After you get done crying, it’s always a good idea to poke fun at the thing that could kill you. And if it doesn’t kill you, it’s going to leave you bald and eyebrowless for a good chunk of time. Hysterical. Of course, the real fun begins when you get your breasts chopped off.
Whooo! Good times.
Dr. Wendy S. Harpham, who is a long-term cancer survivor, a speaker at the 2009 Young Survival Coalition’s Conference for Young Women Affected by Breast Cancer and a very funny woman, says that “Making fun of things that scare us can be a healthy way to regain a sense of control.”
Well, there are few things more scary than cancer — except maybe railroad crossings. Personal poverty is pretty frightening, too. And let’s not forget spiders. Well, spiders that are above me, anyhow, because they have a tendency to fall on my head when I try to grab them. Spiders on the floor are not that scary because they are squishable. Except for those little jumpy ones that I am sure are filled with poisonous venom. Anyway, of the all-time scary things, breast cancer is totally in my top five.
So, I was celebrating two years of “no evidence of disease,” which is this really nifty idea that doctors can’t SEE that you have any breast cancer so they are totally going to roll with it and say that you don’t have cancer until something happens that should make them think maybe the miserable bastard is back then you are going to get a lot of tests and, in most cases, wait around for days for results, some of which are good, some of which are bad and many of which are inconclusive (which doesn’t help a damn bit to know), or you might even get the “well, that spot may very well have been on your liver all along but we just never saw it before, so go live life until it gets worse and then we’ll decide what it is,” and in the meantime, you are going to cling to and celebrate every frickin’ anniversary of being disease-free because it’s all you’ve got.
In October 2008, I celebrated two years with a little ol’ party. Two years is a good milestone. Recurrence rates start to drop off then. Furthermore, I had just had my last reconstructive surgery (for years to come) and was ready to officially declare that I was moving on from cancerland. I had been living there for two years, seven months and eight days, but who’s counting?
Andy, who I had only recently met, was so smitten by my gracefulness and spontaneity, he decided to throw a party for me. He asked me if I wanted a special cake and I said yes! I wanted a boob cake with bandages on the nipples.
It’s important to note here that I am probably the least graceful person on the planet and on many occasions, I think my spontaneity has nearly killed the poor man, who takes planning to an “extreme sports” level. Furthermore, at the time of my party, I was still sporting bandages on my fresh, skin-grafted nipples.
I thought the idea of a bandaged boob cake was hilarious.
So did he.
(And I would bet money that every one of my approximately 983 breast cancer survivor friends under the age of 40 would think it was hilarious, too. And probably a few hundred over 40, too.)
He started researching bakeries who would craft such a creation. He asked around, made some phone calls and found one that did some cheeky cakes for special purposes, such as bachelor and bachelorette parties.
He called, explained the idea and was able to place the order.
A few days later, just about 48 hours before the party (and around the time the bakery was probably sticking the cake in the oven), the owner called. The owner had just gotten wind of this order and had decided he (or she, I can’t remember which) wouldn’t fill it because “it was offensive to breast cancer survivors.”
Andy patiently explained I was a survivor. The owner said it was a terrible idea. Andy explained it was MY idea. The owner refused and suggested they make a pink ribbon cake instead. Andy explained I really hated pink ribbons and that I would probably throw a pink ribbon cake in his face if he showed up with that. The word offensive came up a lot. They reached an impasse.
Andy explained the situation to me, then took cover.
I was disgusted and horrified. I went on a rant that included words like, “STRIPPERS AT BACHELOR PARTIES AREN’T OFFENSIVE BUT A NIPPLE-LESS CAKE FOR SOMEONE CELEBRATING BREAST CANCER SURVIVORSHIP IS???” and “SURE, IT’S OK TO GLORIFY BOOBS FOR MEN GETTING MARRIED, BUT IT’S NOT OK TO MAKE FUN OF CANCER THAT TOOK MY BOOBS?!?!?!” and “YOU CALL THEM BACK AND TELL THEM I THINK BREAST CANCER IS OFFENSIVE!!”
There were many capital letters in that conversation.
However, I quickly returned to the land of upper and lowercase sentences. I was a woman on a mission. I was going to have a boob cake, hypocritical bakery be damned.
I knew of the existence of a certain type of store that sold breast-shaped cake pans (along with certain marital aids which, of course, I would never buy unless I were married), so I sent him on something of a wild goose chase to buy a pan. It turns out during the second half of October 2008, there was a shortage of breast-shaped cake pans in the greater Indianapolis area. It ranked right up there with the1973 gas crisis and the great canned pumpkin shortage of Thanksgiving 2009.
After visiting and calling every one of these stores, he finally found one. (He even called one store, confirmed they had it, drove there, and they had sold it before he showed up. That’s how serious this breast-shaped cake pan crisis was.)
I got to baking. And in a testament to “everything happens for a reason,” it was probably the easiest cake I have ever created and decorated. It came together quickly and beautifully.
My little girl, who is a budding cake decorator, insisted that I add a pink ribbon somewhere or people wouldn’t know it was for a breast cancer survivor. I kept telling her that the bandages were a dead give-away as to what this cake was about and let’s not forget these people were coming to a party to celebrate my breast cancer survivorship. She wouldn’t budge.
So, I ended up with a pink ribbon anyhow. But it was a belly button ring (also her suggestion. I have to stop letting her watch television). It was totally “me.”
And that’s how the “WHADDYA MEAN BAND-AIDS IN PLACE OF NIPPLES ON A BOOB CAKE IS OFFENSIVE????” cake came to be.
You may be shocked to learn I didn’t exactly think through having a boob cake at a family-oriented party. You see, my now 8-year-old daughter has lived with breast cancer as far back as she has memories. This is de rigueur for her. She not only can explain, in detail, what is involved in breast reconstruction, I’m pretty sure she knows the brand name of my implants and has the home phone numbers of my surgeons. She calls them late at night when she can’t sleep to ask them about the finer points of revision surgeries.
I tend to forget not all small children have her knowledge and interest level on the subject.
And I also had no idea that boys ages 10-13 years old faint of embarrassment at the mere suggestion of breasts. (I have since heard that two small hills positioned next to each other is enough to send boys this age into nervous fits of laughter.) The cake practically killed my nephew and the sons of some friends. It was clearly so traumatizing to them that I felt the need to apologize. I think their mothers thought it was a good experience – something that would delay their seeking the real thing just that much longer. (If I showed them my post-mastectomy photos, they may all become priests.)
I share this last bit of information because I am completely willing and able to make any local survivor her very own bandaged boob cake, but you might want to consider your audience before I go to the trouble.
A friendly little reminder
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