22 December 2014

Bacon Cat

My cat smells like bacon.
Bacon Cat

I noticed this when I woke up early in the middle of the night, following a dinner party, with my nose buried in her fur. She smelled as though she’d just worked the late shift at a diner.

I nudged her out of the way, and rolled onto my pillow which also smelled like bacon. As did the towels in the bathroom, the curtains, my entire wardrobe, and my hair. Upon further inspection the smell of bacon had permeated every square inch of our little bungalow – and even the sofa was starting to look like a giant ham. While that may be tantalizing to some, I haven’t intentionally eaten bacon since 1995 and the smell was making me sick.

Bacon Dog & Bacon Sheets
But that’s the thing about Christmas! One cooks with wild abandon and does things they wouldn’t normally do. A few months ago I was in a restaurant and had a bite of Jim’s ‘Brussels Sprouts Slaw’. It was one of the best things I’d ever had and I almost heard trumpets going off as I ate. Of course the waiter mentioned that the delicious crispy bits were pancetta, rather than the caramelized shallots I’d expected, and I put down my fork with great sadness.

But that did not stop me making the same dish for a potluck dinner for 15 on the weekend. Even though I couldn’t eat it – I wanted to make the best thing ever. Not only do I not eat bacon, I don’t normally cook with it. So knowing that it had to be extra crispy - I filled three frying pans full of sliced pancetta, and set the stove to high. Let the games begin!

Five minutes later the kitchen was filled with smoke, and seven minutes later the bacon smog had filled the rest of the house. The cats looked at me in confusion, and Jed was walking around inhaling the new dog–approved ‘Bacon Air Freshener’, which he seemed to be enjoying. Back in the kitchen my eyes were stinging, and I had a lung full of pig smoke.

My Brussels sprouts were eventually served in my friend’s lovely kitchen, and everyone said they were delicious. (Or maybe they were just inhaling me, and I smelled delicious). Either way, it was too much for me and I practically dove into the cauliflower risotto in relief.

Two days have passed. Windows have been left open, the bed has been changed, and some clothes have gone through the washer. Jed has rolled around in the dirt, and much to his chagrin, smells once again like a basset hound.

Unfortunately for our little cat, she lives indoors, and can’t be aired out. Nor is she washable. So for the next while, she is our bacon cat. And from this I’ve learned my  lesson and written a little Christmas poem:

Don’t cook outside your comfort zone,
Don’t cook foods you can’t eat.
Keep the burners nice and low
lest kitty smells more savoury, than sweet.

7 December 2014

Desperation Pants

For years I was a waitress. While serving drinks paid my tuition and bought me some plane tickets, it also gave me a life-long distaste for black pants, especially the kind I'd been forced to wear as part of a uniform.

Black pants may be staple in every girl’s wardrobe,  but I loathe them. The last time I wore black pants to a party, someone confused me with the caterer. So I’ve sworn off of them for good.

Sad, & lonely, & blue
Recently I bought a shirt that I adore. A Calvin Klein, teal blue, boat-necked, drapey shirt with ¾ length sleeves, an extra long waist, and no ironing required. It was prefect! Problem was that I had nothing to wear on the bottom, and the most obvious choice was black.

The next week was awful.  With an upcoming party, my mission over the next week was to find the perfect pair of pants. I tried on 21 different pairs  and they all made me feel like I should be restocking a salad bar. With each pair of pants,  the image that I saw in the mirror was a middle-aged, sexless waitress from an all-you-can eat steak house, with an inexplicable gash across her belly. Ugh. So when I finally found a pair that were high waisted and  ‘sort of felt okay’, I got a bit excited and  decided to buy them.
In my living room I put on my party shit and new black pants and twirled in front of Jim. 
‘Great shirt!’ he said. 
I gestured towards the pants and asked him what he thought. 
‘They’re okay’,  he said. 
I spun around hopefully and his smile faded, ‘You kind of look like a server.’
'A classy server?’ I asked.
'No,' he said gently, ‘They kind of look like desperation pants.’

Fuck. Had I not learned anything in the last 25 years?   My golden rules are never to wear black pants, always trust my gut, and never to shop the week before a party. There is never a happy ending.

My Desperation Pants went back in the bag, and I went to the party in my one and only fun
dress, and had a great time. The Blue Calvin Shirt hangs in the closet, untouched, as are my standards.

6 December 2014

Being a Patricia

Wear Me!

There is a woman I know named Winnie who owns an antique shop. She’s just a wee thing but she’s got a big personality, and may or may not have been born into Chinese royalty.

