Thursday, 9 August 2012

To tell or not to tell?

Yesterday was 2 weeks since I had my surgery. 

 Yes I will agree I am looking pretty bloody fantastic  considering what I have had done. And no I am  not pretending when I say I also feel pretty good.

This morning I stood in front of the bathroom mirror doing my morning face routine, no towel covering my chest and it is starting to feel normal.

I even had  one of those moments, today, when I wasn't P who has had cancer and a double mastectomy but I was simply me. For a brief moment I forgot about the fact that underneath my jumper things were not as they used to be.  Another very good sign. 

The crossing over into this is, my new reality, is starting.

The Whip Cracker picked me up today for an outing. Have to say she was very gentle with me.
We hit the shopping centre to do a few errands and a little bit of retail therapy. 
As I wandered through the shops I did look at outfits and wonder which would still suit me with my flat chest and which would be off the list. 
That got me thinking about what I already have in my wardrobe and what will or wont work anymore.
I am prepared to have a few "f*ck nothing looks good on me" moments as I move out of jeans, long sleeve tshirts and baggy jumpers. But hey - women all over the world have those moments all the time - even those with boobs. 

But today I wasn't looking at new clothes I was only buying some new camisoles.
 And they do look good on me. 

Next stop after the shopping was lunch. ( I am getting quite used to this kind of living).

I have been quite cocooned for the past 2 weeks and the only people I have seen, know what has happened - of course that doesn't include the randoms I pass in the street or the people in the shops, but people who actually know me.

As we entered the cafe we saw that there was a large table of lunching ladies and that we both knew a few of them. Quick wave and hi hi ( you know that kind of greeting) and we sat down. 
As we got up to leave one of the women called me over. 

What pursued was one of those moments when you have to make a decision about self disclosure.

Hi how are you?

Now as the first question was coming out, the conversation in my head was going - tell or not tell, has she heard or hasn't she, is it obvious that I have no breasts and do I answer with

"Yes I'm really well except  I was diagnosed with breast cancer a month ago, had a double mastectomy 2 weeks ago but I'm doing OK.  And what's happening with you?"

But instead I opted for 

Good thanks
Everything OK, you well?
Yes every thing's great, I'm really well.
Good to hear. Bye

As you have probably already gathered, I am not a particularly private person and as my good friend H says, I tell it like it is. 

But sometimes there are times to filter that self disclosure. It is mostly about not wanting to get into a whole discussion about it ( hence the reason for blogs) and the questions that inevitably arise.

And unlike other topics, cancer seems to attract far more offerings of philosophical musings, words of encouragement and proclamations about how your personality traits will somehow influence your prognosis ( stay tuned for a when I really step up onto my soap box on this topic).*

It is also about not ambushing people. In my younger years I used to take much pleasure in doing that  with all sorts of private pieces of information but have lost the enthusiasm for it as I have gotten older.

I didn't have the energy or the desire to watch someone else struggle with processing a fairly confronting piece of information in a short space of time.

It also brought back memories of the first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer. S, my daughter, had gone home with a friend after school while I went to see the breast surgeon for the first time. I told  his mother that I had an urgent appointment with the accountant. That appointment took until 7pm. When we arrived to pick her up and  I apologised for being late, she asked if everything was alright ( I guess I didn't look all that good), I can clearly remember replying "Yes all good. I've got breast cancer but I am going to be OK" and I kept on walking through to get S.
It was only later that I realised how shocking that was for her ( and not a deliberate ambush). I did ring to apologise and we have laughed about that many times since. 

 For all these reasons I chose the equivalent of the verbal two cheek air kiss. 

No doubt there will be more of these moments as I slowly re-enter the world outside of my private sphere. It is different this time round. The first time I had kept most of my breast so it was no where near as obvious, a second cancer diagnosis is always more shocking and  a double mastectomy is  seen as a far more radical procedure. 

Perhaps I need to re-read the section in the Now What...? books where I have written about telling people and how to prepare for it and also accept that there will be times when I choose complete  self disclosure and times when I don't. 

Either way it is and always will be my choice.

Before I finish up and head off to bed ( and eat the last of my very special chocolates)  A quick update on the pain situation. I woke up yesterday with a big improvement in the range of movement especially in my right arm but the annoying sensation in my upper chest is still there. I am trying to re-frame it ( as M suggested) and think of it as the nerve endings repairing themselves and sensation returning. Which is a good thing. Not sure I will be happy to re-frame it for an extended period of time though. Patience, patience. I know.

So I will continue to be aware of those crossing over moments, acknowledge how well I am doing, get my girlfriends to take me out  and continue my search for  soft camisoles.

And  I may just need to have one ambush moment to keep me amused. 

Until then I am as always

P xx

* this is not the same as people who acknowledge my capacity  to deal with what I am dealing with and recognise my strengths and resilience. 


  1. Shit I just love reading your blog - seriously! And that's after we've talked everyday! M x

  2. Simply. Thank you on so many levels xx

  3. I love how you 'bold' your positive affirmations. Makes me think, as I struggle through life where I blow trivialities completely out of proportion, that I really should create some of my own. Affirmations I mean... not trivialities :) Great to read as always P.

  4. and once again, my tuppence worth - often better not to tell. I am amazed at how many people think it is appropriate, having heard the "Yes I'm really well except I was diagnosed...." bit - just HAVE to tell you about their neighbor/cousin/aunt/fill in the blank who had a terrible time or some other gory and horrible thing that you really didn't want to hear about and oh my G-d did they get training from Susan

  5. For what its worth, You never know what other people are going through either when the "how are you?" question comes up. I'm sure that when the answer is "good, fine, great thanks" (yadayada) that often they have their own pain that they are keeping to themselves. Everybody at some stage will be going through a challenging time.

  6. Agree with you. As my gorgeous elderly cousin once said - if we all hung our troubles on a line, we would all take our own back.