If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I’ve had more cancer scares than I can count in the past five years. I wrote blog posts before my first few biopsies – the first one helped people, so I wrote another for the next cancer scare and another for the next one. They were all just that – scares – and nothing more. So of course, my superstitious brain thought – hey, I better write a blog post once the next cancer scare reared it’s ugly head. Pretty soon it was a tradition – going in for a biopsy, write a blog post. Hopefully, I don’t bore my readers with my pre-biopsy plumbing of my psyche. I figure it’s not just to appease my irrational superstition, it also helps people going through the same thing feel less alone. So, here goes… my latest pre-biopsy essay. Let’s hope it’s my lucky charm again – and it doesn’t bore anyone…
But my boobs are my best feature – that was the first thought that went through my brain when the mammogram technologist informed me that the radiologist needed more views, “because she saw something that changed from last year.” I know – incredibly shallow and probably conceited sounding, but you can’t help the thoughts that careen through your brain while your breast is squished painfully between two glass plates and you’re wondering what that magnified view the doctor ordered will show. And if I’m going to write this, I better be honest. How else could it help others going through the same thing, if I only share the thoughts I’m supposed to have, not the ones I actually do have?
I know there’s someone else out there who’s had the same shallow thought, and maybe my sharing it makes her feel not that bad. I told myself that not wanting to lose my breasts really shouldn’t be my biggest worry (especially since reconstructed boobs are bouncy forever and look awesome – I know from friends and celebrities), but still… that was stuck in my head. You see, improbably, they actually got better as I got older. People who knew me in my younger years have actually asked me if I had work done. I haven’t – I just was always underweight and when my weight crept up into a healthy zone as I got further into my forties, my body morphed into the shape it was intended to be if I never abused it by not eating enough.
When I was a kid my nickname was Dolly Parton. I was curvy when I was still in elementary school. I hated it back then. I wanted to be skinny and flat chested desperately. I had no use for hips and breasts. They didn’t help me skate faster – if anything, I was less aerodynamic. They drew unwanted attention. I got my wish when I was eleven and lost fifteen pounds due to an illness. I didn’t gain it back until I was sixteen. And by that time I had grown a little, not much, but enough that my curves were no longer so curvy. I lost weight again in my early twenties (you can read about that here). I remember when I was twenty-four, someone I worked with told me that I had the body of a twelve year old boy. I did. Having kids changed that. And so did getting older – my metabolism slowed down and I was able to gain weight. Someone told me a couple of years ago that I looked like Jessica Rabbit – a much more flattering comparison and one that actually made me really happy. Over the years, I’ve embraced being curvy more so than when I was young, but like most women I often have a love-hate relationship with my body. And there are things I scrutinize way too much.
But… I’m happy with the sweater puppies. I’ve gone up two cup sizes from before I had kids (or sometimes one, if it’s a fuller cut bra). I fill out clothes I never filled out before. So… this was the shallow train of thought that went through my head. I really couldn’t think about surgery, treatments or any other truly scary stuff. It’s easier to contemplate losing a favorite body part than possibly losing your life. Plus, I just don’t have time right now to deal with an illness and all the unpleasantness (an understatement) that goes with it. I have a book coming out soon, as many of you know, and I have a launch party and hopefully a mini (very mini) book tour. I’ll also be doing a blog tour. And I’m going to a huge conference in a couple of weeks that I paid a lot of money for and that I’ve been looking forward to. Much of my energy goes to my son’s struggles and just trying to keep him happy and healthy. (Again, if you’re a regular reader, you probably know about this.) I don’t have time for any of this – but really, who does?
So, when the doctor gave me a bit more of an explanation and told me that she just didn’t like the look of one area on my mammogram – there was a cluster of microcalcifications, deep and on the outside, an area cancer apparently likes to hang out in – my next thought was, Boy, am I grateful that I go to a state of the art hospital (St. Francis Women’s Center in Greenvale, NY) and I see a really good doctor (Dr. Patricia Barry) and she caught something so tiny on the mammogram. She assured me that it probably isn’t cancer – if anything, it would more likely be precancerous changes. Still so grateful for that – precancerous cells morph into cancer without much warning. Or it could be early stage cancer. She said two or three times a year mammograms that look like mine turn out to be malignancies. Or it could be nothing. I of course, stupidly, consulted Dr. Google. Big mistake. According to a few sites, clusters are generally cause for concern, especially where mine are located.
But, somehow I’m calm. And that scares me, which is completely ridiculous. I’m never calm before a biopsy. I just keep thinking, OK, I’ll deal with whatever it is. I have too many breast cancer warrior friends who have shown me what it’s like to “fight like a girl” and not only survive, but thrive. Plus, this isn’t my first breast biopsy. You can read about my last one over five years ago here. That biopsy was different – a 9 mm complex cyst. Dr. Barry did that biopsy too and removed everything. She assured me it would be benign as soon as she saw it on the ultrasound screen. She was right.
This biopsy will be a bit more complicated or maybe just a bit more uncomfortable. I have to lie on a table on my stomach, with a mammography machine beneath me. And I have to lie perfectly still like that for ten to fifteen minutes. Should be loads of fun. My husband said that it sounds like I’ll be a car up on a lift at the garage with the mechanic working below me. He’s not entirely wrong. The table is high up and they’ll have to give me a lift onto it, thanks to my diminutive stature. But, as uncomfortable as it is, I’ll get up at 6:00 am tomorrow to get ready for it. My husband will drive me – fighting morning rush-hour traffic – because I had to sign something saying I wouldn’t come alone. Who would want to go alone anyway?
And… I’ll feel grateful after, even when I’ve got steri-strips sealing me up and a bag of frozen corn draped across me to ease the soreness, because whatever it is – I’m lucky. If it’s benign, I’m really lucky. If it’s not, well then I’m lucky that it was caught and that I wasn’t late scheduling my mammogram this year, like I usually am. Either way, I’m just lucky and I won’t forget that when the doctor calls me with results in a few days…