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Breast Cancer Awareness Months and Months and Months

Monthly Self Exam

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

 

 

To paraphrase the Bard, “Some are born aware, some achieve awareness, and some have awareness thrust upon them.”

 

 

Count me in that last group.

 

 

Agreed, you’d have to be headless or TV-less to duck the October deluge of heart-string-tugging ads from corporations rolling out their pink carpets, t-shirts and limited edition packaging. Breast cancer #humblebrags are thrust on all of us 24/7/3

 

 

Not that there is anything wrong with that:

 

 

Big business = big bucks = support for research, education and screenings.

 

 

Awareness and money are raised by the fully array of entities: Ford Motors, an early partner with breast cancer organizations; Comcast-NBCU, whose Chairman is married to a survivor; and even the NFL where for four weeks, attention to women’s breasts is not offensive.

 

 

When it’s over-the-top cloying or annoying, we can hit mute or change the channel until orange and black and red and green replace pink in our collective color coding. By the time we turn back the clocks, we tune out breast cancer.

 

 

Unless…

 

Awareness hits you like a Ford Focus. Like me. Now I can’t keep my eye on the ball. My favorite fall TV shows have been bumped by non-stop, live coverage of….

 

 

My left boob.

 

 

In every moment of consciousness, every ounce of my being is unceasingly aware of my sore, poor, poked, pierced, sliced, swollen, bruised, blistered left boob.

 

 

It’s worse than pre-season football.

 

 

And more than out-of-alignment with my usual body image issues. I never dwell on boobs of any kind, human male or female chest.

 

 

Mine are a solid A-/B+: “the Goldilocks of cup sizes.” Just right. Not enough to get in the way but at least a good mouthful. I never have to fret whether clothes will be too revealing. Sneak peeks down my plunging necklines require x-ray vision.

 

 

The bigger the breasts, the lower they fall, whereas my tiny ta-ta’s defy gravity. Wicked, right? I didn’t have to worry about sagging at 40. Still don’t. Plus, a sizable chest is literally a pain in the neck.

 

 

But back to my left boob.

 

 

My personal breast cancer awareness month is July. That’s when I make my annual pilgrimage to the Women’s Imaging Center (WIC). Every woman at the WIC is wracked over her rack, especially if her sister had breast cancer.

 

 

Like me.

 

 

What’s more, mammograms really hurt. Size matters; flat is not an advantage at the Imaging Center. Circus-type contortions are necessary to get enough flesh squished on screen. Give me a binky and call me a baby because I fear the pain as much as the potential negative outcome.

 

 

I confess, I make a scene (unintentionally). My torso visibly heaves the entire time my mammaries are in the machine’s death-grip. My heart pounds so hard it pulls my body away from the breast-smashing beast with every beat.

 

 

Tip: A moving subject creates blurry pictures. Meaning, the result of my anxiety attacking me is I am forced to go through the same crush and release routine twice, every year, to get clear images.

 

 

Blessedly, every year the end result is also the same. An angel in white floats into the waiting room, proclaiming to the heavens, like a chorus of cherubim, those three little words I and every woman in a gown-open-at-the-front longs to hear.

 

 

“You can go.”

 

 

Actually, a nurse says them, in a normal voice; it just sounds like a joyous exaltation. Fear evaporates, shoulders detach from earlobes, and I am free to ignore my front fully for another year.

 

 

Unless…

 

 

A spawn of Satan disguised in surgical scrubs hisses at you a phrase that should ne’er be heard at an Imaging Center:

 

 

“Let’s step into an office.”

 

 

Actually, a nurse whispers to you discretely but it doesn’t matter by who or how you are told. “Let’s step into an office” is the medical relationship equivalent of a boyfriend saying, “We need to talk.”

 

 

No good can come of either.

 

 

There’s no party or cake waiting in an office. No “Congratulations! 10,000 tests and your breasts are the best” proclamation. No shower of confetti. No fabulous prizes.

 

 

“You can go” means your images showed no suspicious growths or objects. “Step into an office” means an ordeal is about to erupt.

 

 

Despite my vibrating and trepidation, I am nearly certain the angel will speak to me every year. My sister’s close encounter might be related to 30 years of cigarette smoking; and she does not have any of the genetic markers, and only 10% of breast cancers have a familial link.

 

 

In other words, my risk is not dramatically worse than yours.

 

 

So, even though I have 10 years straight of “You can go,” I also know, most women will go through an entire lifetime of mammograms without ever hearing a discouraging word.

 

 

But this year, Satan, aka Nurse Linda, broke my streak.

 

 

“Let’s step into an office.”

 

 

Fuck.

 

 

There is one, minor upside to stepping into an office: the Doctor comes in right behind you. No waiting. She is about to drop a bomb on you but at least your head explodes quickly.

 

 

To be continued…

 

Next week: Needles and Tissue and Biopsies, Oh My… left boob.

 

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Hello Sweet Readers,

My hyper-awareness of my left boob continues to consume everything in its path, including www.SingleandtheSweetSideof40.com. Instead of days like usual, writing new blog pieces took weeks and often longer to post.

Then the site went dark for about a month. I hope you or someone, anyone noticed. I didn’t, and I was the cause. I apparently made a special but accidental request that it be shut down. Did I? I don’t remember.

Spoiler Alert: I do not have cancer.

That said, my breast story doesn’t have a happy ending, because there is no end in sight. My case is not atypical, unlike some of the cells in my left boob. If there is a lesson hidden in here at all it’s that bad attitude is everything.

Or maybe that denial is a powerful coping mechanism. 

Where am I today? Healing and still stepping into a lot offices. Which is why I keep trying to think and struggling to write: raising awareness of the non-malignancy ordeal women also undergo.

Even though the “worst” has not happened, testing, diagnosis and returning to full health becomes an on-going nightmare for many of us. Minimizing the experience because “at least you don’t have cancer” does not minimize the impact.

Optimistically,

Beth

 

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