In the Blog


October 16th, 2008     by Elle E.     Comments

In last week’s dedication to Breast Cancer Awareness Month (or how about just Breast Awareness Month?) I suggested we take the time to get to know our breasts. This week it’s about spreading the word.

But where to begin?

I have lots of private thoughts about breasts in general and breast cancer specifically, but it’s not like I usually walk around talking about it.

Which is too bad.

My lovely, late Granny survived cancer thanks to a double mastectomy long before I was born. The story of her journey - including the price of her special bras and the look of her body - was an intricate part of the folklore with which I grew up. But it was a bit like hearing about a time before telephones or colour TV: Fascinating, but mundane. Accepted, but not understood.

Granny went through really old school radiation treatments that messed up her vision and left her unable to drive. Alone, she had to take the bus from the suburbs into the big scary city to the hospital and back again afterward. She had little kids at home.

When she’d retell the story, in her matter-of-fact way, there was no sadness. No complaining. Just cheerful courage, grace and a strong focus on the important things in life.

It’s hard to talk about this stuff. It’s a little bit too intense to casually fill silence while waiting in line for a movie. However, I now have a helpful gadget that breaks the ice:

“The Canadian Cancer Society Thingamaboob is a funky yet educational key chain that shows women how important screening is in the early detection of breast cancer.”

{media_2} It is the ultimate conversation starter, and definitely a little weird. Each of the beads represents the size of the tumour detectable through various screening methods. Essentially, it is an argument for mammograms, since they can catch the early, tiny lumps.

When I leave it on my desk or carry it out in public, people start to talk. My sister and I talked about how creepy it is to carry around these little glitzy representations of tumors. My mom and I talked about the politics of mammograms, and friends pointed out the confusion of self-exams. A co-worker and I swapped stories of our grandmothers, and if I’m feeling in the mood, I risk over-sharing and delve into my treasure trove of ovary stories.

A good friend actually confessed that she had recently found a lump, which - thank goodness - turned out to be benign. She had been too terrified to mention anything at the time. I was shocked to think I could be so oblivious as she was going through so much.

I guess many of us default into secrecy unless we’re invited (or inspired) to do otherwise.

Tags: body politics

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