A couple of weeks ago I bought some nipple tassels. I had just had my chemo port removed and felt this signified the end of my treatment. What better way to celebrate than shaking what was left of my tits? I am so grateful that I still have them. One is missing a chunk and is a bit misshapen but WHO CARES? I’m thrilled to be alive and feel healthy. I want to dance and shake my tits and I’m lucky enough to still have some to shake so let’s go!
This time last year tassel-twirling was not even close to entering my thoughts as I prepared for a second surgery on my right breast. I had been relieved to find out I didn’t need a mastectomy. The lump could be removed and the surgeon told me he expected my breast would look quite good afterwards. When the dressing came off I discovered to my relief he was right. My boob looked okay. It certainly looked like something had happened to it, but it wasn’t horrifically deformed and the scar was as neat as can be. What more can you want?
Then came the phone call that some lab results suggested that not enough tissue had been taken. I would need another surgery. I was fine with that until the surgeon apologetically informed me that my breast would not look so good after the second one. After having been worried about how it would look, followed by the relief that it was okay, this was a cruel blow. Turns out after the second surgery the formerly neat scar was not so neat and the dip in the breast was more pronounced, but it still wasn’t a disaster and I still had a boob – which is important to me.
‘Oh well, better a breast than your life.’ This was the standard answer I received from others when I would express my apprehension at the prospect of losing a breast. On one level it’s true. Yes, it’s better to go through life missing a breast than not to have the opportunity to go through life at all. It is fortunate that breasts are among the less essential organs in the human system. However I still find the idea of losing a breast, or having it mutilated, disturbing.
And I find the cavalier attitude to breasts, that some people display, puzzling to say the least. Because they are seen by many as nothing but ornaments, heaven help the person who has the nerve to attempt to use them for their actual biological purpose of feeding an infant. Or showing a nipple in even the most innocent of contexts – but I won’t get started on that.
So if boobs are nothing but fashion accessories, playthings and status symbols, it would follow that being concerned about losing one to cancer is nothing but frivolous vanity. Besides, you can have a ‘reconstruction’ and everything will be fine again. Now this sounds strange, but the reason I want to keep my boobs is that they seem to be a part of my emotional hardware. I mean, I feel emotions in my boobs. I get different physical sensations according to my different emotional states. The most pronounced sensations accompany the traditional heart-chakra related emotions of joy, grief, compassion and all sorts of lovey-wuvvy smushy stuff. I’m not sure how the experience of being all smushy would feel if I didn’t have breasts to feel it in. It’s possible that without physical breasts present there would be an etheric equivalent remaining, but I’m not in a hurry to test that theory.
This is why, in my mind, it is not really possible to ‘reconstruct’ a breast. Shoving a bag of silicone under your skin where your breast used to be is not truly reconstructing it. Never in my life have I considered cosmetic breast surgery. Admittedly my breasts have always looked acceptable from a conventional point of view, but then so do the breasts of many people who seek surgical enhancements. I’m not saying seeking cosmetic surgery is bad or that I would never under any circumstances do it. I’m just saying that there are other concerns as well as how breasts look superficially – important concerns that don’t seem to be commonly acknowledged or addressed.
So tell me, is it just me? Or do other people feel emotions in their boobs? Has consumer culture minimised the emotional functionality of boobs and convinced us that boobs serve no purpose but to look good?