Show Us Kate’s Ta-Ta’s!

Kate Middleton rocks a white bikini

So much fuss over a beautiful, young woman on vacation with her husband doing a bit of topless sunbathing. It’s the paparazzi and our endless fascination with the rich and famous that are the problem here.

No requests from every corner of the world to see another Kate’s breasts. Of course I am talking about the actress Kathy Bates who recently revealed she had a double mastectomy for breast cancer. She’s also an ovarian cancer survivor.

The amazing Kathy Bates

Frankly, I do not want to see either one of these Kate’s boobs. Hell, I don’t even want to look at my own work in progress at the moment. I’m kinda sick of the whole thing.



BRCA, Family and Happy Birthday to Me.

In 1998 when I had breast cancer my sister Anne came to visit on Labor Day weekend. I had just begun chemo and all of my hair was coming out in gigantic clumps. It felt awful and I decided it was time for the remaining hair to go. Anne shaved my head. I remember sitting in the bathtub afterward, soaking in Mr. Bubble and crying. It was the weekend of my 37th birthday.

As horrible as that memory is, a wonderful new tradition was born that Labor Day. My mother, sister, brother and I now get together every Labor Day weekend for a visit. My nearly 80-year old Mom just boarded a plane for her return flight to New York. My sister went home to Denver yesterday. It is a big expense and not always convenient, but every year they come. Only my brother gets off easy since he lives just down the road.

At my house Mom and Anne get fresh flowers in their rooms along with a favorite box of candy or dried fruit. My husband Jim chauffers us around, pours fabulous wines from his cellar and is in charge of birthday desserts. This year we had some mind-boggling macaroons. Last year, a Valrhona chocolate cake, the year before, gourmet cupcakes. These small traditions are precious to me.

Fun with the iPad camera

This year is a bittersweet birthday. I’ve been through the worst of the BRCA surgeries and although I’m still a work in progress, I’m ready to move on. My sister Anne’s turn is next and we did spend some time during our visit talking about the nitty-gritty details. Not fun, but helpful for us both. As a previvor, my sister’s choices are different from mine. I hope that she will always be a previvor and never a survivor so we can have many more Labor Day reunions.

That is what I wished for this birthday weekend.

Anne and Mom watch me get birthday face paint.

BRCA Surgeries: Forget the Bras. Bring on the Panties.

Good bras cost a bloody fortune. Proper fit is a lifelong problem for most women, from training bras to nursing bras to grandma bras. In the midst of this year of endless surgeries and an ever-changing personal landscape I have given up on bras for the moment. A few inexpensive wire-free boring things have done their job over the last few months. After my next round of surgery I expect to be stuck in compression garments for a while. Oh joy. While I’m squashed like a sausage into some petroleum-based fabric during the summer months I’m not even going to think about the B word. I will distract myself instead with something girly that I can enjoy. Panties.

Even the nicest pair of panties cost a fraction of a good bra. They come in every style, color and fabric. A massive hip-to-hip belly scar like mine can disappear under the right cut. An added bonus.

My latest panty acquisition is one of my favorite. It has nothing to do with lace, bows or the fact they came in a brown box in the mail from Nordstrom. They are my new treasure because my charming man bought them for me.

Fancy pants. Ooh la la.

Am I lucky girl or what?

Breast Cancer, BRCA and Stress Relief

Acupuncture. Self hypnosis. Meditation. Yoga. There are many ways to rid the body of negative effects from stress. My personal favorite involves a soak in the tub with my main man, Mr. Bubble. When frazzled, many of us resort to eating or drinking things we should not. I have done this as well. On the refrigerator of a friend I once saw a large sign reading “THE ANSWER IS NOT IN HERE.” The answer is also not in the liquor cabinet, beer cooler or wine cellar. For those at high risk for breast cancer or those who have already met the monster, complete stress relief can now be had for a mere $5.87 including shipping, thanks to some entrepreneurs in China.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you The Ultimate Gigantic Stress Relieving Breast Ball.

Squeeze your stress away

In my e-mail box this morning I discovered a junk mail message from a company called Sammy Dress. Located in Shenzhen, China, they call themselves a cheap online clothing store. Seriously. Among their offerings I spotted this squeeze toy, just as my finger hovered over the delete button. I had to read more.

Here is the description of this product, direct from the company web site:

Are you looking for a gift to your friends on April fool’s day? This Large Breast Ball may be the best gift choice for you to take! Besides, the Breast Ball is a fun and effective way to promote breast cancer awareness. Imprint your logo or promotional message. Promote your logo and relieve your stress with the Breast Ball. These promotional stress reliever toys are one-of-a-kind.

Main Feature:

  • Stress relief breast squeeze ball, touch it and you will feel good.
  • Produced by TPR material with jelly inside, non-toxic.
  • It is a squeeze toy for adult, and it felt vivid when you touch and squeeze .
  • Breast ball toy is comfortable, and easy to use.
  • Quite interesting, also quite distinct, this trick breast ball will make you smile all along.