Occasionally she lets slip something that happened in her youth, (like being chauffeured or carried) but she breezes over those details and always returns to things that matter: My dog, her dog, family, and Peking duck. Recently she lost her dear friend Patricia, a quiet and elegant lady who occasionally worked in the store.  Earlier this year Patricia was diagnosed with cancer, and went home to her family, and died.

During this year, Winnie stayed close to Patricia’s side. She took her to doctor’s appointments and brought her food. They lived just a few doors apart and spent a lot of time together. Winnie did everything a thoughtful person would do to make sure a beloved friend as comfortable and safe.

But as much as they were similar, they were also quite different. Winnie has the energy of a teenager and loves to chat, then fling herself into your arms for a hug. Patricia was more of a dignified observer, but enjoyed a good joke. Winnie liked to buy fun stylish clothes, and go out for dinner. Patricia, apparently, was more frugal  - though Winnie kept trying to shake her up.

Last time I was in Winnie’s shop she was up a ladder, acting nothing like the grandmother she is. She came sliding down like a fireman, landing squarely at my feet. Along with the small  woman came a flash of light. ‘What the heck?’ I said, squinting my eyes. ‘Are you wearing diamonds?’

Winnie was accessorized like Mr T. She grinned and held up her hand. On her middle finger was a diamond rind that was the size of a chiclet. I have one almost like it, only mine was $7.00 at Old Navy, and hers was real. ‘Where the heck did that come from?’ I said.

Winnie told me that after Patricia went home, she went into her friend’s safety deposit box, ostensibly to get some documents and the ‘good’ necklace. What she found instead was a mother lode of jewels. Gold bracelets, emerald earrings, money, and diamond rings. There was a ton of it.

Winnie said her first reaction was shock. She had no idea that Patricia had such valuable items. Then she wondered why Patricia had saved so carefully right into her 70’s. She had no kids, and nobody depending on her. She could have been having a ball. Eating, traveling, and buying cute sweater sets from J – Crew.

‘So that’s Patricia’s ring?’ I asked.

‘No?’ laughed Winnie. ‘It’s mine!’

She told me that when she was getting dressed that morning she noticed her own box of jewels – the ones that are too expensive to wear.  The massive gem she had on her tiny finger was a gift from her husband and she only wore it at home. But that day she thought, ‘What am I waiting for?'

A good lesson I thought. That night I went home for some roast chicken with the wingman. We wanted a glass of wine, and I open the fridge and reached for some plonk. Then I heard Winnie’s voice. ‘Don’t be a Patricia,’ it said, ‘It makes no sense to wait.’

So I put back the everyday wine,  and opened something sparkling instead. 

12 November 2014

Cat Toys & Nipple Protectors

Bring me toys
I had this strange fantasy that once my stitches were out, my nipples would fall off and roll across the floor like marbles. Once on the ground, the cats would start swatting them and they’d end up under the bed covered in dust like the rest of the cat toys. But luckily that wasn’t quite the case.

The stitches came out pretty smoothly with the help of a tall strapping nurse named Kevin. He told me that he’d just been transferred to plastics, which became obvious when I opened my gown. ‘Wow!’ he said enthusiastically, ‘Those are beautiful!’  Apparently, for both of us, nipples were still a novelty. ‘Who made these?’ he asked, as though admiring a rare diamond. 'These are MARVELOUS.'

After the stitches came out, Kevin rebandaged me. As usual it was gauze, nipple protectors, more gauze, all held on with cloth tape. The ‘protectors’ themselves were nothing fancy. Dr. H had created them by cutting off the bottoms of a small plastic pill cup. Frankly – I expected more sophisticated technology from Toronto’s finest hospital, but they did the trick, and were Dr H’s parting gift to me.

Nipple Protectors. Mistmatched.
That night it was a relief at night when I could take off all my bandages and take my boobs bed. Luckily I’m a back sleeper, so I was confident that no harm would come to my fabulous nips. I took off my plastic protectors and set them on the dresser.  

At about three in the morning I heard a little scratching. I turned on the light.  Eddie, our 20 lb cat, was sprawled lazily across the dresser, his giant paw resting atop my nipple protector. I got up to grab him, but he jumped down from the dresser, apparently taking his new toy with him. I was too tired to look for it, and fell asleep with the sound of happily playing under the bed. 

The next morning I could only find one nipple protector. So I put it on. Then I went to the kitchen and took the lid off a bottle of Perrier, put that on the other side, and covered it with tape. I figured the missing item was probably down a vent, or in a shoe somewhere.
But luckily it was the only thing gone missing, and my new nipples were still safely stuck on me.

