Friday, November 18, 2011

the one breasted woman

Last week I was in the ladies locker room getting ready to take a shower, and looked up to see a woman in her sixties, across the room from me.  I had a full frontal view of the lady, and a  feeling that something was askew with the picture.  The lady was putting her clothes back on after her shower and I realized that she had one tight and buff looking horizontal, flat muscle next to one large and sagging breast. 

It took me a while to figure out that the tight, buff, horizontal flat muscle was the aftermath of a mastectomy.  She had a breast removed!

My first thought was how trim, fit, and buff the horizontal part looked -- the side without the breast.  It actually looked much better than the large and sagging breast on the other side.  My second thought was how completely comfortable she appeared to be.  She was not trying to hide her frontal view at all.  She was obviously very accepting of her body in its current configuration.

Prior to seeing this lady at the health club, I had always thought that should I face the prospect of a mastectomy, I would take a pass, get my affairs in order, and check into some hospice program and prepare to die from cancer.  I believed that death would be preferable to having certain body parts lopped off.

In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and take a big risk here and flatly admit that I do not like all the talk about breast cancer.  I wish people would just shut up about it.  I do not like hearing about "One in Nine", "Susan G. Komen", the pink ribbons, and the "Race for the Cure".  In fact, breast cancer is not the number one cause of death from cancer, although it seems to be advertised as if it were number one.   According to the World Health Organization, (February 2006), the lineup looks like this:

lung cancer (1.3 million deaths)
stomach cancer (803,000 deaths)
colorectal cancer (639,000 deaths)
liver cancer (610,000 deaths)
breast cancer (519,000 deaths)

So why does it seem like breast cancer is marketed and promoted much more extensively than other types of cancers?  Don't we want to find a solution for all forms of cancer and not just breast cancer?  I don't see the men running around with all types of marketing programs to raise awareness and funds to address prostate cancer.   What is going on here?  Are the women just better at marketing?

Having seen this lady at the health club, I now have a new view.  If I became one of the extremely unlucky "one woman in nine" who is diagnosed with breast cancer, and if the oncologists recommended a mastectomy, I think I would go for it.  I think life without a breast or both breasts  would not be the end of the world as I know it.  Yet, I would not have decided this without seeing the lady across from me in the ladies locker room.

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