Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Getting abreast of the matter

C'MON LADIES, don't be shy. Let's get it all out in the open and talk about our boobs.

Of course there are 101 things you can call them. Technically, I suppose they are breasts. Most often in Derry (if we are being polite) we call them boobs, but whether you refer to yours as whazzers, bazoongas, doobies or fun-bags, the truth is all of ladies have them and it's about time we started treating them with a little respect.
From our early teens (give or take depending on Mother Nature) our boobs become lifelong companions and define many of us as women.
Every teenage girl or woman will be able to recall her own rite of passage experience where she was taken up the town by her mother or other suitable female relative to buy her first bra.
I still remember my own as if it were yesterday. I was 12 when my mammy took me to Dunnes and bought a very practical and respectable looking white bra. There were no lacy starter teen bras in my day. Nope, my first bra was itchy as hell which served only to make my more self conscious of my journey into womanhood.
However that was nothing compared to the moment of cringing embarrassment when we ran into my aunt and her friend after leaving Dunnes and my mother announced they could now call me Dolly Parton.
As I journeyed through my teenage years I became fond of my boobs, and my bras and managed to get a couple of nice lacy numbers from time to time.
Developing the attitude of 'If you've got it flaunt it', I liked to dress to low cut tops on nights out because let's face it, no one was going to be overly impressed with my thunder thighs and boulder butt. These bad boys were as good as it was going to get.
Into adulthood, well the relationship has at times been fraught. Pregnancy was not a pleasant experience for my bossoms. First they grew, and then they grew, and then they grew some more. By the end of the nine months I was wearing an E cup and feeling the strain. As I made the choice to bottle feed and not breast feed I had endure the added 'joy' of stuffing my bra with cabbage fresh from the fridge until the swelling went away. (The smell was delightful).
And, of course, when the swelling did go away I was left with breasts which require a degree of industrial support to keep them from hitting my knees. Of course, I'm still fond of them. My son indeed loves them and uses them as his personal comforter sticking his hand down my top whenever he is tired.
By this stage I realise you are probably reading this and thinking to yourself "Yer wan at the 'Journal' has finally lost the plot. Imagine talking about your boobs in a family paper." or screaming "Too much information" at the page- but it's about time we got our boobs out in the open (metaphorically speaking).
This month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. According to the Cancer Research 1000 women in Northern Ireland will be diagnosed with breast cancer.
Think about that for a while. That could be your mammy, your sister, your auntie, the wee woman who sold you your 'Journal' this morning or indeed, to coin a phrase, it could be you.
The good news is that more and more women are surviving breast cancer. The Women of Hope, who released their calendar this week are prime examples of this, but as with all cancers early detection is vital.
So we need to stop being embarrassed by our boobs and realise that as well as filling our bras, attracting the opposite sex and feeding our babies they are a part of us which require a certain degree of care and attention. We can't just ignore them and hope they behave themselves.
Yes, we might feel a little stupid standing groping ourselves to carry out the monthly checks. Some of us might even be scared in case we find a lump- and let's face it, boobs can be lumpy things- most of us will have had a scare at some stage. In the majority of cases abnormalities turn out to be nothing to worry about, however it's not worth taking a risk with your boobs or your life.
So when you are done reading this column this week get your boobs out and give them a good feel. It might just save your life.
(I would however recommend you go home first. A breast check in the work tearoom might not go down the best, not matter how liberal your employer.)

A simple check
Follow the five point code:

* know what is normal for you
* look at and feel your breasts
* know what changes to look for
* report any changes without delay
* go for breast screening if you are 50 or over

Check your breasts in a way that's comfortable for you, perhaps in the bath or shower.
Changes to look out for:
* changes in the size, shape or feel of your breasts
* a new lump or thickening in one breast or armpit
* puckering, dimpling or redness of the skin
* changes in the position of the nipple or nipple discharge
* new pain or discomfort that is only on one side.

There may be many reasons for the change other than breast cancer. But report anything unusual to your doctor straight away.

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