20 October 2014

Perky in More Ways Than One

In anticipation of my recovery from nipple reconstruction, I cleared my whole week. But after three excellent Sandra Bullock movie, and a bunch of naps, I was feeling pretty good. In fact I was starting to feel downright perky. So on day two, I got up, had coffee, and prepared to take a shower.

I’d been told that I was free to take off the breast bandages, and allow for a gentle cleansing. So I peeled them off and stepped into the shower. In typical fashion, I avoided looking at my newly remodelled body parts of, concentrating instead on the shower head. But exiting the shower I made the mistake of looking down.  Holy Moly! I wasn’t the only thing that was perky! My nipples were enormous!

Dr H had warned me that they’d start off quite large, and then get smaller over time. But since I hadn’t really listened, I was shocked to see that my nipples looked like someone had taken a cocktail sausage, cut it into pieces, and sewed them on to my chest. They were nothing like the cute little nipples I’d lost to cancer. These were tubular, flat, gigantic, and fleshy. And, horrifyingly they were attached to me! It was disgusting!

I forced to look at myself in the mirror. Sometimes I still hoped to see my perfect 17 yr old body staring back at me but this body was far from perfect. My new headlights were turned on full blast, but rather than stare straight ahead, they stared off in opposite directions like a goldfish.

Perhaps I should have paid more attention to the black Sharpie doodles when I had a chance. Or, perhaps my little cocktail wieners had been created in haste. Who knows? Perhaps, over time, my original boobs would even have been this imperfect

Though I was shocked, I wasn’t discouraged.  Amidst my revulsion, I felt a twinge of something resembling delight. I may not have been able to look at them, and they may be too porny for my liking, but I'll take Perky over Barbie any day.

16 October 2014

Nips and Tucks

I would be lying if I said I didn’t put some thought into my underpants on the day of my procedure. After all, it’s not everyday a girl gets new nipples. And, it’s not everyday a girl gets to spend and couple of hours with her favorite Dutch Surgeon.

Also, since I was in an exam room rather than an operating theatre, I didn’t have to wear an unflattering cap, nor did I have to take off my earrings. So, relative to every other surgery or exam, I was quite dressed up. Dr H had also dressed up for the occasion (or so I like to think) wearing an extremely flattering pair of blue J Crew scrubs that perfectly matched his eyes.

I stood before him as he examined me. My gown was open and he was sitting on his little doctor stool, examine his handiwork and planning his strategy. Then began surgical foreplay, or what might also be called ‘drawing on me with a Sharpie’.

First he drew a nipple on my left side. Then he took out his little tape measure and drew a nipple on my right side. Then he suggested I look in the mirror. These are the nipples I would have for the second half of my life and I could choose exactly where they would go. What control! But about that time the Ativin started to kick in and I was feeling as though I would say yes to anything.
‘Great!’ I blurted, ‘Make them pretty!’

Next he examined my ‘dog ears’. Those annoying little pillow case corners that have been bookending my 17’ abdominal scar since my surgery. I’ve hated them. When other ladies complain about a muffin tops I was envious. I would have killed for a muffin, rather than a horizontal box of kleenex. Dr H drew an oval the size of an egg around each ‘dog ear’ and explained that they’d just cut out the skin, some extra fat, and sew it into a nice smooth line. Yippee!

Then it was time to jump on the table. A surgical assistant explained that she’d be doing the freezing at that it would be the worst part. After that I’d feel slight tugging, or pulling, but no pain. She wasn’t kidding about the freezing. F*cking uncomfortable. Even the Ativin wasn’t working and though I tried to take deep healing Belleruth breaths and surround myself with my band of allies and magical friends, I still yelped out loud. Dr. H gazed down at me, ‘Here, squeeze me hand’, he said.

When I finally released his hand (after way longer than absolutely necessary) Dr H and his assistant surgeon got down to work. They each took a side. Had it not been for the occasional glance at a scalpel, or the sight of string and a needle, I would have been fairly relaxed. There was no pain. And as is my habit when I’m nervous, I babble a fair bit, and ask far too many questions. At the end of ninety minutes I knew all about Dr H’s family, his relationship with his father, his hobbies, and where he lived. (I asked his surgical assistant exactly one question, even though I didn’t care about the answer. I was just doing it to be polite).

Way too soon I was being bandaged up. Four bandages in total with some plastic nipple protectors for my new accoutrements. Dr H helped me off the table and told me I’d done really well. I like to think he meant I’d made smart style choices with my underwear and earrings, but what I think he meant was that I hadn’t passed out, nor had I ripped his hand of his arm, even though I wanted to. Good for me!

