Jane Ballot

Being me in the world

Thursday 9th April

It had to happen. I might have known. I mentioned that the chemo taste seemed to have gone and, lo and behold, guess what came back yesterday evening?  🙁

Seems to be the story of my life. Fortunately, it did not last too long, though.

We went to see the movie Cinderella tonight. Of course, it is all about the dirty girl in the fireplace who is mistreated by her stepfamily, but then, thanks to her fairy godmother, finds the prince and happiness. I read somewhere that Kenneth Branagh wanted to make the film a bit more pertinent to today, where the girl and the prince are on more of an even level. This translated into the girl meeting the prince (who introduces himself as an apprentice) and them falling in love before the whole fairy godmother – ball thing happens. The rest of it was really a well-shot, beautiful and quite funny rendition of the classic tale.

Towards the end, when Cinderella comes down stairs from her tower to try on the shoe, she is concerned that the prince may not like her exactly as she is and not the beautiful, well-dressed princess he met at the ball. The narration says something about this being a very courageous thing to do – to present yourself exactly as you are for others to see.

I have a slightly different take on this idea: I think it is quite daunting sometimes (not sure about courageous, but it does take something) to look at yourself exactly as you are.

This can be both physically and psychologically.

Today I went to gym – and I cycled 5kms quite easily at a fairly decent effort level  🙂

I also caught a sight of myself in the mirror. That is always a slightly sobering moment, as I don’t think we ever see ourselves from the inside as we suddenly realise others see us from the outside. For me, though, there is always this extra level of actually seeing the evidence of having only one boob. I’m completely sure that people I meet don’t spend their time contemplating my chest and wondering why I would only have one obvious ‘bump’, it just strikes me that it looks abnormal.

For that brief moment, I see myself from the outside and I wonder about the whole thing, in the way that we can have a sudden, complicated thought train in about one second. I wonder about how weird I really look; about do people really care; about why this matters; and about why they don’t make one-sided bras.

I also wonder, fleetingly, about the whole question of reconstruction.

How many women, I wonder, have reconstruction for just that reason – to look normal to others.

I don’t feel abnormal. I am fully aware that there is a part of me missing. I am quite conscious that I will never wear a regular bra again. Generally, this doesn’t matter to me. I am also well aware that, when I happen to actually see the graphic evidence of the mastectomy, it is a little upsetting and something I don’t really want to be confronted with. Mostly, though, I don’t actually see the evidence and it’s all okay.

When I am confronted – or allow myself to be confronted – with what I actually look like out in public, I do have that small thought about making myself look normal again.

Then, of course, I have the rebellious thoughts too, like, Why? For whom would I be doing it? I don’t have to look at myself from the outside, at least not very often. I have not changed, well not that much, even as my body has been changed. So, why even wonder?

Confronting yourself as you are. Maybe it’s not so bad for that to happen once in a while. We may not always like what we see, but that is who we are. Or who we have become.

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