Thursday, 5 November 2009

Does size really matter?

Bridget: I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it. Well, I meant it, but I was so stupid that I didn't mean what I meant... After all, it's only a diary. Everyone knows diaries are just... full of crap.
Mark Darcy: Yes, I know that. I was just buying you a new one.

I have bought a new diary. Well, Filofax innards for next year to be precise. It wasn’t as eventful as when Bridget got her new diary – running down a snowy road, in just her undies, to retrieve it off her attractive and charming boyfriend. Instead I just went into the shop and gave my money to a grumpy old chap, who was sadly more Dozy than Darcy. Though, I can admit that stripping off is now becoming much more of a habit – but at the hospital rather than outside W H Smith.

Yesterday the diary said: “Wash hair. Visit Oncologist.” Now this chemo and hair thing is just weird. I know I have talked about the prospect of losing it, and when it actually started dropping out that I bit the bullet and shaved it off. By now, just as I have hit the chemo halfway mark, I thought I would be totally bald – modelling the Shiny Egg Head look. But I don’t. Hold up; please do not get too excited. When I say I have hair I say it in the loosest, or should I say shortest, sense. It is sparse. Spiky. Probably just over a cm or so long. A bit like a little chick. No ... not one of those cute Easter chicks that you want to take home but one of those one day chicks which is a bit straggly and ugly looking. You know – like the ones which you don’t feel so bad about when they feed them to the Birds of Prey or the snakes at the zoo. Think Kiwi Head. I thought it could be growing again but I wasn’t really sure until I took a closer look today that I realised it truly is. Not only do I have a little tufty bit on the top, at the back, but I have a curl too. Honestly, just one, by my ear. I couldn’t believe it – I got really excited about it – just like the moment when I found the green pepper. Once again I had the urge to tell everyone.

Now before you say “Don’t get your hopes up” I can assure you that I haven’t. It is not uncommon for hair to grow back before the end of chemo but I have some way to go yet. I have just returned from the hospital, having had chemo number 4, and I know that next week, when the cocktail kicks in, that the hair could start dropping out again. If it doesn’t happen then, then it could happen when I start my new regime of chemo which commences in three weeks time. But it is a bit weird having to check my legs again ....

I have a bit of a reputation you know. OK, can you guys in the cheap seats quieten down please? I have a bit of thing for tottering off to work in bright colourful outfits, with matching shoes and baubles. What most of my colleagues don’t know is that what matches outside usually matches underneath. Oh don’t get me wrong – when I say most it doesn’t mean I make a habit of walking around the office flashing my underwear like a naughty schoolgirl in the boys' playground – well not every day (joke). What I mean is that I enjoy the topic of girly conversations of the pluses and negatives of thong vs. G-string, Bridget Big Panties vs. French knickers with my collegues. What do you mean you don’t have those kinds of conversation in your office? Hell, that’s what I go to work for.

So what do I do when I am not talking about pros and cons of underwear? Well, I work in PR. It is one of those jobs that unless you actually work in public relations nobody seems to know or understand what you do. I must admit it is not as easy to describe as other roles such as a lawyer, hairdresser or milk delivery person. I use to try and describe public relations by using the example of “The difference between a rat and a squirrel is that a squirrel has good PR”. However, I now use the “Marks and Spencer’s Boob” story instead. If you don’t remember it, it all hit off about 6 months ago when Marks and Spencer decided to charge a controversial surcharge of £2 for bras over a DD cup. Unfortunately good old M&S did not take into account what a storm in a teacup – or double D cup – that it was going to cause. Now, if M&S had any sense then they would have floated their idea via their PR people – who in turn would have said it was a definite “no no”. Or, their PR people would have heard about it and would have gone back to senior management and said “scrap it.” However, that didn’t happen and it went ahead - and what M&S hadn’t taken into account was that thousands of women across the country, who had been loyally purchasing their bras from them for years, did not want to pay a ‘boob tax’ surcharge.

Now that is the funny thing about PR – second guessing what customers or clients want or will accept – and what they certainly won’t. Yes, they will pay more for a bigger pasty, longer socks or a pint, rather than a half, but not for bigger bras. To the extent that they were prepared to set up a ‘Busts 4 Justice‘ campaign via Facebook which gathered the support of thousand of bigger-breasted ladies – of which a number of them even bought shares in M&S so they could storm the company’s Annual General Meeting. To date over 17,000 people have joined the FB Busts 4 Justice campaign.

The combination of pressure from the campaigners who attended the AGM, and the increasing media exposure, led Marksies to rethink its decision. Shortly after the outburst of negative publicity and complaints with regards to the increase in the price of DD+ bras they retracted it - and apologised with a gesture to those they had offended.  Through its PR people they issued a press release which said: “We’ve heard what our customers are telling us that they are unhappy with the pricing on our DD-plus bras and that basically we’ve boobed. So from Saturday May 9 no matter what size you buy, the price is going to be the same. We’re not going to cut the quality though – they’ll still be made to the same high standards so you get the best support on the high street. The chain is also offering 25% off the price of any bra in any size. The promotion will last until May 25.”