Alone the room I looked at myself in the mirror. Bandages covered the new nips. My original belly scar looked back at me - still red and jagged but settling more every day. And now, new bandages covered the areas over my hips where the scar had been extended to a whopping 22 inches. But even with the bandages, and the blood, and the tape, I could see the curve in my body that I had dreamed about so often, and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.

I strolled out into the waiting room where, as usual, my sweet Wingman was waiting, and I felt more like myself than I had in a long time.

Bye-Bye Spongebob. Hello me!

14 October 2014

'Twas the night before Nipples...

By this time tomorrow I’ll have a pair of brand new nipples. Rather than think about the procedure itself, I’ve engaged in my old pre-surgery ritual. After I ferociously cleaned our little house, and made enough kale salad to last me a week, I touched up my pedicure.

May Contain Nipples
I don’t know what it is about surgery that makes me want to take care of my feet, but toenail polish is an absolute prerequisite for going under the knife. And, it has to be red.

Next is an Epsom salt bath – my last for about eight weeks. After which I put on a white t-shirt and look at myself in the mirror. My boobs look kind of pretty. Do I really need nipples? My rack has never looked this good! Is it too late to cancel? I examine my dog-ear. It too is looking less bulgy that in has in a long time, and I’ve kind of gotten used to looking like Spongebob squarepants. Is this procedure on my waist a waste?

Luckily I’m distracted by the bottle of ativin on my dresser. I put it there so I wouldn’t forget to put it in my bag tomorrow. Last week I called the clinic and asked if I could take one. The nurse said yes. Ten minutes later I called back and asked if I could take two. The nurse said no.

Then it’s half an hour with Belleruth; my savior. She takes me through a guided meditation and reintroduces me to my magical friends and band of allies, those invisible little beings of my imagination who will sit with me  as I’m reconstruced into a closer version of my old self. I listen to Belleruth through my headphones so it feels like she’s in my head. She reminds me that I am safe. Two cats and a basset hound lie at my (perfectly manicured) feet.

Now I’m having a celebratory glass of wine. I’ve been thinking about this day for a long time but it still doesn’t seem real. In a weird (but not really) way I’m looking forward to seeing my pals at the hospital and being told how great I look. Basically ‘great’ is hospital-speak for ‘alive’ but I’ll take it. And, I’ll have a few days of forced relaxation – my books and chick flicks are already lined up. 

The Wingman just asked what time I’d like to be picked up. And he’s planning to wait with me, then greet me, post-surgery smoothie in hand. 

This feels a bit like Christmas. I sort of know what I'm getting, but I don't know exactly how they will looks, or how I will be wrapped. But - I'm getting excited. 

One more sleep.


9 October 2014

Cherries on Top

Starting today, I begin the six day countdown for my nipple reconstruction; a procedure for which I will be awake.

I’ve known about this for a very long time and I’m supposed to be excited. After all these tests, surgeries, and appointments, it’s supposed to be the ‘finishing touch’, the ‘ icing on the cake’, or more appropriately, ‘ the cherries on top of that icing’.

The problem is, I’m not excited (There’s got to be a joke in there somewhere). In fact, I’ve picked up the phone at least a dozen times, to reschedule my appointment, and hung up every time thinking that I would be wise to just go through with it. I believe in the women who have gone before me, women who I love and trust, who have reported feeling complete after their procedures.

And who wouldn’t!  Having Barbie boobs is very strange. I never really look at them for any length of time unless I happen to glance at myself in the mirror. Sometimes it catches me off guard and I‘m slightly shocked. Other times, when I’m feeling more solid, I think about the miracles of plastic surgery. But still, it’s my own little miracle, and apart from a few doctors and my wingman, nobody has ever seen ‘em. I’ve been keeping them hidden for a while.

So it puzzles me that I’m not more excited. By the end of this year out all be as fully restored to normal as possible. But the concept of having headlights is overshadowed by the fact that I’m going to have more surgery, and have to wear ‘nipple protectors’ for a few weeks. Also, I will be having my ‘dog ear’ removed so I will be extending my 17” scar a couple of inches, which should eventually give me back my waist.

Tucked in my wallet I have a gift card for one of the best bra shops in the city, and occasionally I pull it out to try to summon the excitement of bra shopping for the finished product. In my closet I have a party bag full of bandages and ointment, and I imagine how gleeful I’ll be when they are no longer under my roof.  But – I feel nothing. My brain is as numb as m boobs.

