By Heather Millar
Last weekend, my daughter had a sleepover with 12 friends to celebrate her 13th birthday. As my husband and I took refuge before a fire in the living room, we could hear girly chatter from the dining room where the girls were chowing down on pizza. All of a sudden, one loud comment from one of the girls grabbed our attention: “And THEN, my Mom was walking around with a fake boob on her head. It was SO embarrassing.” The girls all giggled.
The comment came from the daughter of a dear friend who is a breast cancer survivor. She’s been disease-free for more than 10 years. That, frankly, is nothing short of a miracle. Her cancer was very aggressive, and nearly stage 4. At the time, her doctors gave her only a small chance of surviving. And yet, here she is, working and thriving a decade later. In fact, she and her partner came over later that very evening to enjoy the fire and to help us survive the sleepover.
I told her about her daughter’s comment, and she laughed. After all the horror of cancer treatment, she had opted not to do breast reconstruction. She uses a prosthesis on the side where she had her mastectomy. But, she explained, insurance only pays for one prosthetic breast, and only once every two years. They’re fiendishly expensive, so she makes do with one fake boob.
Unfortunately, the boob goes missing quite a bit, she said, as we broke into giggles. Sometimes, it gets lost in the laundry. Sometimes, it falls under the bed. Sometimes, she’s racing to get out of the house and she forgets to put it in her bra. On those days, she says, socks and tissues have to fill in.
And yes, she said, sometimes she goofs around and wears the fake boob on her head. By this time, we were heaving with laughter.
You might think it’s ghoulish to laugh about something like this. Cutting off women’s breasts is a serious, serious thing. But sometimes, I think, it’s healthy to laugh in the face of tragedy. If we didn’t laugh about her fake boob, we’d cry about her suffering, about the suffering of every person who gets cancer and has to have body parts lopped off.
Sometimes, you’ve got to cry, but laughing is so much more fun. Sometimes, all you can do is laugh.