A few months ago (maybe a year? Time whizzes past my head these days and I can honestly say I don’t know how long it’s been, which scares me to no end.), I noticed The Lump under my arm. Not really my armpit and not really my breast—sort of hanging out in the space between my stubble and my sleeve, it started out as a swollen place that aggravated me when I pushed on it. So I stopped pushing on it.
Last month I was dressing for a wedding. I had bought a lovely, sleeveless, hot pink dress. A-line, belted, and flattering, I was excited to wear it. When I looked in the mirror, I saw The Lump. This thing that I’d been ignoring had stealthily grown up and out. It hurt. It was painful to touch and painful to be touched by anything. There was no solid cyst or lump to hang on to—just a blob of fatty tissue that nagged at me, felt uncomfortable, and looked rather unsightly. I chose to ignore it, hoping it would yet go away.
A week later I received a call from my doctor who needed to run blood tests in order to continue renewing my thyroid medication. It had been two years since my last appointment and I couldn’t keep shirking my physician. I made an appointment and kept it, despite my lack of health insurance. While there, I used the opportunity to discuss a couple of troublesome issues: the ongoing tightness in my chest since my eight-week bout of bronchitis and The Lump. She donned latex gloves and started massaging the offending mass. Then she leaned against the wall and heaved a rather large and exasperated sigh. “That has to come out,” she said. “I don’t know what it is but I don’t like it. Make an appointment with a plastic surgeon and let them biopsy it.”
Oh, yeah…the “B” word. I was already dealing with two masses on my thyroid that I’d been avoiding since my last ultrasound and after yet another round of imaging later that day, I was able to breathe easier when it was confirmed that neither had grown in two years. A reprieve from the neck up. The neck down, however, was another story. I made an appointment for one week later and turned up at the plastic surgery center a day late, due to a conflict between what I was told and what was on my referral note.
My doctor was ridiculously young. He had a whitehead on the side of his nose that I couldn’t stop staring at. I kept thinking that with all of the laser dealies and rejuvenating jobbies and pretty young estheticians running around, he should have been able to get somebody to pop that bad boy before seeing patients. He looked at The Lump. He poked it. He prodded it. He grabbed it. He fondled it. It hurt and I wanted to hit him. Then he decided a breast exam was in order.
Erm…what? I expected him to say that I had some fatty deposit, we could cut it out in the office, and I’d be on my way to wearing sleeveless tops again in a month. What I didn’t expect was the order for a bilateral diagnostic mammogram, followed by a sonogram, to be done ASAP (which, in my world, means another two weeks as I wait on my health insurance to kick in).
I came home sick and scared and tearful. I love The Girls. Having reached an age where everything is moving east to west and then south, The Girls are still hanging in there—perky, responsive, and utterly perfect. They have nurtured my child during his first year and I often use them to divert my husband’s attention during an argument or stressful conversation. A gay male friend of mine (the only one who could ever get away with such a statement) recently told me (in church, no less) that I had “a nice rack.” Yeah, I was tickled.
This week, Angelina Jolie, underwent a radical bilateral mastectomy to avoid getting breast cancer. She of the beautiful, bountiful breasts, sacrificed them to potentially save her life after discovering she carried a gene that gave her an 85% chance of being diagnosed with it. A few years ago, cancer was unheard of in my family. We had strokes and some heart disease, but cancer wasn’t an issue. Until my favorite aunt was diagnosed with advanced, acute breast cancer. Having endured 15 hours of surgery to remove and then reconstruct her breasts, in addition to full-on follow-up therapies, she is convalescing nicely but will remain on chemo pills for 10 years.
I ignored the signs. I ignored The Lump. It may be nothing. It may be a lipoma or a shiny node or some other benign, unnamed, easily rectified thingamajig. I’ve waited for months (years?) to deal with The Lump but now that I have, I feel this incessant need to hurry up and find out what I’m faced with. I have no earthly idea how I would handle losing one, or both, of The Girls. I’d like to say that my self-worth isn’t tied to my awesome boobies, but that would be a lie—they are seriously awesome. I’d like to say that it would be no sweat to hack them off and replace them with some radical tattoos, but the truth is, I’m quite fond of them and…I’m scared. Even though this is horribly premature and hopefully unwarranted, I am giving voice to my fear. I admit that I am terrified and worried and obsessing. I should be working and yet I am recording my terror for posterity (or however long WordPress blogs remain in the Internet ether). I feel ashamed of myself for ignoring The Lump and I hate that I have to live with it for even one more day, much less two more weeks and then who knows how long after that. I want it gone, I want a clean bill of health, and I want to keep The Girls. I want to live long and never be faced with tough decisions that might be necessary to live my life.
I want never again to have to write posts like this one.