Ever since being diagnosed with breast cancer a year-and-a-half ago, October has been my favorite time of the year. Breast Cancer is, as we all know, the popular girl of cancers, proudly parading herself around in pink ribbons and accessories, pumpkin spice latte in tow. It’s much more than a disease- it’s a business! It’s practically a party! One can’t walk into an A.C. Moore without being greeted with glittery pink ribbon tattoos, and just last week I went to the grocery store and bought myself some “Onions for the Cure”. Great! I thought. Now I can make a stew with my tears! How kitsch!
When I was first diagnosed, I was a bit upset, but I was soon shown the error of my ways. “It’s a weird kind of fun, right?” my therapist asked, the day before my mastectomy. “Because you get to pick your own size?” Right! This was not a punishment, but a gift, as is all a woman’s suffering. The surgery, the chemo — it was like I got to go to prom all over again and I didn’t have to worry about anybody showing up with the same dress because I was the only one at the dance. New boobs, new wigs, scarves… I could barely handle all the style choices that were now graciously presented to me. Which is why I’m writing this piece- I think I may be the most attractive woman to survive breast cancer.
Now, since I was diagnosed at 23, I do have sort of a leg-up on the competition, but from people’s reactions this is the only logical conclusion I can come to. From the very beginning, people told me I would “pull off” the cancer look well. For those of you on the outside, this may not be totally obvious, but being a breast cancer patient is all about the looks.
“Will I lose feeling in my breasts?” I asked a nurse, naively, before going into surgery. Of course! They cut “indiscriminately”. You’d think there’d be more research on how to preserve feeling, but ladies, breasts have never been about us, just like my breast cancer was never about me.
“I’m going to lose my second-favorite pair of breasts in the Philly comedy scene!” a peer Facebook messaged me when I came out about my cancer. Finally, I knew exactly where I stood in the rankings!
“What size are you going to get?” a man sensitively asked me the night before I had surgery to see if the cancer had made it to my lymphnodes. When I told him the same size, because that was what I was used to and what my wardrobe fit, he said, “Good choice.” Then, pointing to my still-real-flesh breasts he said, “And I mean, good choice.”
“Well, since I was there for you, I just think I’m owed something, and I was sort of looking forward to going on your body-acceptance journey with you,” a friend lamented, after I selfishly deprived him of my pretty immediately post-chemo body.
Every woman can’t be getting this reaction, right? It has to be because I’m just insanely attractive, otherwise I’m sure there’d be more of a focus on my personhood. If every woman was dealing with this weird sexualization of their disease, I’m positive there’d be more conversation around it, and less of a focus on Breast Cancer Awareness as a fun thing to do at a football tailgate. Since finishing my Herceptin treatments two weeks ago, I finally have the energy to campaign for Queen of Cancer. And I want all of you to get out there and Save Second Base!
No need to worry about the woman it’s attached to.