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My Secret

by Sheree Kirby

My husband, Dan, was a breast man. I like to say "was" because it makes me feel better -- as though he'd grown out of it long before I lost both of mine. Well, technically, I didn't lose both to cancer. The other one was sacrificed for the sake of my sanity.

I made the decision against the advice of my oncologist who claimed that I would reduce my chances of a recurrence only slightly. But she didn't know me. I am the type who loses sleep over the prospect of forgetting the snack for my daughter's Brownie troop. The possibility of renegade cells nesting in any remaining breast tissue would have surely short-circuited my gray matter.

The bottom line is that the moment I learned that my chances of being alive in five years had been reduced by fifteen percent, my gut shouted but one slogan: BE AGGRESSIVE!

Four years later, I'm still certain that the choice was right for me. My reconstructed breasts look decent, especially when clothed. And, tucked under layers of chest muscles as they are, my saline implants are remarkably resistant to the effects of gravity.

Yet, in the four years since my surgery, I have had moments of what I've come to think of as "sadinsec" -- a unique blend of sadness and insecurity. There are times, for example, when my husband's eyes linger a bit too long on the décolletage of a younger, blonder, bouncier woman, and well…

It's not as bad as it used to be. In the early days, I experienced my most severe bouts of sadinsec after the arrival of the Victoria's Secret catalog. A wiser woman would have thought to toss it into the recycle bin before her husband came home from work. But the guiltiest part of me felt that the least I could do was to allow Dan to console himself with photos of nameless models in lacy brassieres.

So I, in my infinite bigness, decided to place the catalog in the bathroom for him to peruse. Then I proceeded to shrink rapidly and fume on the other side of the wall when I heard him turning pages – slowly. All I could imagine were streams of gorgeous, long-legged women with flat tummies and real flesh-and-blood breasts beckoning him with their come-hither pouty lips.

"I hope you're enjoying yourself in there," I'd snap, thumping the door.

"Hon, why don't you order something from here?" He'd ask cheerfully.

"I do," I'd spit into the crack between the door and its frame. "That's where I get all of my underwear!"

"You mean those cotton orthopedic things?"

Sadly, I never bothered to correct him, or to disclose my secret stash of lacy panties languishing with their tags on in the bottom of my drawer. In truth, I had little inclination to slip them on and parade around trying to imitate one of those sex sirens. Most of those panties itch; they wander places that, in my mind, underwear shouldn't; and they don't even pretend to cover the tummy bulge.

But, as you might suspect, the real issue for me was not one of comfort; but one of fear. And that was my real secret. Fear that the cancer had robbed me not only of my real breasts, but of the sexy, vital, raw femaleness that could make his eyes light up every time I walked into a room.

With the passage of time, however, the intensity of my sadinsec has decreased. Now, instead of expressing anger when he asks me to order a piece of lingerie from his fantasy line, I simply suggest that he pick something out for me. To this day, he has been unable to narrow down his choices before emerging from the throne room, and he has yet to actually place an order. So, for weeks at a time, my sadinsec disappears entirely.

At least until the next catalog comes.

Sheree is happy to announce that she and Victoria are now back on speaking terms.