We made eye contact during the performance, and I cupped my new breast and bounced it for effect. She managed to contain her laughter and continue singing until intermission, when she and I quickly converged in the narthex of the church and made a bee-line for the bathroom. We squeezed into one stall for the unveiling. This was to be my first of many experiences of the oohing and ahhing that my breasts would come to elicit. It was also the first time I felt such compulsion to show them off. Only later did I understand I was not alone.
Now I don’t know if a similar phenomenon occurs among all women happy with their breast reconstruction results. Perhaps it's just those of us who have had autologous flap reconstruction using our own abdominal or gluteal or hip fat or wherever else docs are harvesting fat from these days (if abdominal, we also get to show off our flat stomachs). Actually, now that I think back, I do recall an implant gal among the contingent once. BTW, she had beautiful results.
I'm not the type of person who ever did anything like this before. The root of this new flashing compulsion is my desire to share the good news about the miraculous reconstruction outcomes possible for breast cancer survivors these days. I don’t know why the news has been so slow in getting out. Maybe the other advances in breast cancer treatment take precedence in the media or maybe the media still haven't been adequately informed -- despite our best efforts -- or maybe they think women aren’t interested. Duh! My experience is that women are really interested! And not only that -- they have a right to know!
I’ve participated in shows-and-tells with women who have never even had breast cancer, but were so thankful to me for helping alleviate one of their many fears about it -- disfigurement. Sometimes it’s been women who are contemplating prophylactic surgery due to high genetic risk and want a first-hand look at (and sometimes feel of) state-of-the-art breast reconstruction. Or sometimes it’s been women who’d previously opted out of reconstruction or who have had poor outcomes and are hoping for something better. And sometimes it’s been between fellow breast cancer survivors and recon sisters who share the same intense interest in and appreciation for this life-affirming surgery.
Picture sitting in a restaurant at a table full of very attractive women (maybe it’s courage and a newfound zest for life forming a glowing aura around them). All have their cancer stories. But for most, the negative is behind them now. Reclaiming their bodies is the positive part of treatment. Even if these women have never met in person before, they feel they know each other more intimately than other women they have known for years. No one else really understands what they’ve been through like the other women around this table. So there are lots of smiles, conversation and laughter. Sometimes even a little too loud for the restaurant.
At some point, a couple of the women disappear into the bathroom, and someone says, “Hey, are they having a show-and-tell in there?” And pretty soon the whole table empties. Once, I participated in a show-and-tell on the Steamboat Natchez in New Orleans, during their jazz cruise. Some of us had been in the bathroom for quite a while. One of the gal’s cell phones rang. It was her husband informing her that the boat had long since docked. He and the other husbands were already on dry land, waiting. Sure enough, we exited the bathroom to find the deck deserted. Ever after, we referred to that ship as the “Show Boat.”
To be honest, I know another reason I feel compelled to share my breasts with women who haven't had breast cancer is that I don’t want anyone feeling sorry for me and the collateral damage they assume I suffered. In fact, I’d like them to see that my body looks great. Maybe even better than theirs. Just sayin’ . . . :-)
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hal-laaaaaaay-loooo-yaaaaah!