No, this post isn’t really about cupcakes. Sorry. It’s about a funny shirt and stupid people.
I wore this shirt to the gym on Friday and then to run errands afterward. I meant to write about it then but was busy being the hostess with the mostess and am just now getting to it. Anyhoo, the shirt:
My friend Jodie sent it to me in the midst of my cancer “journey” and I howled with laughter. I wore it proudly after my mastectomy and before reconstruction, when my chest was flat as a board and very conducive to easy reading. I wear it proudly now after reconstruction, and will continue washing it on delicate and hanging it to dry in hopes of prolonging its life.
I usually get a comment or a sly smile from my fellow gym rats when I wear this shirt, but Friday I encountered two older ladies who didn’t appreciate the humor. The first one looked at me and tsk-tsked then told her friend how inappropriate she thought it was to make light of such a serious situation. She wondered aloud why our club doesn’t have a strict dress code.
You know me, I couldn’t let it go. Just couldn’t turn the other cheek and walk away.
I said excuse me, I couldn’t help but overhear (not that she was trying to be discreet in her criticisms) what you said about my shirt. I’m curious what exactly about it bugs you? She replied that she thinks it’s disrespectful for people to be flippant when they know nothing of the disease.
I pointed out as nicely as I could (which probably wasn’t really all that nice) that I do indeed know something of “the disease.” She looked a bit surprised when I told her that I myself had breast cancer and am proud to be a survivor. I like the fact that people in the gym who don’t know me see my shirt and realize that cancer survivors can get on with life. I’ve had several people tell me that seeing me at the gym is inspiring to them, and on days when they’re struggling through their workout, they see me hitting it hard and decide to step it up a bit. After all, if the girl who had cancer can do it, they can, too.
But Judgemental Lady didn’t see it that way, apparently. See, she thought there’s no way I could be a cancer survivor because I’m too young. Women my age don’t get breast cancer, she says.
Let’s just say that she got a bit more education on that topic than she might have wanted.
I informed her and her friend that according to the American Cancer Society, nearly 20,000 breast cancer diagnoses a year are delivered to women younger than 45. That my breast surgeon has performed bilateral mastectomies on women younger than me. That my OB-GYN — who diagnosed me — recently diagnosed a women who is 27 years old. That young women with breast cancer fight a different battle than their older counterparts, for many reasons: facing more aggressive cancers and lower survival rates, (hopefully) battling the beast for more years than we’ve been alive, a lack of effective screening for women under 40, being underrepresented in research, having young kids at home, dealing with fertility issues, enduring early menopause, and struggling with serious body-image issues being among the more egregious.
No charge for the lesson, lady.
I set her straight and went on about my business. While waiting in line to return a coat that was too small for Piper (yes, little piggies do need a coat, even in Houston), a lady told me she liked my shirt.
Oh, really? How refreshing.
She went on to ask if it was a fundraiser for cancer. I had to think about that for a minute, and while I was trying to figure out what in the sam hell she meant, she started blabbing about a bake sale her kid’s school did for cancer. She thought my shirt referred to a bake sale! Now that’s a new one.
I explained that no, it’s not a fundraiser and it’s not a bake sale, that I myself had breast cancer. She still looked puzzled, so I spelled it out for her: “cupcakes” is a euphemism for breasts, and mine “licked cancer” by defeating the wily beast that was laying siege to my body. I guess technically my cupcakes didn’t lick cancer, but my surgeons did by amputating said cupcakes, but that seemed like more detail than the conversation warranted. She smiled at me in the manner one would smile at a deranged lunatic on the loose and scooched her shopping cart back a little bit.
I don’t care what the general public thinks; I love my shirt and will continue to wear it proudly. Judgemental old ladies and bake-sale zealots be damned.