I’m back, after an invigorating trip to Boston, Montreal and Toronto. There’s plenty to process as I settle.
There’s also another event to prepare for: ‘Self-portrait without Breasts’ at Exeter University on 27 November, by kind invitation of Andy Brown (Director of Creative Writing) for Exeter University’s Medical Humanities Theme and the new Humanities and Social Science Research Strategy.
The panel discussion after my reading should be very lively, with Professor Janet Reibstein (Department of Psychology, University of Exeter, author of Staying Alive: A Family Memoir), Dr James Mackay (UCL, the only accredited UK Consultant Medical Oncologist specialising in clinical cancer genetics) and Dr Corinna Wagner (Department of English, Exeter, author of Pathological Bodies: Medicine and Politics). There will be audience Q&A. After that, there will be a wine reception at 8pm in the University’s new Forum, alongside an exhibition of Laura Stevens’ photographs.
In November 2007, nearly five years ago, and almost a year post-op, I was still thinking about whether or not to get some tattoos on my new chest. I never did, in the end, and I don’t think I ever will. The open space of my scarred and nippleless flat chest felt then, and still feels, spacious and clear. It’s my blank sheet of paper, my whiteboard. Besides, the skin has its own marks, which can be read. I was scared of the discomfort of the tattooing process too – that may seem odd, but I think my own phantom sensations and numbness were quite enough to deal with.
I did collage one of the ‘after’ plaster-casts, though, a couple of years ago, and I’m thinking of collaging or doodling on another. Just for the fun of writing on my own body, or a representation of it.
In the summer, when I moved my study, I finally got around to hanging the ‘before’ casts and the ‘after’ casts on my new study wall. When I arrived home from Toronto on Monday, it struck me all over again, with my jetlagged consciousness, how each of us has different versions of ourselves. Mine are more visible, tangible, that is all.