While interviewing over 150 cancer patients for a new stage show I’m developing. Leanne’s’ worry free attitude was very refreshing, silly and cathartic.
Saturday night I was hanging out at a friend’s house
enjoying a barbecue with a small group of friends. We
were enjoying lemon margaritas and getting silly. We
were taking a picture and one gal jokingly put her hand
on my boob. Because, you know, it’s not a real boob.
The next thing you know, I whipped out one of my
prostheses and all the gals were poking and squishing
it with interest. The two guys in the room, however,
suddenly became very uncomfortable. This was really
funny to me because it doesn’t even look like a real
(At that moment during the interview she reaches under her shirt and
grabs the prosthesis and begins to play with it.)
It’s a tan, rounded pyramid shape with an absorbent pad on the side that touches your skin.
If it was lying on a table and you had no prior knowledge of breast forms
you probably would have no idea what it was. And yet
the guys were embarrassed and uncomfortable. Now I was
always a modest person about my body, I never talked
about boobs this much before. But then cancer engulfed
my life and now the words “breast” and “boob” are part
of my daily conversation.”Breast cancer isn’t like
getting lung cancer or skin cancer or liver cancer. You
can talk about your liver and no one gets embarrassed
or uncomfortable. Mentioning your lungs over dinner is
never crass or inappropriate. But breast cancer? It’s a
private, very feminine, and sexual part of your
body. It’s kind of weird. And kind of funny.
Especially when men get embarrassed about it. I could
talk about a liver transplant and no one would care.
But I talk about breast reconstruction and it’s
suddenly embarrassing conversation. Women don’t seem to
care because they all have boobs.
(Well okay, most of
them do – currently I am one of the few that don’t.)
Boobs aren’t a big deal to women. You mention boobs in
mixed company, though, and the men don’t know what to
do. Is it okay to talk about it? Do I laugh? Do I act
interested? Do I act aloof? What’s appropriate? If I
look at her chest am I a pig even though they’re fake
inserts? Is it okay to notice? What do I do?!! Last
summer I went a good month after my mastectomy without
a prosthesis. My chest was too tender so I waited until
I was fully healed. Right after I got it, though, Bill
and I went out with another couple to the movies. The
guy was a longtime friend and even he wasn’t quite sure
how to handle it.”Suz, ummm, I don’t quite know how to
say this… you look nice??”Poor guy. So a note to the
men out there: I can’t speak for all breast cancer
survivors, but as far as I’m concerned you can relax.
You aren’t going to say or do anything to offend me.
When I got breast cancer any hang ups I had about
talking about boobs went out the window. They had to.
Which actually isn’t such bad thing. I think our
society has given far too much power and intrigue to
breasts. Yes they are beautiful and desirable, but they
are also a normal part of the human body. Let’s lighten
up about boobs, shall we? Instead, let’s laugh about
them and have some fun.