Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sometimes, There Are Worse Things Than Nipplage

I’ve got some battle scars. My right breast has a one inch mark from a lumpectomy that was benign. There’s a leftover trench, a hidden valley of sorts from that surgery. My left breast has a larger disfigurement from the removal of a malignant lump; the lymph nodes were taken as well – sacrificial innocents. There’s a thickening of tissue between my left breast and my underarm. Thirty-seven radiation treatments have made a rough-hewn road between these two camps. And above my right breast, there’s a pot-holed scar. Where the chemotherapy port resided. I had to go in for surgery when this soldier was inserted; but when it was taken out, the surgeon ripped it from its combat zone with just a local in an office exam room, an intern looking on.

So I’m not supposed to wear underwire bras anymore. And I mostly don’t want to because with three scars and road track, they’re uncomfortable. I like to wear sports bras now, or those camisole tank tops with the support bra built in. OK. Not exactly a bra, but a stretchy hammock slung inside for the gals to relax in.

I’m not big breasted, and I’d say with as much humility as possible, that for 50, my boobs are not bad. Plus I have never been super modest in the upstairs arena. Back in the 70’s, my friends and I used to drive up to “Oil Piers” beach (north of Ventura on one’s way to Santa Barbara), the north end of it, and lay out topless. Not because we were showing off our stuff. On the contrary, this beach was deserted. We just didn’t want strap marks. One time, we noticed a guy had worked his way along the boulders shouldering the beach and was checking us out, half hidden. Which we ignored, until we realized that the half of him that was hidden was doing something disgusting while he starred down our way. I really think he thought we’d be so freaked out we’d scream, cover up maybe. Give him some more thrills. But we started laughing, and then the feistiest of us, a 5’2” petite little thing, got up and started calling him out for being such a disgusting loser. Walking toward him with her finger wagging accusingly. He ended up being the one who looked freaked out. I’m pretty sure he never finished what he started as he ambled back down the beach trying to act like he’d been looking for something lost in the rocks. Perhaps he thought he’d find his pride ground up and spread across the sand and if he stepped in it he could carry it back along the bottoms of his feet.

Anywhos, awhile ago my daughter’s performing arts group was having a dinner show to fundraise. My husband and I decided to make it a date night, since we hadn’t been out for months while we paid off my medical bills. Our first date since my hair had grown back enough to not look like a recovering chemo patient. On the night of the event, I was in my bathroom, almost ready. I had on a camisole tank for a bra, a long ribbed tank layered over the cami, a decent pair of jeans and low-slung heels. My short, spiky hair was gelled back and had come out really Euro-chic. I’d just finished my make-up (thrilled that I once again had eyebrows) and was adding the finishing touch – a pair of silver earrings, when my daughter walked in, took one look at me, and said, “Mom. I can see your nipples.”

“There are three layers of material over my nipples. The tank, the camisole tank, and the built in bra.”

“That’s NOT a bra. No one wears a spaghetti-strap tank without a bra unless they’re an A-cup and twelve years old. Can you PLEASE put on a bra and not show up at the fundraiser with your nipples showing.”

Well, I did not have a strapless bra as it had been an underwire bra and I had gotten rid of all of those. But… I did have a pair of silicon enhancers I had bought recently to wear to a wedding. When I went to the wedding I was in the middle of chemo and wanted desperately to not look too forlorn. I had worn a beautiful scarf around my head, topped with a summer straw hat, and a summer dress that was deep pink with wide straps. I had needed something to smooth out the uneven terrain of the battle scars and a friend who is a wedding planner had suggested the free floating implants to fill out the bottom of my bra. I had to go to Neman Marcus to get them and at $50 they were quite the investment. But they were so worth it. Instead of rough seas, there were smooth swells.

Remembering how pretty I had felt that day, I slipped the jelly pads into the camisole’s hammock. I figured that after all those months of doctors, nurses, radiation techs, not to mention their interns, best friends, and publicity agents feeling up my boobs and then leaving me topless while they discussed my boobs in front of me I had become a little too cavalier and perhaps my daughter was right. So, for my daughter’s peace of mind, I smoothed out the nipplage with silicone pads.

The dinner before the show was a buffet and after claiming our seats my husband and I made our way over to get our dinner. As I leaned over to ladle something onto my plate, there was a slight feeling of slippage in the old hammock area. One of the gals was separating from her false friend. I eyed out the “waiters” (theater teens) on the other side of the buffet to see where they were looking. I was hoping I could just stick my hand down my top, grab hold of the jelly half-boob, and slap it back into place. No such luck. The kid was standing there with a pair of tongs and waiting to see if he could offer me some chicken. Hmm. As I moved down the line, I held my plate with both hands and lined up the inside of my right bicep with the renegade and gave a squeeze and a push. Nope. I tried to use non-obvious muscle movements to force the errant falsie back into place all the way down the buffet line. My right boob must have looked something like a confused and insane puffer fish.

