Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Sunday 16th November

When I was still teaching at school, I did a few Drama pieces for the Eisteddfod. One of these explored the idea of what we consider to be ‘normal’. The basic premise was that your ‘normal’ may be my ‘abnormal’ – and who is to say which is correct?

These ideas still interest me.

I find that I have used the word ‘normal’ quite a bit in the last few months – particularly with regard to the whole question of reconstruction. It seems to me that the whole point of reconstruction is for a woman to look ‘normal’, to have a ‘normal’ figure and a ‘normal’ profile.

I’m not so sure about this, though. How can having a breast (or two) rebuilt make you look ‘normal’ for you? The reconstructed breast will never look identical to its twin. If there are two reconstructed breasts involved, then they certainly won’t be exactly the same as the two that were removed.

Especially in clothing, the presence of reconstruction/s or prostheses will certainly make sure that a woman has boobs, or looks as though she does, which is, I suppose, ‘normal’. But it can never actually be so, completely. If you have lost part of yourself, you can reclaim a degree of what is widely held to be usual (and ‘normal’), but you will certainly never, ever be what you have always considered to be your ‘normal’ again.

From the moment I was diagnosed with cancer – in fact, from the moment the lump was found – my ‘normal’ changed forever. Now I certainly do not look as I have always looked – either with / without clothing, as I have yet to try to make the ‘non-boob’ look like there is something there.

I am still me, but what was ‘normal’ for me has shifted because of what has happened.

I think the idea of ‘normal’ is like that – it changes and shifts as things happen to us in the world.

It was normal for me to phone Mum regularly – even a couple of times a day, sometimes. Now she is gone and I can never phone her again. And that is the new ‘normal’. It is horrible, but it is so.

It was ‘normal’ for me to have two boobs. Now I don’t. I don’t like it, but that’s how it is.

Perhaps ‘normal’ is meant to be like that and it is we who strive to cling onto a ‘oneness’, a regular ‘usuality’ that makes us acceptable to others. So women have reconstructions to make themselves look ‘normal’ – to themselves and to others. And that is fine. That is what some people want. And need.

Me? I don’t know. My ‘normal’ has changed so radically for me so many times this last year that I’m still adjusting to ┬áthe new ‘normals’ that I have to deal with.

And so we carry on. Life forges ahead and takes us with it even as we struggle to face the pace.

And that, actually, is normal.


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