We haven’t always got on, but now I’m losing you I’m feeling kind of sad.
You see, I’d already chosen what kind of breasts I wanted when I was ten. I had this Illustrated Guide to Puberty. It explained, with what I can only describe as a gallery of boobs, that breasts come in different shapes and sizes, and no one type is superior to others.
Even then I knew that in Real Life only the big and bouncy ones count.
And we did have a promising start to our relationship. Getting my first Tammy Girl training bra was one of the highlights of my pre-teen years. Although I never did work out quite what we were training for. At any rate you never made it much past the start-line, stubbornly remaining flat, even though I did all the chest-press exercises prescribed by my bigger-boobed mates. I was incredibly gullible in those days; I also spent an entire weekend winding my hair round a pencil because another classmate told me that was how she got her naturally curly hair.
Luckily, along came my saviour in the form of the Wonderbra. I took one look at those life-size Eva Herzigova billboards and ran to Debenhams to buy one. You spent years encased in that punishing push-up underwired hell (sorry about that), yet I still didn’t stop traffic.
I felt that you’d let me down in your sullen refusal to form a cleavage, and I spent way too much time crying in the Miss Selfridge changing rooms as various low-cut tops and strappy dresses failed to produce the curvy silhouette I craved.
But then 2005 happened. A shock diagnosis of bone cancer in my leg. So I didn’t even think about you for several years. I had more important things to worry about. Having my limb amputated was just as devastating as you’d imagine. And then some. For a start, I’d always compensated for my lack of cleavage by flashing a bit of leg (classy, I know) and my fiancé-now-husband had always reassured me that he was more of a leg man than a boob man.
So that turned out well for him.
The along came my two precious (and unexpected) babies, and finally you morphed into the D-cup I’d always imagined I wanted. But you were rock-hard, engorged and sore and had to be carried around in a deeply unattractive Mothercare breastfeeding bra. At one point there was a savoy cabbage leaf stuffed in there too because someone told me that helped with the mastitis (apparently I’m still a bit gullible).
It has to be said – credit where it’s due – that once we got over the sore-as-hell-tits bit, you did an excellent job of feeding my babies, and so I wasn’t too cross when, later, you shrunk back to your pre-nursing size. Although I could have done without the extra droopiness.
Then I got into sport in a BIG way. Partly this was an act of defiance: I’d spent so long as a cancer patient, that I was out to prove I could still achieve something. And so I chose a sport (or it chose me) that was singularly difficult to do as an above-knee amputee: cycling. Because – bloody hell – if I could ride a bike really fast with one leg, then I could put all this cancer crap – once and for all – behind me.
And for a time I did. I rode in competitions in Italy and South Africa, and represented Great Britain at the UCI Paracycling World Championships. The advantage of being flat-chested soon became clear when I tried to squeeze into my Lycra skinsuit for the first time.
And so, finally, I made peace with you. I felt positive and powerful in my new cycling-fit body. I became used to pushing my body to its limits and enjoying that post-workout glow. I had survived cancer and I was strong. Your diminutive size no longer mattered – because you were healthy.
Until you weren’t.
When I felt the lump in the shower, I knew straight away that it would be cancer. I was familiar with your usual monthly bumps, but this felt different – like a little hard and jagged stone close to my armpit. I’ll admit I had neglected my regular lump-checking duties duties for a few weeks – I was busy and anyway, I was done with cancer. Wasn’t I?
I had no idea how long you’d been host to this malignant stranger and that made me feel guilty. Perhaps if I had shown a little more TLC, checked more frequently, eaten more carefully, drunk a little less… These are the kind of irrational thoughts with which I’m now plagued.
So, after five months of chemotherapy, here we are. The drugs have shrunk your tumour a little, but there are still too many cancerous cells remaining.
It’s time to say goodbye. Your silicone replacement won’t be as soft as you, or as warm.
After all these wasted years of pointless criticism, it’s time to admit the truth – I’ll miss you.
Love Sal x