I’ve been sort of in denial about being poked and diced and prodded, while under a general anesthetic. Obviously I’ll need something to relax me. (Hellooooooo, Atavin!). I’m shamelessly in love with anything that relaxes me – just as I’m shamelessly crushing on my handsome surgeon. Possibly this is a bad combination, as I will likely say something embarrassing. Worse, I will try to kiss his neck, or if my arms aren’t too numb, I will reach up and stroke his hair.

Second worse case scenario is that he’s called off on an emergency, and I’m stuck with a Fellow who I’ll be meeting for the very first time. The result will be tears, and instant regret about having chosen my best outfit. Then I’ll be sent home with my swollen cherries and a bandage where my waist is supposed to be.Hmm. It’s no wonder I’m not excited. But I’ve still got a few days to get pumped up.

The countdown continues.  

28 September 2014

Hiking Sucks

Recently I was telling a friend about trekking in Thailand. Or more appropriately, I managed to work ‘trekking’ into a conversation. As I did so I thought of two things. Firstly, it sounded really impressive. I came across as someone brave and outdoorsy, and willing to forsake comfort for adventure. (As if)

Caution: Not fun
Secondly, I don’t know if I’m that person anymore. There was a time where I was so low-maintenance that I didn’t bother packing shampoo, or think about how long I’d be away.  Then my extended adventures became something that would fit between visits to a hair salon, to something I can do in a week.

Now I’d have serious concerns about hiking through villages and setting up camp. For instance, how long could I go without peeing my pants? (Answer, about half an hour)  I remember a picture of myself standing on a mountain with a sunburn and greasy hair – and that chick was a camel! And that chick could go all day without thinking about her bladder. Now it’s foremost on my mind.

That girl in standing on that mountain in Thailand was smiling from ear to ear. She was happy in the sunshine, surrounded by other trekkers, who, like me, were young and strong and seemingly carefree. And it made total sense that these people didn’t have to worry. They didn’t carry a days-of-the-week pill container, and they didn’t worry about wearing summer scarves to protect their necks, or grey roots, or a fleshy compression sleeve.

Back in my trekking days I could rides elephants without having to worry about finding a washroom. Now things are different. Beside the lack of bladder control (hello adult diaper!), there is sun that I can’t sit under because of radiation, and the stress I can’t put on my arm lest the lymphedema swells up like a fleshy pork sausage, and the heat, and risk of infection. I take all the necessary precautions yet there is a constant concern that something could go awry. To me these feel like ‘old people’ problems, yet I am not old and the problems are mine.

The whole thought that my carefree days are behind me is depressing. Especially since all the trekkers in the picture were so young. I thought about all the older people at home with their inhalers, and walkers, and oxygen tanks, who didn’t have the chance to get blistering sunburns, or sleep on hard cold floors in a village hut surrounded by potbelly pigs.

Then it hit me. Older people don’t stay home from adventures because of their pill containers and swollen fingers – they just don’t want to waste any more time have crummy sleeps. They aren’t staying home because hiking is too gruelling – they are staying home because they want to!

I think of another picture of me on the mountain. This time I’m with my friend Katie and we’re lagging behind the rest of the group. That was the day we’d both reached the decision that the trek was too long. Also, we’d both slept badly in the hut and were tired of carrying stuff on our sweaty backs. Even back in those days I was probably dreaming about a Best Western and crisp clean sheets.

So, in fact, I am still the girl in the picture! The only thing different was how much I’d romanticised about those long steep walks through the hill. I was hot and tired then, and I’m hot and tired today. Different decade, different problems. Still smiling, but still slightly uncomfortable.

14 August 2014

Polka Dot Tankini

Me. (not really)
My perfect bathing suit is starting to deteriorate. It looks fine from the front, but is pretty threadbare from behind. ‘Ick, gross’, is what my sister said to be as we exited a lake recently (though I found out later is was less about the suit and more about my hairy legs).

Since it was my only bathing suit, it was time to get a new one.  I’ve only ever had one bathing suit at a time, and when it starts to wear out, I replace it.  That’s sort of been my method of operation for a
ll my hard-to-find items. This is reflected by my closet, which is one of the most highly curated (meager) selections of clothing known to womankind.

I never thought it would be like this. When I was a little tomboy, I assumed that the desire to shop and wear perfume would decent upon me like puberty, and molars.  I pictured a future rich with high heels, manhattans, and a perfume bottle with an atomizer for me to squeeze.

Little did I know that I would grow up clumsy (but adorable) with minimal make-up and mostly flat shoes. Still, I like pretty things. Which makes shopping even harder, since whatever I buy has to be perfect, and last for a long time.

‘Good luck in there!’ said the sales lady as she closed the door to my changing room. I’d come to a department store and had grabbed three swimsuits – a practical blue one piece, a polka dot tankini, and a saucy nautical number.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked her.

