The day I lost my bosoms
To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune: to lose both looks like carelessness, so intoned Lady Bracknell in Wildes’ Importance of being Earnest. So, too it was that I lost both my bosoms to a severe allergic reaction while on a brief break in the sun last week.
Well, to be strictly honest, I did not lose my bosoms so much as I could no longer see them without the assistance of a mirror. My eyes had so swollen up as to render me half blind, fully oriental and scared silly my face would never return to my normal occidental self.
Under a hot sun, misfortunes may sometimes look harsher than under a cloudy Irish sky, with all its 50 shades of grey. In the searing heat my skin puckered and grew angry. First a tell tale itchy rash across the top of my arms and then my face began to creak and redden. On day two of a short five day break I knew I was in trouble. That evening, my right eye was puffy as if I had overslept. I kept on touching the skin under my eye, conscious of its straining to expand.
I went to sleep that night an Irishwoman with bosoms and I woke up the next morning looking like a very unattractive Asian woman and unable to see clearly in any direction, especially below. It is like those stories of overweight men who sigh of the lost sight of their manhood. With the swelling across my face, especially around my cheekbones and eyes, I could see nothing south of my nose. I spilled a little yogurt while having breakfast and had to go the mirror to find out where the drop had landed – ironically bang in the middle of my bosoms.
When I awoke that morning I could feel the strangeness in my face. My eyes felt as though someone had injected a saline solution all around them in a bizarre cosmetic procedure. They were bloated like arm bands and wobbled in a terrifying fashion.
Fortunately I was on a family break and surrounded by siblings who took care of me, but there was no change to my face for the next three days despite latherings of aloe vera, fistfuls of antihistamines and the regular application of cold compress cloths cooled in the freezer (on one occasion the cloth was frozen hard and I feared then for ice burn on my poor face as the cardboard textured cloth pivoted coldly before starting to defrost and ease across my cheeks).
I genuinely worried would my face stay like that. Had the wind changed? Was this to be the next ignominious chapter in my life – telling what is was like to endure a terrible facial disfigurement? I know, how shallow is the view of one’s face, but it is an intrinsic part of who we are. When we look in the mirror we just expect to see the same familiar face there. Once, many years ago as a teenager I had a serious bike accident with the main injuries on my face. Then as now it swelled up in a grotesque caricature of normal myself. Indeed, I had a visit from my first boyfriend to the hospital to see me. When I was discharged a week later, I no longer had a boyfriend. God love him!
Flying home was also a peril as I had to leave the safety of my air conditioned holiday bedroom and mingle with strangers. I tried the celebrity approach of wearing sunglasses indoors, nabbing my daughter’s for this purpose. However, they made me feel claustrophobic and unsteady. And then there were the deep indents from the frames in my puffy cheeks when I took them off. ‘No one knows you in the airport,’ said my family kindly, but when the server in Burger King wished me a good day with a big smile, I really found it very hard to return the gesture; not least because it hurt to squeeze my puffy cheeks upwards for a smile. He must have thought me a most rude, grumpy and frankly ugly woman!
And then I was terrified I might explode on the flight while at high altitude, like cheap breast implants and splat all in my vicinity. Fortunately my worst fears were not realised, although how I went through passport control without a caution or at least a double look I have no idea.
When I retuned home I visited my family doctor. She walked past me in the waiting room while calling my name: she did not recognise me. There was no need to ask for drugs, these were liberally granted to me – more antihistamines, steroids and antibiotics as well as cooling creams and painkillers. I needed them all.
Today, a week after a first went down I am so much better. My face is again recognisable and normal. My rash is gone, almost. And I have finally been able to get a full night’s sleep.
Three important lessons have come to me as a result of this little hiccup in wellness. The first is to always be sick in the company of your family: there is no one to mind you so well. The second is to love your face, wrinkles and all (apparently when puffy I had no wrinkles so my kid brother kindly told me!) as there is nothing so dear as that which is so familiar – the same goes for favourite teddies, worn slippers and well thumbed books. And finally, don’t worry about losing your bosoms, they will still be there once the swelling goes down!