Wednesday, October 25, 2006

why breast cancer isn't sexy

I loathe my prosthesis. I have entertained fantasies about attacking it with a knife and watching its silicone innards ooze all over the floor.

I hate how it feels, I hate the way that it never looks quite right. I hate that I have to wear it (actually, mostly I don't wear it). And I know I need to work at a solution, as I don't want the first thing that people notice to be my missing breast and all it represents.

There has been much good feminist writing about the hype surrounding Breast Cancer Awareness month, and I have referenced some of the more interesting pieces in this blog. I join these women in their condemnation of the commercialization of breast cancer. And I certainly don't believe that one form of cancer is more worthy of support than another.

But a couple of writers have referred to breast cancer as 'sexy'.

It wasn't so long ago that breast cancer was considered shameful, a secret to be protected. For many women, this is still the case. After all, breasts are still not something we talk about at the dinner table, in the boardroom or in most day-to-day situations.

My breasts have variously been a source of embarassment, shame, confusion, pleasure and pride. Now I only have one, and a big scar where the other one used to be.

I thought long and hard about going public about my mastectomy but I decided that if I am to write honestly about my experience, this enormous source of discomfort, frustration and sadness must be included.

Breast cancer mutilates a highly sexualized, commercialized and central part of women's bodies. It is also a major cause of lymphedema, a further strain on our bodies, emotions and sexual selves.

I hate my prosthesis. I hate what it represents.

Self-confidence is sexy. So is love. Power can be a turn-on. So are broad shoulders, a quick wit and a sense of humour. Sometimes, I am sexy.

Breast cancer will never be 'sexy.'


Anonymous said...

"And I certainly don't believe that one form of cancer is more worthy of support than another."

Thank you for this. You have no idea how much that simple phrase means to a woman in FL with Thyroid cancer who feels utterly alone because there's no research or support widely publicized about it. Cancer is cancer is cancer. None of it is good, fun, easy, sexy, happy or pleasant. It's terrifying and life changing. I'm glad to know I'm not alone.

Anonymous said...

I found you because I googled:
"i hate my prosthesis"

I know I hate mine.

Hate. Hate. Hate.

I wear 'em to work, but I can't wait to get the damn things off.

Well written post. Thank you!