996: Making Things Difficult

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Making Things Difficult
Favorite mastectomy breast prosthesis idea: a fake boob containing a spare rechargable battery, accessed via a nipple USB port. Complete with a ring of LED charge indicators in the areola!
Title text: Favorite mastectomy breast prosthesis idea: a fake boob containing a spare rechargable battery, accessed via a nipple USB port. Complete with a ring of LED charge indicators in the areola!


This comic is a reference to the breast cancer surgery that Randall's fiancee/wife underwent, and is one of many comics about cancer he made because of this.

This comic is the follow up appointment after the surgery. When doctor Ponytail asks Megan to take her shirt off, she refuses until Ponytail gives her a necklace of purple beads. Younger and more boorish Mardi Gras tourists sometimes offer necklaces like this in exchange for the exposure of a person's breasts.

Megan's line "You know the rules" implies that Megan has stipulated that every time she takes off her shirt for the doctor, a necklace of beads must be exchanged.

In the official transcript the doctor is described as an Oncologist, a doctor who works with cancer patients, and Megan/Randall's wife is described as a Delightfully Awesome Person. It is also stated that the oncologist fake-annoyedly searches for something in pockets and that it is a Mardi Gras bead necklace she takes out.

Below the xkcd logo in the header at the top of the comic page there is the following text: "Some context for the cancer comics:" and below that a link to a blag posting regarding family-illness that talked about the real world events leading up to this comic.

The title text refers to a mastectomy, the surgical removal of one or both breasts. One possible treatment for breast cancer is to surgically remove the breast. After this procedure a false or prosthetic breast is often added to retain the prior physical appearance. The title text suggests this prosthesis could serve as a charging station by including the following features: a spare battery inside the prosthesis, a USB port where the nipple would normally be, and a ring of lights showing the charge level of the battery arranged around the areola (the darker circle of skin around the nipple).

This is one of the few comics where a character wears regular clothes, but doctor Ponytail has been seen before in 883: Pain Rating and later in 1713: 50 ccs. Megan is in both, and Cueball also in the latter.


[Ponytail in a doctor's coat is carrying a clipboard with lines indicating text, consulting it while Megan is sitting on a high medical table with a full body gown on. At the top there is a frame crossing over the top of the first panel with a caption:]
Caption: Breast Cancer Surgery Follow-Up...
Ponytail: You're looking great! Remove your top so I can check how the incision is healing.
Megan: Nuh-uh.
[Ponytail has taken her arm with the clipboard down, while Megan is holding her hand with a thumb up.]
Ponytail: *Sigh*
Ponytail: Do we have to do this every time?
Megan: You know the rules.
[In a frame-less panel showing only Ponytail, she searches for something in both her pockets, three sets of two small lines indicate how she moves her hands around inside them.]
Ponytail (Mumbling to herself, in smaller text): This is so ridiculous...
[Ponytail holds a purple bead necklace up in an outstretched arm. Megan begins to disrobe, opening the dress at her neck pulling with both arms as shown with three sets of two small lines.]
Ponytail: Here.
Megan: Woooo!

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Commenter VaguelyCreepy had a few notes on Mardi Gras beads that are probably good to keep close to this page:

A few notes on the Mardi Gras beads:
  1. They come in all colors, so pink isn’t particularly unusualy, though it could still fit if the doctor specifically chose that color for that reason.
  2. New Orleans natives really frown on that kind of behavior, and you usually only see it from tourists who think Mardi Gras is some kind of excuse to do whatever you like. The entire thing is a celebration, but if you act like an ass, people are going to hate you for it, and you may very well get arrested. Also, the beads, as well as a variety of other memorabilia, are thrown to everyone, including the women who keep their tops on.

That's all. lcarsos (talk) 07:58, 24 August 2012 (UTC)

I'm removing the line, "In this case, the beads are pink, likely a reference to the Pink ribbon campaign related to Breast cancer awareness." The beads aren't pink, they're clearly purple. 19:21, 20 July 2013 (UTC)

I have an app which identifies them as pink (I'm colorblind, so I can't personally pass judgement). The pink beads would definitely make sense. 06:33, 30 December 2013 (UTC)
I'm no expert, but if you open the image in Paint, zoom and use the eye-dropper, the color is definitely purple to the eye. My sample was (R,G,B => 175,68,173). It is not uniform, but other samples were similar. 22:49, 21 January 2014 (UTC)
I tried that too! I got 168 45 166. Most purple-y color I've ever seen. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
They look purple to me--SeventyAce (talk) 22:04, 23 January 2014 (UTC)

They looked pink to me until I read these comments now they look lilac (Compare the analysis chart to the forecast charts on: [Damn, I think they changed that too!!][1])

 I used Google News BEFORE it was clickbait (talk) 06:55, 22 January 2015 (UTC)

The motion lines to me imply Megan is jiggling her breasts, which means that the oncologist won't be able to satisfactorily examine her incision. User:That's just what I think