I’m writing this blog post in English, for my New Zealand friend Dani who I found through Instagram. She and I started chemo on the same day, Aug 1. We’re both scheduled to finish chemo mid-November, and are facing our operations in December. I’ve been following her and she is absolutely brilliant: sharing pics of herself at the best and worst of times, always with a great sense of humour. We chat on Insta sometimes, giving each other pep talk and discussing our hopes and fears. While our situations aren’t exactly the same, we have enough in common for me to take great comfort in the fact that I have a breast cancer sister on the other side of the world.
Anyhow, Dani recently wrote on her blog about a project in New Zealand called Dear Boobs – a collection of 100 letters written by women with breast cancer, to their boobs. With my operation ahead of me, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, and research. I was planning on writing a traditional blog post, but the Dear Boobs project inspired me to write my own letter instead:
I’ve always liked you. You’ve never been too big or too small. You’ve happily joined me on runs, never being in the way or causing me pain by bouncing around too much. You’ve made me feel great at parties, allowing me to flash some cleavage without having to worry about it all spilling out.
You helped me give both of my children great starts, by providing them with free, superhealthy food. You and I went through a lot of pain the second time round – I remember biting my lip trying not to scream when baby Frank latched on to my sore, bleeding nipples – but once we all got used to it, it was actually really nice.
Once I was finished with breastfeeding, I looked at you – sorry excuses for breasts, all droopy and flimsy – and seriously considered getting you lifted. But with time, you came back, perky and happy and ready for new adventures. I loved you for that. I still do.
However, this year, one of you stopped being my friend. You made me wonder if I’d live to see next summer. You made me think I might not be able to be there for the kids you helped feed. You made me scared. No, not scared – absolutely terrified.
And now, in December I’m facing an operation. I still need to talk to my surgeon, but in the meantime, I’ve been researching my options: to get rid of the tumour, to get rid of the boob that turned on me, or to get rid of both of you for good. At first I was pretty much sold on the last option. Because I don’t ever, ever want you to do this to me again.
But according to the doctors, getting rid of my boobs isn’t the answer. Today’s studies show that successful removal of an isolated tumour, combined with chemo and radiation, minimizes the risk of recurrence just as much as having an entire mastectomy.
And sure, removing both of you does reduce the risk of developing a new cancer. But in my case, the risk isn’t that high. And what’s to say I won’t get cancer somewhere else in my body? Maybe I should focus less on you, and more on eating healthier and worrying less. Because shit happens, and worrying about it doesn’t help.
So boobs, whatever happens to you after chemo, rest assured that you will not run my life. If one of you ends up looking a little wonky after surgery, or has to be completely replaced, well so be it. I’ll live with that. Because the key word there is “live”. I’m alive, and I intend to stay that way. And I also intend to make the most of life, not spend it worrying about when it will be over.