While looking after my friends’ gorgeous (and frighteningly well behaved) kids last weekend, I simultaneously managed to traumatise a three-year-old boy and get to the truth of a question I’d never have got an honest answer to otherwise.
It was 5.40am. Ten minutes after Charlie and Felix had woken up in fits of excitement at the imminent trip to Legoland. Now, I’m not one for getting up at 5.30 (hell, I’m not even one for getting up at 8.30), so to say I was bleary eyed may be something of an understatement. With Charlie watching something trippy and brightly coloured on the television, singing along to something I could only pin down as S Club 7 on speed, Felix was taking his opportunity to use me as an adventure playground, dangling from the straps of my nightie as he clambered up his human climbing wall. Which was when he caught sight of the nupple.
‘Oh,’ he said shocked, his tiny bare feet landing back on the wooden floor. Through double vision I spotted the direction of his terrified eyes and hurriedly readjusted my sleepwear so that the egde of my reconstructed nipple was no longer showing. (If this had been my right nipple, of course, I’d have been able to tell immediately that it was revealing itself. But with my mastectomy having left me with zero feeling in my left side, there’s no way of knowing whether it’s safely tucked away or proudly peeping out for the whole world to see. I might be spending my lunchtime strolls flashing my left’un round Soho for all I know. Not that anyone there would bat an eyelid.) ‘Auntie Lisa?’ asked Felix, puzzled. I froze, frantically searching my brain for Fibs You Tell Kids, but stalling at the ice-cream-man-only-plays-a-tune-when-he's-run-out line. ‘Oh fucking fuck,’ I thought to myself, managing at least to keep my expletives under wraps.
And then came the innocent query: ‘Why is your boobie broken?’ And there it was. After months of staring at it in the mirror and pestering my husband to tell me what he really thinks of my tattooed non-nipple, I finally got my answer. And given that it came from an as-yet-cancer-uneducated little boy, I think we can safely say that it’s as frank a verdict as I’m likely to get.
‘Erm, it was poorly for a while,’ I explained, not wanting to ruin his day any further by bringing The Bullshit into the equation. ‘But now it’s better. And it’ll keep getting better. Nothing to worry about,’ I added.
With Charlie still singing in the next room, Felix ran through to join his big brother. ‘Bloody hell,’ said P, joining me in the bedroom after taking out our equally drained and disturbed cat. ‘5.30! How do Jon and Suze do it?’ I didn't look up from my perched spot on the edge of the bed, despite suddenly being more awake than even the singing kids. ‘Hang on, what’s up?’ asked P. I fixed his gaze. ‘The nupple. Felix saw the nupple,’ I admitted. ‘Fuck,’ he said. ‘Yes, fuck,’ I agreed. ‘And he said it looked broken.’ P tilted his head. ‘Aw,’ he replied. ‘Broken,’ I repeated. ‘Broken. I’m getting a shower.’
And so I left P with the kids while I tearfully stared at my broken nupple in the bathroom mirror. ‘Yep,’ I said to my reflection, thinking back to my post-nipple-tattooing blog post. ‘Like putting lipstick on a pig.’
Trouble is, I suspect I’m now not the only one who’s scarred for life…