She explained that trying on bathing suits was super stressful, and most people have a rough time. Some even leave in tears. But I wasn’t feeling stressed, in fact I was pretty excited. Perhaps it’s because I don’t really feel like ‘most people’.  For instance, most people don’t have Barbie breasts with no nipples. And most people my age don’t have a delightful little cleavage or  a perfectly flat stomach which gives the illusion of abs of steel.

I must have done something marvelous in a past life, because all three bathing suits fit perfectly. Even the tankini, which I didn’t think I could wear. The nautical number was good too, even if  I did resemble a Russian figure skater performing their free dance to the theme of ‘Gilligans Island’.

When I emerged form the changing room the saleslady was waiting for me. ‘How’d you do in there?’ she asked. I tossed everything triumphantly on the counter. She smiled, ‘So you’ll take all three?’

The question mark hung in the air. Would I? My intention was to buy just one – because that’s what I always did.  But the practical me was silenced by another voice chatting in my head.

‘Oh lighten up!’ said the voice, fresh from a sip of her cocktail. ‘Have a bit of fun!’ Ignoring the voice, I checked the price tags and prepared to choose the one I like best. ‘Everyone loves a gal in polka dots,’ the voice continued, ‘Let’s buy them all!’

I was leaning towards the one piece, because it made the most sense.  But the voice was having none of it, ‘No one ever got laid in a one-piece. Don’t be a dud. Take all three!’

I handed the salesgirl my credit card and smiled as though shopping was something I did all the time. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I’ll take all three.’

And just like that I’d become the lady I always thought I should be – with a Visa bill and a bag of not-entirely practical clothes. One small step for womankind. One giant step for me.

13 July 2014

Happy Birthday Noobs!

My new boobs are one!

Me and my girls. 

Not bad, considering that two years ago I almost collapsed in the examining room in front of my Breast Surgeon, Dr Escargot. He’d softly suggested softly that I might want to consider a double mastectomy. The very word was like a punch in the kneecaps.  Even with his soft Colombian accent the word ‘mastectomy’ sounded harsh and barbaric.   I remember wrapping my arms across my chest, and glaring at him as though he was trying to steal my Halloween candy.

Months later, in an effort to ‘gather information’ I met with my Plastic Surgeon. I cried in front of him too. Dutch accent this time, which made the word ‘mastectomy’ sound a little more playful, like something you might want to do while you’re on vacation. But I had a little meltdown anyway, and he gently assured me that I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do.

‘Wanting’ to have a mastectomy wasn’t something that really entered the equation when it came to making the most difficult decision of my life. What I wanted was to live a long and healthy life. Achieving that goal meant doing everything in my power to reduce the risk of recurrence. Thus the decision was made for me, and it had nothing to do with the fact that my Plastic Surgeon was a hottie.

It wasn’t till two weeks after my surgery that I found the courage to look at my new breasts. The thought of boobs without nipples was just too weird for me. In my strong moments I thought of them as Barbie Boobs, but the fact is that Barbie doesn’t have scars the size of a peppermint patty where the nipple-age used to be.

For three months there was no bra. Just two big soft spongy marshmallows supported by a camisole. They did their own thing, and I did mine. It’s’ as though we co-existed in the same shirt, without really having any connection. They were just like having a new pet. I washed them, massaged them, and took them to the vet doctor. They were the fist thing I thought about in the morning, and the last thing I thought about before I went to sleep.

For six months I couldn’t wear bras with under wire. In fact I couldn’t wear any of my old bras at all. Although my noobs were created by using my original skin envelopes, the shape is only almost sort of the same. Lefty is close to perfect, but right is a little bit squishy – as though it spend some time in a George Foreman Grill. But a good bra makes everything better, and I’ve found some soft ones that work just fine.

Twelve months later and they feel like mine, even though they’re not completely finished. They jiggle in all the right places, and fit comfortably into my familiar 36 C’s. Apart from a few radiation tattoos and a shark bite across my tummy, as well as the scars on my boobs, you’d never even guess I’d had cancer. Clothed, anyway.

But here’s something I do that I never got to do with my old girls. Stare at them. Sometimes in disbelief and sometimes in amazement. How is this even possible? How do they rebuild a pair of breasts?  Then without realizing it, I’m running my hand over one of the small mounds, just making sure it is there.
In private – it’s totally different. Alone they get the full massage treatment, with oils and other yummy things. Soon they may have acupuncture, because a woman I know promises that in doing so, the heat will be released and the scars will heal even further.

