BlogHer of the Week: Toddler Planet

BlogHer Original Post

Did any of you play "what color is your bra?" on Facebook last week?

Susan Niebur of Toddler Planet did. Her resulting post, "In the Name of Awareness," takes a silly Web game, sucks it through the vortex of breast amputation -- and delivers fresh language about body image and living as a woman who is surviving cancer.

As massaged by Niebar, "What color is your bra?" mutates into -- I'm paraphrasing here -- "What if you amputated your breasts so they wouldn't kill you, survived cancer treatment, began a new life AND then saw friends playing 'What color is your bra?' on Facebook?"

Her answer is a beautifully crafted post. I cringed when I dug in -- my mother and one of my best friends have battled breast cancer in the past year. So I expected this Facebook silliness could generate bitterness and anger. But Niebur's a master -- in telling her story, she takes the reader into a survivor's psyche to share her sacrifice and hurt.

First she finds the bra meme:

"Truth is, I didn’t know what to write.  I wanted to frivolously play along — the boys had gone to bed, and this was MY time, after all — but I couldn’t.  And why couldn’t I?  If you know me, you don’t have to ask.  But if you’re new here, I couldn’t play along by posting the color of my bra because I don’t have one.  I don’t own one."

Next, Niebur boils the ocean of her treatment down into a mere handful of paragraphs, just enough detail to make sure the reader gets it: "At one point, the taxol had ravaged my nervous system so much that I lost the use of my legs." 

She decides to play the Facebook game, followed by other women who have survived breast cancer. Then she makes a discovery that shocks her: The bra meme was staged by women "urging awareness of breast cancer." Stunned, Niebur opens up an entirely new perspective on "What color is your bra?" and the constant awareness that is now part of her life:

"[T]his was ostensibly an effort to raise awareness of breast cancer — but one in which breast cancer survivors themselves could not participate, and were reminded (as if we needed a reminder) that we didn’t need bras anymore, that most basic undergarment of women everywhere, that symbol of sexuality, for the simple reason that we had already sacrificed our breasts in a hail mary attempt to keep the rest of our bodies from dying of cancer.

"That’s what it is, you know.  It’s not a choice.  It’s not just another treatment option.  Women have mastectomies, double mastectomies, reconstruction (or not) because we have no other choice remaining that will give us a shot at life — life with our children, our partners, our families, and our friends.  And so we tearfully bid our breasts goodbye..."

If you or anyone you love has breast cancer, you'll want to read Niebur's next dozen paragraphs on shopping and wearing clothes and the very real agony this experience creates. I couldn't do them justice here.

For this post, Susan Niebur is our BlogHer of the Week.

Thanks to everyone for continuing to send in your nominated posts. Remember to nominate individual posts, not entire blogs, and keep them coming! If you want to check out all the BlogHer of the Week posts, check out the BlogHer of the Week archive.


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