So, yeah, my head’s not been in the game this week. And here it is Wednesday night and I got nothing ready to go out. And I’m sorry about that. Next week I’ll be back in the saddle, I promise.
But I want to talk about something else this week anyways. I can’t write what I ought to be writing, I got something else in the forefront of my mind so that’s what I’m gonna write about.
My doctor’s office called me last week to tell me the delightful news that they’d found an ominous mass on my much-procrastinated mammogram last week. Probably a cyst, they said. Nothing I could feel in there that felt any different, but there it was on the film. So Thursday, I had to go down for an ultrasound.
The Breast Center here in town is very nice. However, it’s interesting how that particular shade of pink, those pretty little curly pink ribbon motif stickers they use on the floor over there to show you the way down what feels like an impossibly long hallway do not, in the consciousness of a frightened woman, look cheerful. No, the color of those pink walls, the beautiful soft colors of the decor, the shiny, bubblegum pink shoes the nurse was wearing...that color hits your retinas and all the warmth sucks out of your body like you’re standing naked and wet in an arctic wind.
That sweet, candyfloss color tells you one thing: The shit’s gotten real. Very damn real indeed.
So they do the films and there it is, like an empty black shark’s eye looking back at me. So I’m waiting for the doctor to come in and I’m just thinking. I’m thinking about my five year old daughter. I don’t care about anything else. I mean, of course I care about my husband, and my family, and my friends. But my daughter was what was killing me. I’m just sitting there thinking about what the hell she’s supposed to do without a mom? That’s hard, being a girl growing up without a mom. I was very lucky to have, and still have, a mother who loves me. I’m not young, but I still need my mom around. I think about my friend Ginger, who left a nine year old boy. That boy grew up to be a young man who is a good friend of mine, and he knows very sharply the hole she left in his life when breast cancer took her long ago years ago. I look up and there’s one of those puke pans sitting on a shelf. I understand immediately what it’s for and also realize I very well may end up using the thing myself any moment.
The thing that weighs on me the most? That my cavalier attitude towards taking care of myself might be what ends up killing me. I know damn well I was overdue coming to get checked out. Who likes getting their tits crushed in a vice? Listen, I drink waaay too much coffee for that to be fun. I’m looking around at all this “early detection” literature and thinking how bad I ballsed this up. We do love to find ways to blame ourselves, don’t we? This time, I had really made it easy for myself to do just that.
So the doctor tells me I have a seventy percent chance of it being benign. And if it wasn’t, it was likely Stage One, which has a pretty high cure rate. No swollen lymph nodes, so that’s a good sign.
If that sounds like good odds to you, go for...what was it, four days or so... with them hanging over your head and see how you feel about it then. Make sure you have a lot of Tums handy. I’m just sayin’. Yeah, I know breast cancer is not an automatic death sentence. That doesn’t mean I want to spin the chamber and put the gun to my head.
So I had to go in for an ultrasound guided needle biopsy on Monday. If that sounds horrible, it’s not really. Scary, yeah, but it didn’t hurt. And it was kind of cool to watch on the screen. So if anyone ever has to have that done, God forbid, understand it’s not that big of a deal. It was over in an hour and I drove myself home, having taken nothing at all for pain other than an icepack in my bra.
I walked around all day Tuesday with my phone in my hand. Every time it rang (and it rang a lot...the universe has a way of screwing with you sometimes), I literally jumped. They called me Tuesday at around three. It’s a benign fibroadenoma. Evidently I have managed to evade the Grim Reaper for yet another day.
So, I guess what I have learned from all this is:
There’s a whole hell of a lot of lumps, bumps, gremlins, vermin, and shadows that get in your breasts. The huge, vast majority of them are harmless. Don’t not go to the doc’s because you think you’re immortal, or untouchable, or just scared of what you’ll see. I guess it seems like so many legions of women get breast cancer and die...and sadly, they do. But what it’s easy to lose sight of is the even more numerous legions who don’t.
Don’t screw around. Get yourself checked out. Pay attention. Gents, you’re not immune to this. I’m talking to you, too.
Don’t wait till you think you might be dying to live. We’re all dying. That you might find out when really doesn’t change much in the grand scheme of things. All it does is give you regrets. Live so you don’t have any. And when you do get to the end...well..
...be but bones and jewels on that day.
-’gina (with a nod to Edna St. Vincent Millay)