Thursday, October 20, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Some people think breast cancer awareness is one of the "nice" causes, everyone supports it and it gets plenty of publicity. While this is true, it's hardly nice for the women (and men!) affected by this insidious disease. Like with all cancers, the treatment is often worse than the disease itself, and there can be far reaching consequences of this treatment.

One of my favourite bloggers @YogaChikk has written a powerful post about her experience on her sex & relationship blog Naughty Time. Since her site does contain graphic adult images, she's given me permission to repost it in full here for those who might not appreciate those images (or who want to read it with the kids around!). You can find the original post here.

Breast Cancer Awareness Month--My Story

This post is going to be different from my others in that I will reveal something that has been a very private and emotional thing for me.... 

I have had a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. 

I am doing it solely to help other women and the men in their lives to understand the emotional and physical upheaval that goes on once there is a diagnosis of breast cancer. Because my blog is about sex and relationships, that is how I'm going to discuss this..

As women we see our femininity based in those things that are completely female.  Our breasts are one of those things.  Our breasts can feed our children,  and bring us and our partner pleasure. There are very few things that say WOMAN like your breasts do.  Undergoing a bilateral mastectomy was...traumatic.  Suddenly instead of round breasts and perky nipples...there was just a flat chest and scars.  My path was a rocky one and it didn't go well.  I spent a year, having repeated surgeries.  In that year, not only was my health impacted, but so was my relationship.

Its hard to feel sexy and feminine when a part of you has just been amputated.   Your clothing doesn't fit have numbness and pain.  Your body has become almost the enemy...something you are fighting against.  Everytime you look at yourself in the mirror there is the glaring evidence that you are not whole.  How you and your partner deal with that will go a long way towards your emotional health during this traumatic time.

During my personal journey I met a lot of other women.  Some had supportive partners and some didn't.  One story stood out to me among all others.  A woman said that after her mastectomy her husband didn't even want to look at her chest until her reconstruction was complete.  I was personally horrified by the lack of caring and compassion he showed his wife.  She was basically undergoing a radical change to her body and self esteem and her partner was concerned with only himself and her final outcome.  Don't be THAT guy.

I know its not pretty.  There is nothing sexy about a flat chest and scars and the expander process is far from a walk in the park.  However, if your partner realizes and verbalizes that their love for you is about more than just your breasts.  That the loss of those symbols of femininity doesn't make you any less feminine.  That you are still desirable and loved.  Then you will be able to cope so much better with the whole process. 

When breasts are reconstructed, there are aspects that men are not aware your new breasts will be numb. Nerves are cut and you will likely have very little to no sensation in your reconstructed breasts.  Nipples as well have to be reconstructed and they also will have no sensation, are typically flat and do no react to temperature changes or desire.  The areaola is tattoo'd on, this is typically the final step in the reconstruction process.  Some women choose not to have a "realistic" tattooing, they may choose to tattoo their breast or mastectomy scar with a symbol of beauty to them.  I say that whatever they choose ...their choice should be supported. 

You may not wish to engage in breast play the way you did prior to your mastectomy.  Your partner sucking on  your reconstructed nipples may cause you more distress than pleasure, because you may feel awkward about having him touch these reconstructed breasts in a sexual manner when they still feel more prosthetic than a part of you.  When you show your newly reconstructed breasts to your lover, you may be scared of their reaction...that they won't see you as sexy or beautiful anymore.  That your breasts which are a source of pride for most women will never be what they were...and this impacts your relationship and self esteem. 

The fact that the reconstruction process is typically not a fast one, means that for months you may have no breasts at all.  This may dramatically change how you interact with your lover.  You may wish not to take off your shirt during sex...or you may refrain from sex altogether out of embarrassement or fear of his reaction. I say shouldn't be about your breasts.  Love is about your sense of humor and intelligence, its about your laughter and being a good mother/sister/friend/lover. Your partner fell in love with you because of WHO you are...not what cup size you wore.  So, don't give up sex, and don't underestimate its ability to bond you, reassure you and reconnect you when you need those things the most.

Know that this is your journey..and even with a supportive partner, you take it alone.  No one can undergo the process for you, each step you take is towards a goal of health, and you should be proud of that.  Be proud of your strength and determination.  Be proud of the fact that you met the battle head on.  The scars we have, show that you are a fighter.  Yes, your body has changed, but you stood your ground and you have nothing to be ashamed of. 

During Breast Cancer Awareness Month...I ask that all my female readers, do a self breast exam monthly and get annual mammograms.  The guidelines say to start them at 40*, but if you have any family history of breast cancer or you feel anything abnormal in your monthly breast exam, then please consult your physician.  Don't wait. 

