Dec 1, 2015

Nice Knockers: Dome Nature


One year, one psychologist appointment, one mammogram, one sonogram, one MRI, one genetic test, one genetic counselor meeting, and five doctors appointments later, I am finally given permission to do my second mastectomy in France. Considered purely preventative (in the sense that I am currently cancer-free), it took a lot of convincing the French powers that be that I am not insane, nor mutilating my body on a whim. Hallelujah!

At doctor appointment number five (my final appointment before the pre-surgery blood draws and meeting with the anesthesiologist) I tell some interns who are in the room with me and my plastic surgeon that I wanted to have both sides done at the same time last year, and pushed really hard for it, but wasn't allowed to.

My doctor says, "But you understand why we do it this way, right?"

"Sure I do. Because you're French." I don't mean it as an insult, or a joke, though I supposed it sounds like it could be either.

Luckily, my doctor laughs. "No, we're not that classic French generation that loves bureaucracy and existential suffering." Pause. "That was the previous generation." That also sounds both like an insult and a joke. I like it.

He says, "It's because we wanted to concentrate on the breast with cancer. If we had had to go back in to the cancer-breast for any reason once we had more results from the post-operation testing, it would have been a real shame if we couldn't do it because there was some complication from the preventative mastectomy that had been done on the good side. We might have lost time to treat you."

Well, fine. That does sound rather reasonable, though whenever I remember that I had to do a lumpectomy on my so-called "good" side because of "worrisome" calcium deposits, I'm not sure it really makes all that much sense. But, I guess the end result will be the same, so I'm going to stop griping about it.

My surgery is on Monday Nov 16th, about as close to one year after my first mastectomy (on Monday Nov 17th) as it could be. On the Friday just before-hand, I am at a nude drawing class. For clarification: I am clothed, drawing nude models, as opposed to being nude while drawing.

It pops through my mind every once in a while, "Look at those natural breasts! Mine will never look like that again!" Then again, the model is in her twenties, and I can assure you that even if I weren't getting mastectomies and implants, my breasts would never look like that again, anyway.

As it is, the surgeon tells me that he is not only going to do my left (aka "good") breast, he's also going to re-do my right breast, because the implant is not using up all the skin I have. If there's one thing we all agree on, especially my plastic surgeon, and my husband, it's that it's a shame to have a fake boob and still have it look a little saggy. So he tells me he's going to put in a "more voluminous" model.
At this point, I think my eyes grow wide in shock, and he quickly reassures me, "Don't worry! I'm not going to have you come out looking like some American bimbo...." (here he mimes big porno-boobs) "....from....um California."
"Los Angeles, you mean," I firmly (and loyally) correct him. "I want to look like a sporty, natural girl from San Francisco. Not like a bimbo from Los Angeles." Screw political correctness here -- I am trying to get my boobs right, and I'm happy my French doctor and I have enough of the same cultural references that we can be on the same page.
I think. I start to agonize a bit about this after my meeting with him. How do I know how big he will make them? Is this the right decision? Will I hate them? Argh! I go back and forth in my head till finally one day, I mention my concerns to one of my best friends, and she replies, "That's kind of like nature, isn't it? You don't really know what you're going to get. And you don't really have any control over it. And sometimes they're bigger or smaller than you'd like." For some reason, this absolutely makes me feel better about it all. Que sera, sera!
And now, here I am post-surgery. My knockers are, well, whatever size they end up once they're fully healed. I was completely flat-chested till I was 16 years old and used to complain I was too flat. Then I went off to college and complained they got too big. When I had babies and started nursing, they got bigger yet, and, yes, I complained. Then, all the fat got sucked out of them by the babies, and I got older, and they got small again and old looking, and I probably complained then, too. Now, they're somewhere in between flat and enormous, and unnaturally perky, but as long as they remain cancer-free, I don't plan to complain about them anymore.
One nice thing is that, as I see it, I am now, officially, about 5% French. I mean, the rest of me may be American born and bred, but my breasts are 100% français. I may not be able to get citizenship here, but you can't deny me that: They even have their own identification cards to prove it (two cards: one for each breast). I'm not sure if Americans are given ID cards for their fake boobs, but here in France, it's de rigueur. I ask why, and it has something to do with having the make and model in case there's ever a problem with them, but that doesn't exactly explain why they specifically tell me I'm supposed to have the cards on me at all times. Is this information going to be helpful in a medical emergency? I just don't see how. (Spoiler alert: I don't carry them with me. So if you ever hear a police report about a woman named Kazz Regelman with unidentified breasts, you'll know it's me.)
You may (or may not) have noticed that the date of my surgery is just three days after the big terrorist attack in Paris. Yes, that makes it all extra weird, and I'm not just talking about the security around the hospital. Looking down from my fifth floor (4ème étage in French) window, Paris seems like it usually does -- peaceful, a little gray, filled with old architecture. But out there, I know the ambiance is weird, at the moment, as if the city were a person and you could sense her mood. Suddenly, gray does not seem wintery; it seems sad.

At the hospital, they occasionally offer painting class for patients (current and on-going). I'm the only one who attends in my actual hospital robes, with tubes still attached, but even then I think I've got it easy. Most of the other women -- several of them younger than I am -- have much more serious cancers they are dealing with, along with the chemo and radiation treatments. It's a lovely idea for a class, and I can actually see over the couple hours what a great emotional release it is for some of the more stressed women. One woman, a mother of  young children, comes in with a fever caused by her chemo, shaking and feeling awful. But, she says, "I never get a break like this, so I wasn't going to miss it." By the end of the class, she is smiling and laughing and looks up at one point, surprised, "I forgot I was sick! I don't even feel the chills anymore!" Several of the women cry tears of joy. Clearly, this idea is pure genius. Mostly, the women work on large-format abstracts that let them play and express themselves with color and shape.

I, however, am seated across from the window, staring at a Parisian roofline, which I love. So I paint that instead. The brushes are crap, I'm using gouache instead of oil, and we don't have much time. But I still enjoy it immensely. It sure beats sitting in my hospital room for a couple hours scrunched up on an uncomfortable bed, bored.

And while we're gently veering off the topic of my nice French knockers into Parisian architecture, the topic of Parisian architecture veers us back to nice French knockers.


There are some beauties, especially on those grand old doors you find in the Marais. The doors and knockers are hundreds of years old, yet they withstand the test of time and look absolutely beautiful -- much like my new breasts will.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Cancer who?
Can certainly see why I'm happy with my new French knockers and with the prospect of remaining cancer-free!


Dome Nature is a raw goats' milk cheese that comes from anywhere there are goats and people who wish to form their cheese into cute little paperweight-sized and -shaped domes. It can come nature (plain) or cendrée (ashed), with varying levels of mold.

Regardless of the color on the outside, the interior is white and creamy. As an aged cheese, it is a bit salty and fruity, but still not too strong, unless you get a super-aged one, like I do, and then it's pretty strong indeed. Regardless of the fact that some are ashed, some are black not from ash, but from mold. They're nature, but older, with more of the dusty, dry white and black mold. In the photo above, the one that's ashed is the super-dark one in the lower right corner. The others are black from mold, not ash, and even on the plainer, younger ones, you can see the first hints of black mixing in with the white.


When we're talking about a fine pair of French knockers, I just can't help but find a nice breast-shaped dome. I like that it can be young, fresh, and smooth, or old, wrinkly, and a bit shrunken. Very breast-like indeed.

The cheese I buy is "dome nature" (plain, natural dome) whereas my breasts no longer are. But that's OK with me, since it reduces my chances of future breast cancer down to next to nothing. With that happy thought, here's one last look at a pair of fabulous French knockers.


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