Occasionally I miss my old body. Some woman say they don’t miss their old breasts, reasoning that ‘they tried to kill me’. But I feel that my old boobs were innocent victims, and I loved them till the end.
But the new are more than welcome, and sometimes the thought of how fresh they are makes me positively gleeful.  And they’ve just turned one.

Happy birthday to us!

22 June 2014

Own It Like Grandma

Last week I started thinking about Oprah.  I was standing in a locked changing room at the YMCA, and I was thinking about her, because I was the only person who was actually in a changing room. Everyone else was happily changing at their lockers.  So I started thinking about Oprah, and how she talks about ‘owning it'.

My mother Violet and I were getting ready for an aqua fit class. She was stripping down to her birthday suit,  and I was grabbing my suit and heading to a private room. She reassured me that there were all shapes and sizes at the Y, but I wasn't quite ready to reveal myself in public. So I locked the door and slid into the tight black bathing suit that covers my jagged scar and gives me the illusion of a flat stomach.

If it was just my stomach I could have exposed myself, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to reveal my Barbie boobs, and see the horrified confusion people’s faces. So instead I hid behind a locked door and thought about Oprah. She may have coined the term ‘Owning It', but before she came along there were other people in my life who taught me the same lesson.

Before Oprah there was my grandmother. She was a sweet gently lady from Lithuania with soft skin and kind eyes. She loved us all madly, and would sit patiently in her big green chair while my sisters and I scrambled over her like a pack of kittens.  While she watched her ‘boyfriend’ Liberace we'd  stroke the crinkly skin under her chin, and playing with the jiggly flesh by her armpit. For this we were rewarded with a hug and a chuckle, and later with a giant plate of perogies and a five-dollar bill.

When I was about six I had sleepover over at my Grandma’s house. It didn’t happen often and I was very excited. At night she put me to bed, and covered me with blankets.  I remember her wearing a flowered dress and her soft hand stroking my hair. As she leaned in to kiss me I inhaled deeply taking in the smell of cabbage rolls, and Dove soap. She turned off my light, and told me I was pretty.

A few hours later I had to pee. I crawled out from my pile of blankets.down the dim hallway toward the bathroom. I was just about to turn a corner when I stopped dead in my tracks. Standing in front of me was a creature, with long flowing hair and a long gown. I was too scared to scream. I just remember looking up and seeing a face that was a cross between my grandmother and a baby - the creature didn't have any teeth! Not to mention the fact that the creature had the biggest bosom had ever seen and instead of standing straight out, it hung downward, towards her waist. And the hair! It was wild! Without bobby pins holding it back it stuck out all over the place.

My grandmother started shaking. She put her hand over her mouth and I realised that she was giggling. 'I don't have my teeth in!’ she managed to say between gasps of breath. 'I left them in my bedroom.' She must have been enjoying the look on my face because she rocked with laughter. She was back lit by the light in the washroom and her nightgown was transparent. Not only had a seen her without her apron, but I'd certainly never seen her naked.

But here's what I remember thinking in my pious little six-year-old head. I was thinking 'Why are you still standing there? Shouldn't you be running away in embarrassment and getting your dentures?' But she had no intention of running away - she was having too much fun watching my eyes bulge out of my head. She was toothless and braless and see-through and scary, and she was having a blast. She stood her ground, and she Owned It.

Eventually I made my way back to bed and trembled under the covers. I had never seen someone nearly naked and toothless! The image burned my eyes and gave me nightmares for weeks. Today however, that same image is  precious. The page it holds in my mental photo album is alive and joyous, and real. 

The Mighty O encourages all to be our authentic self. I don’t think my grandmother ever used the word ‘authentic’.  In fact, her English wasn’t all that good. But her lesson was as clear as the glint in her eye.
I’m still a chicken and I’m not ready to get naked in a changing room just yet. But that time is coming, I know it for certain. So when I’m ready to get naked in public, I’ll own it. 
Like my Grandma.  

2 June 2014

No More Pruning For You

Here’s my question. When do ‘cute little quirks’ stop being cute, and turn into full-blown middle-aged madness.

Yesterday I saw it in my Wingman’s eyes as he watched me prune a bush. There was neither judgement nor amusement, just the look of someone who had realised I probably shouldn’t be allowed to use a pair of pruning sheers.

My cute little quirk (problem) is that I hate stuff. I don’t think that there’s a name for people like me, but I consider myself to be an anti-hoarder, or the opposite of a packrat. I’m not nearly interesting enough to have my own reality sho, but it’s becoming a bit of an issue.