You are a unique jewel in an ocean of bodies on this Earth...and you would be greatly missed by the people that love you.  So, for them, as well as for you..please get checked.


A very different perspective to those we usually read about. There is no excuse for being ignorant about breast cancer and early detection. There is so much information readily available, and many organisations ready to help should the unimaginable occur. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Bird, Bees and Elephants

As a parent of growing children, one of the things that has terrified me is the thought of The Talk. Yes, The Talk. I'm sure most of us can remember when we got The Talk from one of our own parents, that's if they had the courage to and didn't leave you to your own devices. I seem to recall that I only got half the story. Mum told me about girls and their periods, but I don't think she ever mentioned why it happened, let alone the intricacies involved. I have no idea what my older brother might have been told!

I've been lucky so far. Thing 1 is 10 and never shown any interest in knowing where he came from. Plus, given that he and his 2 younger sisters were caesarean deliveries he knows how babies get out of mum's tummy. He's never asked how they got in there. Phew!
He started an innocent conversation with me in the car the other day. (Why always in the car where you can't escape?!) No one could have seen the turn the conversation would make. It went a bit like this:

Thing1: What country does our family come from?
Me: Mostly England, Great Grandpa's dad was Scottish.
(various unimportant mumblings)
Me: Nana's mum was born on the boat on the way from England.
Thing1: That's cool.  <Pause>  But how did she come out, there's no surgeons on boats?
Me: <stalling, desperate for a meteor to hit the road in front of us> Not all babies are born that way.
Thing 1: Oh yeah, sometimes they come out the bum.
Me: <hoping we'll have enough money for his future therapy> No, they don't come out the bum.
Thing 1: What? So how do they get out then?
Me: Girls have another hole, next to the bum. (Really? That's the best I could do?)
Thing 1: Eeeeewwwww! But still, how do they get out? Like elephants, does a baby elephant come out its mum's bum?
Me: No, girl animals have another hole too.
Thing 1: Eeeeewwww! But how can they? How do they fit?
Me: Kill me now.

So, that went well. He's actually getting closer to 11 now, so I guess we really can't avoid The Talk for too much longer. Plus, he watches Glee so he's probably got half of it figured out anyway. My plan will be to allow The Chef the honours with the boy child. That will mean I have to deal with the two girls when the time comes, but maybe Thing 1 will help me out with that. 

If, for some reason, I'm lucky enough to have to do it myself I will be following Mrs Woog's experience, as detailed on Woogsworld. Surely nothing could go wrong there?

In the meantime, I'd love to know how it went for you. Have you had to have The Talk in your house? Is it ever easy?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Are two really better than one?

A duet can sometimes be a fabulous collaboration between talented musicians. Other times it can be an absolute tragedy. A while back my local radio station was talking about the most popular duets. I can't recall over what time frame, nor whether it was all Australian artists. But when they announced their number one as Kylie & Jason "Especially for You" I lost all faith in humanity. 

The other interesting thing I discovered when researching this topic, is that Americans have (generally speaking) rather insipid music tastes compared to Australians, when you look at their corresponding lists. I am more than happy to be proven wrong here.

Anyway, in an effort to make things right, I've decided to share some of my all-time favourite duets. Some are classics, some are a little more obscure, all are awesome. At least in my opinion!

Don't Give Up - Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush (1986)
Perfection in a duet.

Under Pressure - Queen and David Bowie (1981)
Queen. Bowie. That is all.

Walk This Way - Aerosmith and Run DMC (1986)
Rap meets rock 'n' roll. Great clip too.

Where the Wild Roses Grow - Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue (1995)
Kylie scored some credibility for her collaboration with Cave.

What Have I Done to Deserve This? - Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield (1987)
No one did disco in the 80s like Pet Shop Boys. Bringing in Dusty was genius!

Kids - Robbie Williams and Kylie Minogue (2000)
Kylie gets raunchy with Robbie. 
No More Tears (Enough is Enough) - Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer (1979)
So Babs isn't for everyone, but this is a classic disco tune. And find me anyone else who can hold a note like she can!
When You're Gone - Bryan Adams and Melanie C (1998)
Not sure who's helped out who here, but a fun song with a clever video.

Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart - Gene Pitney and Marc Almond (1988)
This one is a bit obscure, but one of my faves. Hands up if you've heard it before!
These last 2 are current favourites.
Jet Lag - Simple Plan feat. Natasha Bedingfield (2011)
Nothing complicated here, but the best pop song I've heard for ages.

Somebody That I Used To Know - Gotye feat. Kimbra (2011)
Another amazing video, teamed with a great tune. Sounds of classic Gabriel.

Do you agree with my choices? Disagree? What have I missed? Would love you to share your favourites here!