I gave up hope of straightening incognito and took my plate back to my table, resigned to having to excuse myself to the restroom. Besides, it probably felt worse than it looked. I smiled over to my daughter who was working the soda bar across the room.

After I put my plate down and before I cut loose to the facilities, my daughter magically appeared in front of me. She hissed at me under her breath. “MOM! You need to go fix yourself. NOW. You look like you have two boobs on one side.”

Meanwhile my husband, who has been at my side the whole time and never noticed a thing, is already eating. I glare down at him and he looks up at me and asks me if I got some of the orange chicken because I really should have gotten some of the orange chicken, and by the way daughter, do you know where you guys ordered the orange chicken from, because THE ORANGE CHICKEN IS REALLY GOOD. He has NO IDEA how close he came to wearing his orange chicken.

So now I have to walk clear across the room to the exit by the bathroom and suddenly it feels like I AM THE ONE ONSTAGE.

“Daughter,” I whisper, “why don’t I wait until the show starts and the lights go down?”

“No mom. I know you know what's rude and unacceptable in theater. You need to fix it now.”

So I walk across the room, the whole way pretending to scratch my chin so my arm can crook over my right side, which apparently is in possession of two boobs.

In the restroom I square myself off and look in the mirror.

OK. Not pretty. But not exactly TWO boobs on the right side. More like a double-up. You know, like those waves that have a wave on their backside.

Ah. Well.

Apparently I missed a flush. Or been too self-occupied to realize someone was using the facilities. But as I started to pry open my cami, the jelly boob free fell out and plopped onto the floor as a young woman of about 17 simultaneously walked out of the stall. For a second that stretched into eternity, we both stood there, the quivering mass of flesh-colored jello on the floor between us. Then the girl politely stepped over it, washed her hands, dried them, stepped over it again and exited. She was way cool.

My inner monologue was not so cool. It was SO HARD to just stand there. And though I lacked the fortitude to JUST PICK UP THE FUCKING THING AND STICK IT BACK IN, at least I did not blurt out the train wreck going on in my head. No. I am NOT some wanna be MILF. REALLY REALLY REALLY. I’m just a battle scared survivor who can’t wear most bras. TRYING TO NOT SHOW MY NIPPLES.

31 comments:

Kristan said...

LOL! I hope you don't mind my laughing at this, because your storytelling was hysterical.

Meanwhile my husband, who has been at my side the whole time and never noticed a thing, is already eating. I glare down at him and he looks up at me and asks me if I got some of the orange chicken because I really should have gotten some of the orange chicken, and by the way daughter, do you know where you guys ordered the orange chicken from, because THE ORANGE CHICKEN IS REALLY GOOD. He has NO IDEA how close he came to wearing his orange chicken.

Oh men.

Seriously, though, awesome story. I'm glad you can joke about the scars now. I would imagine that's part of what makes it worth surviving...

only a movie said...

Well done. I can picture it. I hope you also had fun and took some photos. :-)

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Kristan - yes, being able to look back on it all with a sense of humor is definately icing on the cake of survival.
Only a movie - I might be laughing now, but that night I was all embarraced. In hindsight - pictures would have been great.
Thank-you both.

Tina said...

Hi! I'm so glad you stopped by my blog and that I've now found yours...this is a great post - funny and heart wrenching at the same time.

Please stop by anytime; I know I'll be checking in here, too!

Candid Carrie said...

“Daughter,” I whisper, “why don’t I wait until the show starts and the lights go down?”

“No mom. I know you know what's rude and unacceptable in theater. You need to fix it now.”

I can imagine the harshly whispered conversation. And I can imagine the sound of the gel pack hittin' the bathroom floor.

And how cool that the girl just walked over them. And how amazing that you just happened to have an extra pair of boobs in your drawer, the good ones, too!

Thank you for sharing this! Sometimes the lowest moments remembered at a later date make great stories.

Laura said...

Body parts, real and jelloed, don't you love them. The grace of a woman to walk with two boobs on one side, to have a boob plop to the floor, to have teams of technicians discuss your boobs, and to find the humor. Yes, reality is truly the basis for fiction.

Ann's Rants said...

I found you from BPOTW (year). You know what? Life is hard enough without keeping track of chicken cutlets. Sounded like you looked fantastic, and you are entitled to a little nipplege if you ask me.

Oh2122 said...

My Hubby totally would have gotten the glare of death with a clenched teeth discription of how he would soon be wearing the oh so yummy orange chicken.

This is a great post!

BPOTW said...

