19. Sock Bra

Those of you who know me will probably agree that I don't do anger. I might get upset, I might get annoyed, I might get frustrated, but I rarely get angry about things.

"If you ever want to scream and shout..." people say, valiantly offering themselves as targets for what is widely assumed to be my inevitable anger outbursts. But their services have not been needed. Until today.

So here I am, writing again despite my promise I wouldn't do cancer at the weekend. Shouting via my blog.

Thankfully, my anger is not directed at the cat or the children, but at the Softie. Or rather, at the nurse who gave it to me. No, perhaps not even her. At the NHS itself, no less.

In the sweltering heat, having a Softie is not good news. Brain Fluff (as well as the original filling) is, after all, made if the same stuff that is used to fill duvets and quilts. I do not recommend wearing a quilt in 30 degrees Celsius. After various outings this morning, and before attending a 60th birthday celebration this evening, Softie could definitely do with a wash.

I'd asked the breast care nurse about the logistics of putting Softie in the wash. She correctly took this as a hint that I wanted a spare one.

"To be honest, Irene," she said, "I can't give you another one because we don't have that many of them."

"But don't worry," she added. "They dry really quickly."

Well, of course I could fling my Softie in a bowl of soapy water at the end of each sweaty day, ready for the morning. But I don't want to stand at the sink at midnight. I want to put it in the washing machine when it is time to put things in the washing machine, and I don't want to plan my washing loads around the times when I won't scare anyone away with my flat chest.

Thus I fumed this afternoon, putting on a quick load of washing. I'd figured that in this hot weather, Softie would be dry in time for the birthday party.

I put it out to dry in the warmest spot in the garden, and went to hide in my bedroom for a good old weep. (Won't go into that. Let's just say that I failed miserably at my cancer-free weekend. I suppose it's anxiety about tomorrow's appointment with the oncologist, which has been looming for weeks.)

I hadn't anticipated the sudden thunderstorm, sending Softie back to Start in terms of drying out. It would have to be either Damp Chest, or Flat Chest, or Improvised Chest.

So here was a convenient target for my anger.

For heaven's sake, I thought (well, I actually thought a different set of words, but I don't know whether my children read this blog so I am paraphrasing here). I've spared the NHS a day-long operation to create a fancy new breast, which my surgeon kept assuring me I am entitled to. And that's not counting the months of spared follow-up appointments to beautify it, tweaking a new nipple in place, tattooing it in the right colour...

By declining such handiwork, I am saving the NHS thousands and thousands of pounds. In return, couldn't they just spare me another little fluff-filled fabric pouch, so that I don't have to scramble around for a solution when their singular offering is rained out of action?

Of course my anger is not really about the Softie.

It is really about my lack of control, about this unfamiliar person I have become, someone who is vulnerable and fragile. It is distress about not being able to enjoy the gradual return of my physical strength, and about having to accept that I am nowhere near the capable, multi-tasking, fit, strong woman I was a mere four months ago.

In the end, I went for the Improvised Chest solution. It took the shape of a cut-off children's sock filled with (what else) Brain Fluff.

When Pig heard about Sock Bra, he was rather alarmed.

"Oh no!" he said. "Be careful! You don't want a sock to fall out of your dress!"

Being a helpful sort of pig of more or less the right size, he added: "I volunteer!" But in the end, his owner and I decided that a pig falling out of your dress was not much better than a sock, and in any case, the sock was safely pinned down.

So here is my alternative to the all-singing, all-dancing multi-thousand pound reconstructive surgery solution that I was offered on the NHS.

Under my dress, would you be able to tell the difference?

Clearly, I could solve the NHS financial crisis with a basketful of old socks. Financial managers, please form an orderly queue.

One worry remains, though... Is my top half now in danger of reeking of smelly socks?