Monthly Archives: February 2011

After my first surgery – need to go in again.

A week after my surgery I visit my surgeon to get my pathology results. I’m confident everything will be okay. My surgeon blasts through my confident exterior when she says I’ll need more surgery. I don’t have clear margins. She’ll need to take a bit more. She draws me another diagram illustrating how she’ll just need to take a slightly larger incision.

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Nipple Painting

The night before I go into hospital to have my nipple cut off I make a series of paintings. I cover my nipple with paint and then use it like a brush.

 

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Nipple Painting

Tomorrow my nipple is being cut off.
The perfect symmetry it provides my breast
will be replaced with a scar.

My nipple, a site of such strong sensation.
In response to emotion, sexual arousal, touch, temperature
it magically changes shape, colour, texture.
A barometer of my inner and outer world.

A constant reminder of my womanhood.
As I move forward
my nipples are the extremity of  my phuysical boundary
like a cat’s whiskers
they are a radar
sensing the atmosphere ahead of me.

How do I celebrate my nipple?
Commemorate it?
Connect with the emotion of its loss?

I have a desire
to somehow retain its character
to allow it to make its mark,
to feel its physicality.

Like a paint brush
I move my paint somothered nipple
across the paper
making a series of abstract marks.

I immerse myself in nipple painting.
My nipples become tender
the abrasive movement across the paper
becomes more painful.

I paint slashes of red.
The pain shooting through my nipple
feels like a knife cut.

Kay Gravell
12th November 2008

Treatment

 

I was advised by my surgeon that to avoid the cancer spreading further I would need to have the cancerous cells removed unfortunately this meant the removal of my nipple. My surgeon described how she would delicately slice my nipple off removing the cancerous cells located behind it. She draws me a very neat diagram showing that she’ll just remove my nipple and a small area of tissue behind it.

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It sounded so neat and insignificant but it didn’t feel insignificant!

Ode to my nipple

I am going to have my nipple cut off!
My nipple that nourished my three beautiful children.
The sight of my newborn baby latching onto my nipple
blissed out as the milk flows.
This incredible miracle of sustaining life
enacted through my nipple.

I am going to have my nipple cut off!
My nipple that has brought me so much sensual pleasure.
Waves of delight coursing through my body
with my lover’s touch.

I am going to have my nipple cut off!
I’ll feel unbalanced.
My left nipple that has already  survived two operations

The first when I was 20 and working at the Anti Cancer Council one summer
entering data on cancer survival rates.
I found a lump.
It was benign.
I wouldn’t be entered into the research data.

The second operation five years ago.
We’ve discovered hypophasic cells in your breast ducts.
We’ll have to go in again.
We probably won’t be able to save your nipple
said the grey haired surgeon
with all the sensitivity
as if he was discussing the loss of my toenail.

Booked in for surgery before Christmas.
My nipple was saved
by someone whose need was more urgent.
Perhaps I don’t have to do this?

 I went to the Mercy Breast Clinic.
What a difference!
From the crowded bus shelter environment of the public system.
This was like an upmarket hotel.
Beautifully groomed reception staff,
the smell of freshly brewed coffee,
a few people, mostly women, some with male partners,
quietly reading the morning papers
like tourists waiting to go on a day tour.
The waft of anxiety, the only hint.

 A dark splodge is found in my annual ultra sound.
It looks so inoffensive, just a small dark shadow.
I watch the screen as a core sample is removed.
Five times the hole puncher is fired into the dark shadow.
My breast is bruised
Amazing colours of blue and yellow surround my nipple.

 I won’t be able to save your nipple
my surgeon told me with concerned care
You have malignant cells in your breast duct.
Just behind your nipple.
Its your decision but I believe
its best to be sure  we get all the malignant cells.

 My sister went into surgery
I’m just getting a lump removed she said
Its no big deal
She awoke from surgery
without her left breast.
She died a year later.
She was only 35.

 I am going to have my nipple cut off.

Kay Gravell
16th Septemeber 2008

Japan Trip

I had a planned trip to Japan and decide to go ahead with this before my surgery. Being in another country allows me to be truly present to every moment of my experience. Although I am immersed in my experience of Japan, my nipple is constantly at the outer edge of my awareness.   I see nipples everywhere! I take photos of nipples in the forest, in the city, in buildings, in the street, in the airplane and in temples.

 

Incredibly I seem to come across ‘damaged or missing left nipples’ everywhere!

Breast Prints

I decide to do a series of images of my left breast. I smother it with paint and make imprints on the paper. I want to portray a sense of decay and death but it just looks beautiful. Like a joyful dance of breasts.  Full of colour. Each breast imprint is so beautiful with layers of colour. They remind me of a gang of parrots and lorikeets with their bright colours and alert eyes, formed by my nipple. It seems a great way to immortalize my nipple to have it captured in such a joyful, colourful manner.