Innies or Outies?

15 05 2009

My three-year-old son's belly button. Definitely an Innie...

My three-year-old son's belly button. Definitely an Innie...

Here’s a question I thought I’d never have to answer again once I left the gradeschool playground — Innies or Outies? That was the question at recess on days when the swings and the monkey bars had become a little too hum-drum. Not only did you have to declare yourself as one or the other, but you had to prove it by lifting your shirt and showing your belly.

It was a little like Dr. Suess’s story of the Sneetches — a group of yellow, beach-dwelling creatures who distinguish themselves from one another by the green stars on their bellies. Those with the green stars are part of the “in” crowd while those without…well, I need not go any further — I’m sure you remember the wrestling for top dog that is just a part of growing up. And, like cooties and indoor recess on rainy days, when I moved on to junior high, I was happy to leave that part of my life behind.

Fast-forward to 2006. It’s a cool autumn day in November, two weeks before Thanksgiving. I’m sitting in one of the examining rooms at my plastic surgeon’s office, perched on the edge of the examining table, wiggling around and trying to get comfortable as I sit on a fresh piece of the ever-present roll of crinkly white paper.

“You’re going to need to decide whether you want innies or outies,” he says to me as he’s looking over my paperwork. About 30 seconds pass before he realizes I am sitting there in stunned silence (he has known me long enough to realize that silence is not something I’m known for). He looks up at me over the the top of his glasses.

“You know, innies or outies,” he says, pointing in the general direction of my breasts in way of explanation. I look down at them. They are only partially covered by my ill-fitted gown. I finally realize what he’s talking about. My nipples.

“Innies or outies?” I say quizzically.

“Yes, you get to choose. But remember, whatever you choose — that’s the way they stay.”

So, that night at home, I broached the subject with my husband, Don.

“Innies or Outies, eh?” he said. “Hmm.”

“What do you think?”

We debated the pluses and minuses of Innies and Outies but in the end, it was clear the decision had to be mine. Choose Innies and I’d have the freedom to forego bras at my leisure –because (BONUS!) fake boobs never sag. Choose Outies and they’d look more “real” — but I’d have to cover them or they’d poke through the light-weight fabric of summer tank tops. Though that seemed like a bit of extra trouble, truth was, I wanted my new breasts to be as close to their predecessors as possible. And so, I chose Outies. And though I often look down, I’ve never looked back.

A Simple Cup of Joe…

15 05 2009

Translation: I Don't Speak Icelandic

Translation: I Don't Speak Icelandic

It was late May, 2006, and I was caught in early morning rush hour, bumper to bumper with dozens of other commuters, waiting for my turn at the expressway on-ramp. Traffic was at a standstill, and as I looked around, I noticed that the people in the cars around me were, well, unhappy. They were frowning, or shaking their fists at other drivers, or just plain bored. Not me. This was one of the happiest days of my life.

A little over two months before, I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer. The doctor told me at that time that I likely had less than five years. My husband and I — parents of a then six-month-old baby — lived in the shadow of that diagnosis until further test results showed that my cancer wasn’t as advanced as initially thought. Six weeks earlier, on Good Friday, I’d undergone a double mastectomy. I’d just finished going through in-vitro, so that I could freeze embryos for a future pregnancy. And the following week, I would start chemotherapy.

All this, and I was happier than anyone else around me, as far as I could see. In fact, I was beaming — I could hardly contain myself.

Why? The reason was really quite simple and yet profound, all at the same time. Because for the first time in nearly three months, I was doing something normal. I was on my way to work, to a client’s office, to finish a newsletter. I was caught in rush hour traffic, drinking my favorite coffee — Tim Horton’s — fixed my favorite way — double-double. All of it was so very ordinary. And that’s what made it so extraordinary.

Oprah says 50 is the new 30. I say ordinary is the new extraordinary.

Naked at the Blue Lagoon

4 05 2009

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

The Blue Lagoon, Iceland

Think back to the first time you met your coworkers. Do a quick rewind and pull the image up in your head. Got it? Good. Now, replay the same image – only this time, you’re naked…and so are they.

You see, I’ve never met my coworkers, with the exception of the company prez. I’m a telecommuter; I work from my house just outside of Detroit. ICLUBcentral’s offices are so close to Harvard that you can open a window, throw a rock and hit the side of an esteemed Ivy League building. Or so I’ve been told.

So, when ICLUBcentral invited me and my hubby to join them for four days in Iceland, I couldn’t say no. Certainly it would come with adventure and a chance to bond with my coworkers. Little did I know how right I was.

We landed at the Keflavik, Iceland airport at 6:30 a.m. local time – 2:30 a.m. Detroit time. My hair – carefully primped before boarding the first of three planes 11 hours earlier – was flattened and stuck to the side of my head. My ears were so plugged that despite my best attempts to clear them by chewing like an enthusiastic cow, all of the people around me sounded like they were talking underwater.

As we couldn’t check into our hotel until 2 p.m., our group of 18 hopped a tour bus and headed for The Blue Lagoon — the most famous of Iceland’s hot springs. It’s also one of the country’s most prized natural resources. To keep it that way, every person who enters the electric blue, mineral-rich waters is required to shower first – nude.

I thought I could circumvent this requirement. My husband claims that my Superpower is assuming that the rules don’t apply to me…a tactic that has worked without fail, until now. After I change into my bathing suit and begin heading toward the showers, I’m stopped by a tall, thin, light-haired Nordic woman.

“You must shower nude before entering the pool,” she says, glancing down at my bathing suit.

I return to the lockeroom, which, unlike many European countries, is at least split by gender. I take off my bathing suit, making my best effort to conceal my body with a towel. But, when I reach the showers, my cover disappears.

There I stand, naked, in front of my female coworkers — whom I’ve known for a grand total of 58 minutes. Everyone’s uncomfortable — this isn’t exactly what we expected — and we all avert our eyes. But I notice that more than once, a pair of eyes scans my breasts.

They look pretty good for fake breasts, I think. My plastic surgeon once told me that, in a lockeroom setting, no one would ever know. Which would be true, if it wasn’t for my body’s tendency to scar rather severely.

The next time I notice someone trying not to look, I decide to break the ice. “I had breast cancer,” I say. “These puppies are the new and improved model.”

It works. Someone starts talking about how her Mom was also a breast cancer survivor…and that she hadn’t yet decided whether or not to get reconstruction. What did I think…

And so there it is. And though it wasn’t my plan, not yet, not so soon, it’s out there. The conversation has started and I step outside of myself. Because a big part of the responsibilty of a survivor comes in the sharing of information.

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