Warning: This May Challenge Your Personal Comfort Level. And That's OK.

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Cancer Vixen (a.k.a. Marisa Acocella Marchetto), a fellow blogger here on MyBreastCancerNetwork.com recently wrote a post that left some of you quite uncomfortable. It’s a series of colorful drawings, with captions, depicting one of the potential side effects of tamoxifen: vaginal dryness. It’s extremely well done, as are all of Marisa’s posts; she is, after all, a talented author/artist of some renown. But this particular post drew flak for its graphic (in more ways than one) depiction of something many of us live with, but feel uncomfortable discussing: sex after cancer.

    I read Marisa’s post, and giggled. And thought, yeah, she’s got THAT right. Just to go on record, I’m 54 years old, a practicing Catholic, have lived in New England all but three years of my life, went to a liberal Ivy League college, have always voted Democrat, and consider myself left-of-center politically. Personally, Marisa’s post didn’t offend me. But another part of me was thinking, gosh, I wonder how other women feel, reading this post?
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    I realize that there are plenty of older readers on this site who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s, readers whose personalities were formed well before the psychedelic ’60s and the “make love, not war” ’70s and the feel-good ’80s. And readers whose religious beliefs might make them very uncomfortable seeing Marisa’s post.

    And I’m one of those women who worries constantly about how everyone around me feels. (Will it bother my co-workers if I open the window to let some fresh air in? Should I let the lady behind me in the shopping line, the one with two whining toddlers, cut in front of me?) So I was worried enough about Marisa’s post to email our producer on this site and mention my concerns. Shortly thereafter, a message was added above the post: “Advisory: This week's Cancer Vixen comic strip post deals with sensitive sexual issues in a way that some readers may find graphic.” Great solution: caveat emptor in blog-land.

    With that in mind, I’d like to share with you a site I discovered, with the warning that it might not be for all of you. The Booby Wall is “a place for women to celebrate, commemorate, participate… and show their breast some TLC.” TLC, in this case, stands for “Touch, Look, Check,” a breast cancer early-detection initiative of Rethink Breast Cancer, a Canadian charity aimed at women under 50 “concerned about and affected by breast cancer.” Bottom line: the point of the Booby Wall is to remind us to check our breasts for changes. And that’s a message no one can quibble with.

    The photos on the wall are revealing, for sure: lots and lots of cleavage, both young and older; many bare breasts, most apparently healthy; some mastectomies, some lumpectomy scars… Hundreds of women have chosen to share photos of their breasts—and ONLY their breasts, nothing more—along with a personal message. “Keep fighting the fight!!! Kim,” and “Never forget to check: TLC. Heather,” and, more poignantly, “Fighting the battle now! Stephanie.”

  • As I scrolled along the wall, I was powerfully affected once more by the knowledge that we’re all in this together. ALL women, not just us survivors. Breast cancer can strike any woman, at any time. Nothing you do—no diet, no lifestyle, no amount of careful checking—can protect you 100% from breast cancer. But early detection can help your odds of being a survivor, rather than a tragic statistic. And if Booby Wall does nothing else but remind you AGAIN to pay attention to your breasts, to call the doctor when you FIRST feel a lump, to take breast health seriously… then it’s done its job.
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    I’m proud of this site, MyBreastCancerNetwork.com, for being a resource for women (and men) everywhere. For people from all backgrounds, of all ages, with comfort levels surrounding personal issues that range from extreme discomfort to “let it all hang out.” If a certain post or link has the potential to go beyond your comfort zone, please, don’t read it or click on it—unless you want to push your personal envelope.

    Every post we publish won’t please every reader every time. But I guarantee you—and I know this from the emails and comments I receive—EVERY post helps some reader, somewhere. And that, to me, makes every post worthwhile.
Published On: March 30, 2008