Susan Morrison: Sorry chaps, it's no contest between cancer and cleavage

Most of the time ­during my cancer treatment and my ­decision to have both bosoms whipped off, I have been lucky enough to be taking on blokes who had read all the books, but really didn't seem to know what women actually were.

Friday, 26th October 2018, 6:00 am
Campaigners in Paris hurl their bras into the air as part of a campaign to raise awareness of breast cancer. Picture: AFP/Getty

Top tip, fellas, given a clear choice between giving up cleavage or cancer, most of us will ditch the décolletage.

Secondly, given the opportunity to live our lives in comfort without a bouncing boob boulder swinging free and solo off the rib cage, a remarkable number of us would be quite happy to consign both to the bin of history. Or a sealed container in Airdrie. I’m still worried about that.

Of course, these poor chaps don’t know what it actually feels like to live with these redundant food delivery systems.

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I’m starting to think that all male breast surgeons should be fitted with anatomically correct size 38FF fakes, and only allowed to wear knackered 36DD bras.

C’mon ladies, we have all been there. That bra that for some ­reason we think we can still fit in, even though the straps are slicing in, the elastic is pinging off in all directions and it leaves tram tracks bigger than the ones on Princes Street gouged into our shoulders

Yes, these blokes might be experts in cancer and surgery, but they sure don’t know about me, or life with elderly bazongas.

My next challenge was the oncologist. The boobs might be gone, but it may have left sneaky little outliers in the nodes and worse, it might have sent out an away team to scope out a new home in some other part of my body.

However, part of the favoured armoury for dispatching the little horrors involves radiotherapy, and this has some fairly unwelcome side-effects. I was not entirely sold on the enterprise.

So, I geared up on heavy duty reading, and once again I booted and suited up to go into battle.

Back into that waiting room again. Back into my favourite seat again. Back to the book I’d brought to read again.

A voice fluted my name from the doorway. I looked up. A beautiful young woman with a smile as warm as a British Airways stewardess in those 1980s adverts was standing holding my file, beaming ­benevolently at me.

Damn you, NHS, you sent my ­personal kryptonite into this fight. How could I possibly argue with this dazzling goddess of achievement? I could practically see her mother behind her saying, this is my daughter, the oncologist. Isn’t she wonderful?

Her mother would have been right. The oncologist had an approach as far from that maddening air of superiority as it was as possible to get. She listened to the concerns and treated me like a person who had worries and had taken the time to check them out with sources more in depth than a couple of articles in the out of date Cosmopolitan mags cluttering up the waiting room.

She gave me a leaflet. God, the NHS does love a leaflet. Every time I think I have a complete set, they hit me with another one. I bet somewhere there’s a leaflet entitled What to Do With Your Old Leaflets. She looked at the stats, she hummed cheerfully and she said, well, it’s up to you.

Now, as every woman knows, that’s the very worst thing we can hear. If someone, usually male says, you should do this, as sure as a beat-up boy band will reunite for one last tour, our instinct is to take up the opposite position.

It makes life a lot easier, because it takes the decision making out of the entire process. I suspect my husband worked this out years ago, which is why he says gnomic things like ‘yeah, you shouldn’t go to the gym today’, knowing full well that I will appear minutes later in full workout gear and heading for the treadmill, muttering under my breath about “telling me what to do, eh?”. But if someone says, ok, sister, here’s the facts, babe, it’s up to you – well, that means we have to make our own minds up. I’m taking the ­radiotherapy. And the leaflets. She’d already booked the sessions anyway.

Best make a clean breast of it

The letter was behind the door. Didn’t surprise me. I could tell by the recycled grey paper it was yet another missive from the NHS. And I could tell by the weight it had another leaflet in it.

It wasn’t from the lovely oncologist. In fact, it was my first ever appointment for a breast cancer screening clinic.

Y’know, I might just go.

Might be worth it to turn up, whip off the top and suddenly shriek “Good heavens! They were here a minute ago.”

They’d probably give me a leaflet. What to Do If You Mislay A Body Part.