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Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn’t Make Me a Better Person, An Excerpt, Part 1

I am getting very excited about my new book which will be coming very soon.  (Thank you for your patience). You can read a little bit about it here. As we wait for the official release, I thought this might be the perfect time to share an excerpt. So…

The following is from my book’s introduction. I’ll break it down into two posts. Here’s part one. Can’t wait to hear what you think!

Introduction, Part 1

Many body parts come in pairs and are actually far more vital to our function and well-being than breasts. When you think about it, eyes, ears, arms, legs and other body part pairs are way more important to quality of life and our ability to live and move around. But it’s breasts American society is obsessed with. Women go to great lengths to make them appear bigger and sometimes smaller. We wear uncomfortable bras, some with wires that pinch and others with cumbersome push-up pads. We buy creams, ointments and various exercise contraptions to enhance our silhouettes. We worry that our breasts are too big, too small or too saggy. Many of us undergo surgeries to make our breasts bigger or sometimes smaller. From the moment puberty hits, breasts are either powerful assets to display and flaunt, or body parts we’d rather conceal and cover up.

I discovered at an early age what powerful components of female anatomy breasts are. One of my earliest recollections of childhood is running around the house my family lived in on Central Avenue North on hot summer nights wearing only my underwear, the bottom half of course. We lived on Central Avenue North for the first half of my childhood and for the second half, we moved to the other end of town, same street except Central Avenue South. The upstairs bedroom I shared with one of my sisters in that creaky, old house we rented was incredibly hot in the summer and likewise drafty and cold in the winter. On hot, humid summer evenings I ran around minimally clothed feeling totally uninhibited and carefree, concerned only about staying cool and comfortable. Then suddenly I reached a certain age when running around in only my underwear became unacceptable. Budding breasts were undoubtedly the reason for the unstated, but nonetheless explicitly known new restrictions. Modesty and being proper were suddenly more important than comfort and freedom.

A bit later when I was in fourth grade, one of my classmates abruptly and unexpectedly hit puberty and suddenly, overnight it seemed to the rest of us, she had breasts, and substantially sized ones at that. Immediately, she became someone of mystery and intrigue to those of us who had yet to blossom. With breasts she was someone to be in awe of and the rest of us tried to look inconspicuous with our stares and sideways glances. Sadly, I remember some girls treating her badly, teasing with mean, crude remarks sometimes directly to her face, but more often behind her back. And the boys definitely noticed, especially older ones waiting to prey on inexperienced and vulnerable new targets. Yes, even at such tender, young ages we were all well aware of the almost mystical power of breasts. The girls eagerly waited for, but also dreaded the inevitable transformation of our bodies, and the boys, well, they just acted like boys and waited for their own transformations as well…

Part 2 coming in my next post. 

When did you first become aware of the ‘mystical power’ of breasts?

Do you (regardless if you’re a man or a woman) remember your own “transformation”, in other words, when you hit puberty?

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Cancer Was Not a Gift

21 thoughts to “Cancer Was Not a Gift & It Didn’t Make Me a Better Person, An Excerpt, Part 1”

  1. I would not buy this book & you want to know why? Because you are invalidating the opinions of other cancer sufferers who DO consider their cancer as having been a gift to them & who DO consider their cancer as having made them a better person. To me the title of your book amounts to bullying another cancer victims & I don’t like that. I am sorry you picked that title as I’m sure your book has many good points to make.

    1. Andrea, I fully realize my book will not be for everyone, but I think you are missing the whole point of what a memoir is – the author’s story. I am not implying anyone else needs to agree with me and I certainly don’t feel I am bullying anyone or invalidating someone else’s experience by sharing mine. I would never do that and in fact, if you follow my blog, you would know I always welcome differing viewpoints. Thank you for sharing yours.

  2. Nancy, I remember clearly when I hit puberty because I was really young. I was 9 when my breasts started showing and 11 when I got the “monthly thing.” I developed really young in general (got all my adult teeth by the age of 7). I sometimes wonder if this is one reason I got breast cancer at such a young age.

    I was embarrassed of my breasts for some time because they represented sex and I was too young to deal with such burden. I was 14 when I realized how “lucky” I was to have them, around the same time I started liking boys (haha!).