As a writer and former marketing communications manager, this kind of language makes me howl with laughter. I can’t wait to order one just so I can feel “vivid” when I touch it. I plan to take it with me to the hospital for my next round of surgeries. I may even have to carry one in my purse at all times. Perhaps a matched set would be a nice gift for other members of my BRCA challenged family. Volume discounts are available!

The Ultimate Gigantic Stress Relieving Breast Ball. I’m feeling better already.

UPDATE: Direct from Hong Kong today…

OK, these are kinda creepy

I’m not sure I like these. For one thing they are gigantic! Maybe some guys would like playing with these Dolly Parton imitations.

Not much stress relief here.

More like weird sex toy than stress reliever but hey, I see great potential for gag gifts.

BRCA for Dummies and The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Courtesy of


Ask anyone who is BRCA positive if they’ve had difficulty explaining their situation to others and they will scream a very loud YES in response. The learning curve surrounding the HBOC Syndrome (Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer) is steep. The choices are complex and nuanced. No two individuals are alike and much depends on deeply personal choices. It ain’t easy being a mutant.

At the end of the process of screening, counseling, doing the test, receiving results and discussions with a gaggle of medical professionals, there comes a point where patients realize there are three main areas to consider in making decisions about the management of a defective BRCA gene:

Increased Screening (catch that cancer early)

Chemoprevention (fiddle with hormones that influence cancer)

Surgery (beat cancer to the punch)

A gross oversimplification of the options, yes. That is exactly what I want. An easy way to define the salient features of this biological dilemma and how to deal with it. An elevator speech that outlines BRCA in under a minute. A tutorial my dry cleaner, hairdresser or a casual acquaintance would understand.

For BRCA folks like me who have already gone toe-to-toe with cancer and lived to tell, the content of this elevator speech is not the same as someone like my sister who has never had cancer. Survivors differ from Previvors, the term given to those who have the genetic disorder but have not yet been diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve passed the first surgical hurdle in my BRCA travels – bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. More surgery lies ahead. My elevator speech will keep changing, along with my body. The elevator speech is only one of many communication tools that would benefit the BRCA community. The fact is, a genetic disorder like BRCA affects relationships at every level and patients suffer greatly as they grapple with painful, life-altering decisions and then attempt to inform, educate or persuade others who are often skeptical as well as ignorant.

Once I’m done with the elevator speech, the next chapter in BRCA for Dummies will be “How to Deal With Morons.” It will include snappy retorts to ridiculous comments like:

“Oh, you’re exaggerating. Everyone has to die from something.”

“Can you get medical marijuana for that?”

“It’s all up to the man upstairs anyway, isn’t it?”

Those teenage mutant ninja turtle dudes probably had the right idea. Do the best you can with the hand you’re dealt, fight for what’s right, and eat lots of pizza. The world can always use a few more cool mutants like those guys. Forget the BRCA for Dummies idea. Give me some Turtle Power!

BRCA and the Lingo of Breasts

Works of comedy genius, George Carlin


Comedian George Carlin’s classic monologue “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television” included a rather benign slang term for breasts.


George went on to say that he thought the word tits did not even really belong on his list because it sounded more like a good name for a snack food than something that would offend TV censors. Cheese Tits, Tater Tits. That sort of thing. When it comes to breasts there are a plethora of euphemisms, nicknames, slang, obscenities and just plain goofy words used to describe female mammary glands. For this writer, words and their meanings, origins and ever-changing shifts in usage are more than a passing fancy.

Where did some of the most common expressions for breasts come from? Tits is an easy one. It is a version of teat, a very old word and we all know what it means. But boobs? Turns out that one is less straightforward. Use of the term boob or booby dates to the sixteenth century and came into the language as a reference to a stupid person or certain large, ungainly birds who were also presumed to be dim-witted. The linguistic community seems unsure of the exact path it took to arrive at the current slang usage of boob/boobies.

While the etymology of all words mammary related may be of intellectual interest to my writer self, what intrigues me as a breast cancer survivor and a carrier of a defective BRCA1 gene, is the way the medical community has a lexicon all their own that surrounds the almighty breast. They HAVE to. In my plastic surgeon’s language, the two rather large, saggy troublemakers that once belonged to me were dispassionately described as “pendulous.” They exhibited “asymmetry.” Surgery would reduce my cancer risk and improve the “cosmesis.” In other words, my lopsided middle-aged bust line could be reworked into a smoking hot rack. Or so I hoped.

Austin Powers dubbed them jubblies and dirty pillows. High beams and honkers arrived courtesy of our car culture. The restaurant empire that is Hooters is in a category by itself. Melons and muffins for the food fans. Ubiquitous milk references. Jugs and knockers anyone? A vast array of secondary terms exists purely to describe the size of female mammary glands. What about the boys and their breasts? The male of the species is shortchanged here in every way. Man boobs are at best, an embarrassment, but not to worry, guys. Plastic surgeons are quite delighted to fix that situation and describe it with a proper term: gynecomastia.