Breast Cancer and (Lack of) Social Graces

03/18/2011 12:16 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Socializing sure has changed since my breast cancer diagnosis. Traditionally, I am a girl who never turns down a party. Big or small, I love them all!

Thanks to breast cancer, I'm now acutely attuned to the social habits of entering and leaving gatherings. For example, when we see people whom we haven't seen in a long time, there is a lot of hugging and kissing involved.

Traditional hugging is, unfortunately, not an option for me right now. It is a major danger zone for potential lady lump assault. "Lady lumps" is the term I have given to the new appendages on my chest after my double mastectomy and reconstruction. Therefore, post-surgery, I have become very proficient at the tush-out/lean-in hug. For additional strategic defense, I put my arms up across my new lady lumps

By the way, full disclosure: Prior to breast cancer, I happened to have been a monster hugger myself. I love nothing more than an all-in, super squeeze hug!

Because I am not able to give traditional hugs right now, our five-year-old daughter came up with the (silver lining!) concept of "Monster Leg Hugs." Like me, she is a hugger. Leg hugs from her (and anyone else, for that matter!) have become my favorite form of hugging. Those feel great!

Recently, I was invited to a party. Because it had been so long (too long!) since I had been out, I decided to go for one hour. Why one hour? Because I knew that's all I had in me. Another thing that I've learned since my breast cancer diagnosis is how much mental stamina small talk takes. Not only does it take a lot of stamina, but I am seriously out of shape! Hence, a one-hour time limit.

Entering the party (and saying hello to new guests as they arrived) was not a problem. I was a pro at the tush-out/lean-ing hug. Done and Done.

Leaving, however, was another story.

On my way out, I was saying good-bye and out of nowhere, a lovely woman whom I hadn't seen in ages (and who also, by the way, didn't know about my breast cancer) put her arm around me and squeezed the bejesus out of me. I mean, hard.

Here is the visual: Monster Hugger on the right, me on the Left. Squeeze.

F-bomb! F-bomb! F-bomb! Alert! Alert! Alert! I thought the lady lumps were literally going to come unhinged and fly across the room. As quickly as I could, I unraveled myself from her, and tried not to burst into tears because it hurt so outrageously much.

The room started spinning even faster, and then the Cancer Coprolalia (the involuntary use of obscene or socially inappropriate words and phrases) let loose. I don't think that I dropped the F-bomb (at least I'm praying that I didn't).

I didn't want to offend the poor squeezer. After all, she didn't know! And by the way, she is a super sweet person who would have been beyond mortified to know what had really happened in that 10-second period of time.

Needless to say, I had to evacuate immediately. My girlfriend, who was so thoughtfully driving me home, saw the distress in my eyes and came to my immediate rescue. No more long goodbyes. I had to leave pronto.

I had so much pain that I was dizzy, short of breath and wanted to throw up. My girlfriend steadied me while we walked to the car. On the way out, two other guests were walking in. They had to think that I was a complete lush because after only 55 minutes, I had to be escorted (with full support) out of the party. Good grief. Fortunately I didn't know them. Or maybe I did, and just couldn't focus. At least it was dark!

So, let's find some silver linings here:

  1. I was out (after dark) at a fabulous, super fun party.
  2. I saw lots of friends whom I hadn't seen in ages.
  3. Irreparable damage was not done from the monster squeeze (I think, but am going to the surgeon today to be sure).
  4. Most importantly: When I am free and clear of breast cancer, I am going to become a super duper extraordinarily sensitive hugger. I will ask people if I can hug them tightly. I will be respectful, and if people would prefer a handshake, kiss or elbow bump, then that's how I'll roll.

Hope you all have a silver-lined, hug-filled (whatever type works for you!), beautiful day!


To read more about Hollye's holistic and humorous journey over, around, above and below breast cancer, please visit her blog, Brookside Buzz. You may email her at