    I am excited about your book. I wonder how many people feel like they need to “learn something” from cancer because they feel pressured by society and it is what is expected of them? I hope your book allows those patients to reach a level of freedom. It’s OK not to give any credit to cancer. I certainly don’t!

    1. Rebecca, I was 11 when “womanhood arrived” too. Remember it all so clearly. Puberty is definitely a big milestone, so much change to try to handle. There’s no one reason why a person gets cancer, but I can understand why you might think your early development played a role. And embarrassment, well, that just goes along with puberty I guess. I am really weary of that notion we should learn from cancer. Maybe we do. Maybe we don’t. If we do, cancer needn’t get any credit, that’s for sure. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I was a very late bloomer. I didn’t start getting breasts until I was 12/13 years old. It was really embarrassing to be one of the last ones to get them. I used to stand in front of the training bras in the department store and cry and beg my mother to buy them for me. But she said I had nothing to fill them with. It was awful.
    I’m looking forward to reading your book. For me, the title could not be more perfect. I don’t think cancer was a gift and I’m not a better person. I’m not worse. Well, maybe in some ways I am. But I don’t want to get into that right now. Anyway, congratulations!

    1. Carrie, It doesn’t matter if you’re an early bloomer, late bloomer or ‘right on time’ bloomer. Puberty is a tough time, or can be. I must say your mom’s comment was rather blunt. Thank you for being interested in reading my book and I’m glad you like the title. I know it, and the book, will not be for everyone. But this is okay and as it should be. Thank you for your kind words.

  4. 11 was my lucky number, too! My best friend had large breasts for middle school, and I, sadly, was flat as an ironing board. Wow did we get different attention at the USAF NCO base swimming pool! During the school year I stuffed my bra with tissues, socks, pantyhose – OMG! What I wouldn’t give to have those pert little breasts today.
    Nancy, I am so looking forward to reading your book. Like, Harry Potter-release- excited! I am choosing it for my bookgroup choice in February. Out of 8 women, 4 of us have 4 very different diagnosis of BC. Thank you thank you thank you. No gifts attributed to cancer, but serendipity to finding you. ✌️❤️Linda

    1. Linda, That must have been hard being compared to your best friend. I relate. Thank you for saying you are looking forward to reading my book. Let me know if you do decide to use it for your book group next year. Maybe you better read it first! Thanks so much for your support and kind words. They mean a lot.

  5. I was coerced to wear a training bra at nine or ten years old. I remember boys who traced shapes on our backs while chanting “round turtles, square turtles, snapping turtles”. I was the first girl who snapped, I started menstruating at ten and a half and did not know why I was bleeding “down there”. The equation of early menstruation, first child born when I was 36, and late onset of menopause added up to ER+ DCIS.

    1. Joyce, It must have been scary for you to not know what was happening “down there”. How awful. At least I had two older sisters and sort of knew what to expect. But only sort of. And yes, those three things you mentioned may have added to your risk, but some things are out of our control. Thank you for sharing.

  6. I had small breasts. I loved that after each of my kids, they were a little bigger each time. I remember when my surgeon said there was no choice except mastectomy, my reaction was, “It took me three kids to get this size and now you want to cut them off!”
    Ended up, I only lost one, but even with reconstruction, I miss that I had a “matched set” before cancer.
    Looking forward to your book. You speak for many of us that have or have had cancer.

    1. Elizabeth, I loved that mine got a little bigger after each of my kids too. And yes, missing that matched set, totally get that. Cancer steals a lot from us, that’s for sure. Thank you for sharing and thank you for saying you are looking forward to my book. I am humbled my your words.

  7. Hi Nancy,

    I loved the excerpt, and I know your book will be fabulous. I just have that feeling…

    I was a late bloomer, beginning to menstruate at a bit over 13.5. Puberty was horrific for me. I hated when boys noticed my breast, even though I was attracted to boys. I was really shy about my body. That’s why I now blog everything about my body. LOL Or almost everything.

    1. Beth, It’s hard to be an early bloomer and it’s hard to be a late bloomer. I think many adolescents are pretty shy about their bodies, so much happens so fast, it’s like the mind has to catch up with the body or something, maturity-wise I mean. And yes, when the boys start noticing… I’m glad you share so candidly on your blog about body issues. It’s really helpful for everyone. Thank you for sharing and for saying you loved the excerpt.

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