As we readied Fisher for his first kindergarten Show and Tell this week, I thought I might report on my own recent Show and Tell adventures.
When people get cancer, it's often in a place you can't see or feel from the outside of the body ie: lung, liver, bones. But with breast cancer, the location of disease is right out there. Even though it's supposedly a "private area," from the moment I was diagnosed, I had no hesitation to invite my family and friends to really poke around and feel the lumps. And then after my mastectomies, every visitor I had was subjected to viewing my scars and newly flat chest. I'd lead everyone I knew by the hand to the nearest bathroom to lift my shirt and see the freak show. When I started receiving saline to fill my tissue expanders, it gave me yet another reason to share. "Look! I'm getting bigger!". My diagnosis has been a modesty buster, a Get Out of Jail card of sorts. I never considered myself to be such a exhibitionist, but that's exactly what I've become.
Strangely enough, it's not only me. My friend Krista had no hesitation to show me her mastectomy results just days after my diagnosis. And just this week I was feeling up another gal pal's lovely new reconstructed breasts in the bathroom at Chelsea's Kitchen. Two nights ago I was at it again in the Humble Pie bathroom (ironic name, huh?) with two girlfriends who graciously held back tears at the sight of my overly firm expanded chest. And yet again this morning I found myself in the bathroom of Vincent's on Camelback, tank top lifted to show another friend who is facing surgery in just three weeks. I'm sure making my rounds around town.
So the question I ask myself is "Why am I so willing to share this intimate experience with every one I know?" I've said this before, but I feel a strange duty to be an ambassador for my disease. One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer throughout their lifetimes. If it's not you, and I pray it's not, someone you know will be diagnosed. I truly believe that if I can help demystify what a breast cancer patient endures and feels and looks like under her shirt, then I'm helping future patients be more understood and better cared for emotionally by those who love them. We fear the unknown and if you really don't know what a friend or family member is going through, I think you might be afraid to put yourself out there to help them. Hence, I've become the neighborhood restaurant flasher.
So yes, please expect to be invited into the nearest bathroom with me once again for Show and Tell after my surgery in September. At least the "Show" is getting better!