Some things to feel up about

There’s nothing funny about cancer. So let’s talk breasts.

A girl waits and waits for her first breast buds to appear, begs her mother for a training bra (gotta get those things trained right from the start), and then spends the next somewhat confusing five years admiring her growth into womanhood and flailing at boys who want to grab those precious puppies.

Some years later, she begins to notice magazines that promote sexy clothing, and lingerie stores that show her how to get the perfect look from a certain bra, which will be obsolete within six months in favor of the newest gimmick. Eventually she gets married, gets pregnant, and her breasts take on a whole new meaning. These things happen not necessarily in that order, and still, the whole time, she is fending off male hands that wish to have a piece of the action. It’s like they don’t know what to do with their energy and their hands.

My own breast story began in fifth grade, when a popular and blond (of course, always the pretty one) girl in my grade noted that I was not quite up to par with the other girls our age. I believe the kind phrase she bellowed was, “God, you’re so flat.” And if I’m remembering correctly, she laughed out loud at me in front of a dozen other girls in the locker room. The others, embarrassed for me – or for this loudmouth – slinked away silently, as the Booby Girl bobbed in front of me into the gymnasium. After gym class, I did my best to make her feel guilty by telling her some completely lame story about a medical condition I had that caused my late development. Judging by the way she acted that afternoon, I can only guess she had taken in my sad story. I mean, she was obviously drowning her guilt-ridden sorrows with ice cream, soda, pizza, and jokes in the cafeteria.

Sometime between the end of high school and age 30, I had the opportunity to feed my first-born from these now nicely developed chest parts. The ability to feed and nurture an infant put the whole thing in perspective, and I felt like I held the secret of the universe. It was even better than my mother’s special recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce, a revered part of life for any Eliscu. I nursed my daughter for eight months until she found a more exciting substitute, her beloved cuppy. The second daughter, I coerced into a full 20 months, in my Mother Earth phase. That kid never ate a hot dog, either, until age 4. My son, many years later, was breast fed until, well, never mind. I want to keep whatever reputation of sanity I have left in this world. Let’s just say that in certain underdeveloped parts of the world, I’d have fit in just fine, and please pass the straw so I can patch the hut today while sun is out before moon comes upon us.

Decades ago, my aunts on my father’s side, and his mother, all had breast cancer. Once again, my circle of thinking expanded. Many years and much research later, my mother had breast cancer, completely and well treated. It did not kill her, nor did it stop her from continuing her full, wonderful life.

We have seen huge advances in cancer education, detection, treatment, outcome and support. Today, a woman would have to be completely out of touch with progress not to know.

Tri for a Cure is a beautiful example of women’s courage, compassion, passion, energy, and vitality. It is an outward sign that we will, and are, overcoming both cancer and ignorance. Women survivors, families, friends – all who want to celebrate and promote health and support and research – will be participating in this event of strength and unity.

And those strong, loving men on the sidelines, the ones who could never stay still? Well, this time they’ll know exactly what their hands are for.


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