So that is what PR people do. They try to protect their organisations’ reputation, and if ... and when ... things do go tits up, they try to remedy it and make it better.

Prior to yesterday’s Oncology appointment I had a shower, where I washed ‘the prickles’, and then chose some appropriate underwear for my visit to see my Oncologist, the Oh-so-luv-ver-ley Dr O. Now, when I say appropriate I am not talking about a French fancy outfit for l’amour in the boudoir - the Agent Provocateur red and black lacy tie up corset with fishnet stockings have remained firmly in the drawer, honestly. No, I am talking about underwear that is fit to be seen in public. Nothing greying with dodgy tears or holes. The sort of thing that you wouldn’t feel embarrassed about if Your Auntie Gok raided your wardrobe and strung it up in your local high street.

My appointment was 10 to 2. I was called in to the waiting consultation room just after 5 past. Not bad. I waited a few minutes until a lady walked in and sat down. “Hi, I am Dr Gillies (not her real name) and I work with Dr O.” Honestly, I can SO do snotty when I want to. I can feel myself doing it. And I did it there and then. I just looked her up and down and glared at her as if she was something the cat had dragged in. Where was Dr O?! "So how is it going?" she asked. Fine, I said, looking over her shoulder to the door searching for illusive Dr O. "Does it hurt?", she continued. Well, actually it does, it was something I was going to mention. "That’s good" she said – "a sign that the chemo is kicking in". "Can I take a look?"  Yep, fine, I sighed, reluctantly realising that Dr O had stood me up. So she took a look. "I can’t find it – can you tell me where it is?" No, ‘cos I haven’t got a clue either. She look astonished.  "Well, there was something there as Dr O has said it was 6cm x 6cm." What?! My turn to do astonished.  I was told it was 4cm at the ultrasound. 4cm by something ... no-one told me what ... so I thought maybe 4cm x 2cm. It was very odd to be told that my tumour was in fact much much larger than I realised - and then promptly told that after only a few chemo sessions that it appears to have shrunk.  Not just shrunk ...  but shrunk pretty dramatically as she can’t feel it ... and nor can I.

I am also just glad I wore the decent matching underwear. Being a woman she probably would have noticed if it was grotty, more so than Dr O.  The lovely Dr O who still is "Oh-so-luv-ver-ley" but I am sulking out of principle.

After the Oncology appointment I went in to M&S to buy some supper. You see my Wednesday nights before chemo turn into Saturday nights. I have something nice to eat and a glass of wine or two, as I know I am going to have a few of days feeling a bit grotty, when I go off my food and am not allowed any alcohol, and besides I don’t feel like drinking anything other than bottled water. As always I eyed up the lingerie. The embroidered sets ... the silky combos... the lacy outfits ... but I can’t buy any. Well, I can physically – not surprisingly security aren't standing there saying "Sorry Loyal and Faithful Customer you have exceeded this year’s lingerie quota" - but it just is not really worth it as in a few months time I am not really sure what my bits are going to look like. If they do a mastectomy then they will probably look pretty much the same size wise – though one will be reconstructed. If they do a lumpectomy then they will be bit smaller, possibly quite a bit smaller, though by how much I am not sure. So the lingerie shopping is on hold for a bit. And that’s fine ‘cos at the end of the day I know the pretty bras and nice undies are just an extra luxury. The important thing is that the chemo cocktail appears to be hitting the tumour where it hurts. After all, it is the size of the lump - not the boob - that matters.

In the meantime, I need to decide whether I should wear that red and black tie up lacy corset to my next hospital appointment ... just to make the most of it whilst it still fits you understand.


  1. Brilliant, as ever! Glad to hear about the hair too, ever little bit of good news keeps you going, though I bet you never thought you'd be glad about having to shave your legs! Hope you're doing ok after your latest cocktail. You take care P. Love Deb x

  2. hi paula
    i am reading this in bed in hospital after my masty thingy and you still make me laugh, take care. lorraine x

  3. What the flip. I'd go for the corset.

    A friend of mine has a father who is a sculpter. A woman was having a mastectomy, and so she threw a huge party (Booby Bash), and hired the sculpter to come and make a cast of her chest. She has a sculpture of her naked bosom in her living room. Yeah. I would so not do that, but I thought it was cool that someone would.

    That's very exiting news about your hair. I have enough to style and blowdry, and believe me, I don't think that I will ever take that part of routine for granted ever again.

  4. Hey P... told you before...little black dress for any cocktail do and yep if you are going to meet nice men then the corset is a definite go girl!! As always you have made me happy and sad all at the same time...and dont ever forget that the mafia all love you and miss you loads!! Jane XXXXX

  5. wear it OH YES definately WEAR the red and black lace up stuff.
    it cant be much fun been a oncologist and it would put the mockers on any of his nurses making a play.

    wear it with the little red shoes and need a hand unfastening it all..........

    too much exitment for an older man like me.

    pete skipper


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