Barb Grover doesn’t have breasts any more, and doesn’t mind who knows it.
As part of her cancer treatment, the Portland woman had a double mastectomy one year ago next week. On Saturday, to celebrate, she’ll be joining thousands of other people to ride through the streets of Portland with nothing on.
She’s invited other post-mastectomy women and their supporters to join her at whatever level of clothing they wish. She’s dubbed it “Critical Mastectomy.”
“Once the treatment is over, we go about our lives and look like we’re assuming a normal day to day,” Grover, 54, said in an interview Thursday. “And most of us have scars. That doesn’t get talked about a lot in public. We see Angelina Jolie and she looks like her old self again. But that’s not the path that a lot of women choose, or can choose. … This is what it really looks like, people; this is what it’s really like. It’s not awful. It’s just different. We just need to be a little more open about it.”
That’s what makes it a perfect fit for Oregon’s largest pay-what-you-will ride of the year, which starts rolling at 9 p.m. Saturday in Colonel Summers Park.
“It’s not awful. It’s just different. We just need to be a little more open about it.”
— Barb Grover
“The World Naked Bike Ride to me is about inclusivity,” said Grover, who is also the owner, with her husband Joel, of Southeast Portland cargo bike shop Splendid Cycles. “That’s saying bikes need to be included in things, but also all these different bodies, all these different journeys. … That’s the protest side of why I want to do it. it’s also selfish. I haven’t been naked in public with my new look, and I wanted to do that, maybe with some support from other people that understood, and maybe giving some support for other people who want to do the same.”
Grover said she’s doing so even though she didn’t disclose her cancer diagnosis to many people who know her. “Making people worry was harder than taking care of myself,” she said. But she decided this month that she was willing to break that “code of privacy” in order to help herself and others feel good about their post-mastectomy bodies.
“It’s just something that occurred to me to do and I came up with a name and that told me I had to do it,” Grover said with a laugh.
Her way of thinking about her cancer has been a little unconventional, she said.
“The way I talk about it is that I partnered with it last year to change my life, and it changed it in a lot of really positive ways,” she said. “I’m a lot more active and proactive, and willing to stand up for things. I’m more willing to do crazy things like this.”
Any people who’ve had mastectomies or other forms of cancer are welcome, Grover says. So are their fans, friends and supporters. The Critical Mastectomy ride will meet at 8 p.m. in the basketball court at SE 17th and Taylor; Grover will be holding a small sign.
Michael Andersen was news editor of BikePortland.org from 2013 to 2016 and still pops up occasionally.