I can’t bear to have any non-essentials getting in my way. That goes for furniture, clothes, house wares, files, guests, make-up, words, and body hair. The only thing I like in excess is food and wine, and that’s because it’s temporary. Vacuuming? I can’t get enough of it. Same goes for weeding, getting unused contacts off my phone, and clipping my nails. If I can make it dissappear - I will!

It was sort of quirky and adorable when I had my first apartment. My friends would laugh about my minimalist approach to furnishing and the boxes of books I used as side table for almost a decade. Fast forward twenty years, and  my closet only has 36’ of hanging clothes. I can’t stand having clothing that hangs there for absolutely no reason. When I stop loving something, it has to go.  I also have a permanent donation bag on the go for the moment when something suddenly becomes loathsome. Every day is potential purge-o-rama.

I am particularly intolerant of anything that looks medical-y or bandage-y, and recently tore the house apart like a lunatic determined to get rid of reminders of illness. (This is slightly illogical since I have nipples coming up – but I’m anticipating a low maintenance recovery).

Buddha, and formerly round bush
At any point poor Jim might come home with a new something-or-other and place it timidly in front of me.  We both look at it. ‘Can you stand having it here?’ he asks. We look at each other and I counter with, ‘Do we need it?’ There is an uncomfortable silence as we each explore our levels of agitation.  And 8/10 times it goes back out the door. To me, the most beautiful sight in the world is a bare table, though flowers are okay.

This weekend I was enjoying cleaning up the small front garden. We have a jolly round yellow bush the size of a five year old, which had taken a beating over the winter. It was bulgy and misshapen and was leaning on my little Buddha. So I began my first foray into topiary. I cut of a few branches. And I cut of a few more. Delighted by the debulging,  I turned into Edward Scissorhands and began attacking the little bush in frenzy of blurred blades.  Every snip was wildly satisfying! I was so happy I could barely breath.

I was diving in for a final cut when a shadow fell over the bush and I looked up to see Jim standing over me. He stood for a moment with his hands on his hips. He looked at the once chubby bush, and I knew that what I had done no longer adorable. I’d crossed into madness territory, feeling thrilled and guilty all at the same time.  Jim looked at me as one might look at a child who’d just rubbed a bottle of ketchup into their hair.

‘Uh oh,’ he said, gently wrestling the sheers from my hands, ‘No more pruning for you.’

7 May 2014

Postponing my Nipples

Two Nipples Please!
I work in an open concept office. Of the dozen people in the room, two are my friends. The other ten are almost strangers, yet I know WAY too much about their lives. Such is joy of working without walls.

I’ve heard phone conversations about finances, children, adultery (suspected), dog walkers, cold sores and diets (mostly unsuccessful). I try not to listen, but I can’t help it. And I certainly don’t want anyone listening to me.

Last week my cell phone was acting up, so I was forced to use a land line. Early  morning almost everyone was out of the office or hooked up to earphones. I rolled my chair to a quiet corner, picked up the phone, and dialed my Plastic Surgoen’s office.

My aim was to leave a message requesting a postponement of my nipple surgery. My previously scheduled appointment (May 27) interferes with my upcoming job, so I’m opting for a delay. Besides, they’re just nipples. I’ve been living without them for almost a year and it hasn’t made much difference to my life. Nipples, shnipples.

Suprisingly, the secretary answered the phone after the first ring. ‘Hello.’ I said, ‘I’d like to postpone my procedure.’

‘What procedure is that?’ she asked

‘Two new nipples, and removal of one dog ear.’

I provided my information and she put me on hold, ostensibly to check her calendar. Though after last years’ scheduling fuck-up, I suspect she may have just kicked back and eaten a tin of diet pudding. A few minutes later she came back on the line and suggested July 15. Perfect!

Just then John the graphics guy entered the room. I caught his eye and he waved at me. I congratulated myself on my excellent timing. Had it been 15 seconds sooner…….oh no!

‘What procedure was that again?’ came the voice on the phone. 

Nipples.’ I hissed into the phone. John was smiling and walking towards me.

‘I’m sorry,’ said the secretary, ‘I didn’t hear you.’

John was nearing my desk. Nipples I said as quietly as possible. 'Two, please.’

‘Right’ she said ‘Got it. And what was the other thing?'

I held up my finger in the universal sign of ‘I’ll just be a minute’, but John may have been the only person on this planet who didn’t know what that meant. He stood patiently beside me.

Dog ear’ I said quietly into the receiver.

‘See you in July!’ she chirped.

I hung up the phone and started chatting with John before he had a chance to ask questions.  Next phone call will require more privacy. We haven’t even begun to talk about my tattoos.