January 20, 2012 § 3 Comments
I’ve changed my mind. Those of you still keeping up with the saga that is the rebuilding of my breasts are probably rolling your eyes in weary desperation. I know. I’m sorry. I won’t go through the whys and wherefores behind this change of mind. Suffice to say, I was sent away to think again, talked to more people, including people who actually know something (i.e. surgeons, a clinical psychologist who works in the plastic surgery team, as well as more people who have had the operation). I even got to feel someone’s implant (thank you). Anyway, there we are. Some time towards the end of February, I’ll have new boobs made from, well, myself.
During a visit to Tate Modern this week, I came across this picture by the Russian painter and designer, Natalya Goncharova. It shows three young women. OK, so the “young” bit doesn’t really work, but I have felt a bit like this during the decision making process – I’m in the middle, looking first to one possible version of myself, then the other way, to another.
The process of making this decision has seemed tortuous. In part, I think it’s because, given everything else that’s happened, it seems a bit trivial. Does it really matter how my new breasts are constructed so long as I can steer clear of any future cancer? Then there’s the whole problem of making decisions about things you can only know so much about. I can do all the research in the world but in the end, none of it really tells me how it will be for me.
It’s tempting to think this is a situation unique to me, that everyone else has confidence in the future and is not worrying day to day what will happen next. And, to some extent that is true. It’s a matter of survival. We can’t be getting up every morning, worrying about what will happen in the next few hours, days, weeks. If we think about it, we know horrible things are all around us, waiting to jump in and shake up our peace of mind. It’s just that mostly – and thank goodness – we don’t examine all those possibilities, all the time. In making a more long term decision regarding my reconstruction – the general feeling seems to be more pain now for more gain later – I am accepting that there may well be a future which may not involve worrying every day about, well, the future.
Also at Tate Modern, I looked at Bridget Riley’s work, under the heading, State of Flux, and, in my rather vague way, was reminded of some of this. The Tate says that, “her work focuses on the energetic encounter between stability and instability in pictorial forms. While her paintings are abstract, they are intimately concerned with how we look at the world.” Bridget Riley has described her use of colour as close “to our experience of the real world. Unstable and incalculable, it is also rich and comforting”. I suspect cancer, and probably other illnesses too, leave everyone affected forever a bit less stable. The hope has to be that the rich and comforting bits are still there somewhere – in the love of family, the support of friends, the care of amazing medical folk, the existence of socialised medicine, the possibility of using other bits of myself to rebuild me, the help of people I’ve never met before but who have been through this themselves and are prepared to share that experience with me. All that is pretty rich and comforting.
And here’s a Bridget Riley that illustrates all that. You should see it for yourself though.