounds a long time in some respects but just about right in others. I feel it will be a long, slow slide back into work rather than a spectacular being-shot-out-of-a-cannon kind of return.

So tomorrow is the long-awaited sleeve and gauntlet fitting. Photos may follow….

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