Oh my gosh! I hope your daughter comes back to you one day and is deeply grateful for how much you did for her that night. I admire you. I admire you. I admire you!

Thanks for sharing your post with Best Posts of the Year!

Hot Tub Lizzy said...

You are a GREAT writer!! That post is hysterical! Oh my head I'm still laughing out loud!!!

AND NOW EVEN MORE!!!!!!!!!

The word verificiation is:

BRESS

Beth said...

I love this story! It speaks strongly of your spirit. You have a gift for turning lemons into lemonaide. Thanks for sharing!

Diane said...

I am old enough to remember when showing nipple was a badge of honor for liberated women. Of course I was 20 then. Somehow, when you are 50+ the bra-less look is not quite the same! When I was going through radiation in 2007, I worried about showing too much nipple, but your story puts it all in the proper perspective!

Carebear said...

LOL at "a confused and insane puffer fish". Very funny and engaging post. Admire that you found the humor in an embarrassing situation. I love folks who don't take themselves too seriously. Really enjoying this site. You should publish a book of these "mini-essays". I would buy it!

Leslie said...

First of all, congratulations for being a survivor!!!

Second of all, you handle stress with a lot of grace. I'm impressed.

Congrats on your SITS day!

Diva Scrapper said...

I have laughed so hard, tears are streaming down my face...my dh would have worn the orange chicken and if I had a daughter (and being that sometimes I could be short tempered) I would have whipped out those boobs and handed them to her...Good thing you had the right state of mind to keep cool and collected...you poor thing. But way to keep you head high as the jelly flopped on the bathroom floor like a fish out of water. You just kept me laughing.

Still praying for your continued well being.

Becky said...

You are such a great writer! Supid nippleage, it's always getting in the way. Thanks for sharing!

Gaspegirl said...

What a great story... it is something that could encourage and inspire other survivors - you are a courageous lady!

Angie Marion said...

even though the situation surrounding this story is sad, you are a GREAT writer and have a pretty cool sense of humor.

Have a FANTASTIC day!

Beth said...

That has to be one of the best stories I've read in a long time! LOVE your writing style!

Robin Lynne said...

I love it!

You write beautifully. I had the best/funniest mental imagery going on as I read this post.

This story reminds me of my mom (somewhat unrelated; she had colon cancer a few years ago, but thankfully it was caught early and she's had 3 clean 'screens' so they say she's in the clear.) as she has the strangest "luck" and her share of odd happenings.

I look forward to reading more of your blog!

-Fellow SITSah

Robin Lynne
www.robinlynne.org

Kathy B! said...

This is so honest and well-written. Thanks for sharing it with us.

I'm really looking forward to reading more of your blog!

BlogBaby said...

Such language! Ah well you did give me fair warning and I have been known to use a few "choice words" from time to time and I am a baby...for shame, I know!

An excellent story, thanks for Sharing with us SITS girls!

BlogBaby

Brittany said...

You have such a natural writing talent... and a great sense of humor!

Thank you for telling this story. Your transparency is a breath of fresh air.

Visiting from SITS. :)
Happy SITS day!

Sharlene said...

What a great story. I am sure there are quite a few of us, breast cancer survivors or not, who can relate to it. I am so glad you choose to write about your experiences because I am sure it gives others battling cancer hope.
Visiting from SITS!

Beth said...

Great post. I love your writing.

Sass said...

That was one of the greatest posts I've ever read...

I'm so glad I clicked on the link.

Thank you!

Mama Badger said...

Miss Pseudo, I hope you don't mind my late commenting. The first time I read this I was still a lurker. But I need to tell you how brave and wonderful you are! I remember all the weird krappe my Mom had when she had her mastectomy. Jelly boobs, special bathing suits, scar creams, scarves. All the ammunition you need just to feel like a "regular" person. Props for handling this all so well. I loved this story!

Mama Badger said...

Miss Pseudo, I hope you don't mind my late commenting. The first time I read this I was still a lurker. But I need to tell you how brave and wonderful you are! I remember all the weird krappe my Mom had when she had her mastectomy. Jelly boobs, special bathing suits, scar creams, scarves. All the ammunition you need just to feel like a "regular" person. Props for handling this all so well. I loved this story!

Happy Frog and I said...

Hi there, found this post through the Sunday Roast you just did with Eddie. Wow, it has it all really doesn't it? I think you handled the whole situation a lot better than I would have. Very good post.

Jeanne said...

You're right. This IS a great post. I simultaneously laughed, winced and thought about what it would be like to be a breast cancer survivor.

Bravo!

Samson said...

your narration of the incident is very good.

Humorous, at the same time describing the difficulties one has to go through when having a jelly boob.

i really enjoyed reading your story. One of the very best i have ever read. Not every one can joke about an embarrassing situation. you rock! \m/

- Samson, India