A couple of weeks ago, the place I work sponsored a mobile mammobus to come and give all us over-40 gals the opportunity for our boobs to learn/remember why pancakes dread spatulas. So, at the appointed time, I set off from my cubicle and trekked out back to the World’s Weirdest Tour Bus, and put Laverne and Shirley* through their paces.
I spent an hour that morning allowing a perfect stranger to put a metallic bead on my nipples with tape and then take pictures. For free. Shouldn’t I charge at least $5 for that sort of thing? I wasn’t terribly worried that anything would show up. Nobody in my family has had breast, ovarian or uterine cancers. I come from a long line of sturdy Episcopalian women, strong in both denial and and in their complete lack of conversations regarding breasts, ovaries or uteruses (uteri?). These women? Cancer wouldn’t dare.
There couldn’t be anything really wrong.
I wasn’t too worried. I had a breast reduction done many years ago, and I knew there would be a good chance that there’d be areas of scar tissue that would require me to head in for another round of ‘lets offend the technicians and medical office staff with my deodorant-free Eau de Me’. I knew that a follow up wasn’t anything to really worry over.
Now, its confession time.
I lied last year. On hell of a whopper, too. Because I don’t screw up half way. I lied. To my mother and my sister. We were in London. I was enjoying the city immensely, but the three of us ARE NOT GOOD TRAVEL COMPANIONS. We really should have learned our lesson about traveling together when we went to Ireland. The long story is that I annoy the crap out of my mother and she annoys the crap out of me, and she very overtly judges me, my appearance, my family, my choices and my Unfulfilled Destiny as Her Daughter.
My sister is someone that I love dearly and have anxiety and panic attacks over spending time with because I know that she is a much better person than I am, and I am constantly judging whether or not she is judging me when we’re around each other. I’m feeling tight-chesty feelings now just thinking about it, like when I think about the chair lifts I will have to confront the next time we go skiing. Or spiders. Oh god, excuse me a moment.
My sister is a lovely person. She does everything right, and I know she’s even too good to be judgy and so I judgy myself for her, because she’s too nice and too awesome to actually do that to me.
So, in London, emotions were running high and I was feeling alone and homesick and judged and totally childishly sorry for myself. I was having a bad moment involving a screaming fight with my mother. I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to say what was really wrong with me. I couldn’t say that I really was sorry for my part in the fight, I couldn’t say that it really hurt me when Mom called me “gauche” for being overwhelmed by the beauty and grace of the paintings in the National Gallery the day before, that listening to her telling and retelling the same stories of the cultural faux pas’ of past traveling companions while I was making those same faux pas‘ was humiliating (honestly, does it really matter if the napkin goes in the lap BEFORE the first bite instead of AFTER it? Well, maybe if you drop that first bite on your shirt, but then that would totally justify the price Tide charges for those To-Go laundry stick thingies!) and I couldn’t say that I missed being around people who thought my jokes were, ok, not necessarily funny, but at least got my sense of humor. I couldn’t say that I missed my girlfriend terribly, that I was overwhelmed with the idea that I’d be planning our wedding when I got back, and that I only had two weeks to do that planning, and I couldn’t explain that I was seeing and experiencing things in London that made me feel both powerfully inspired and paralyzingly unworthy. I couldn’t explain how just being there, in London, that dream coming true in that moment, was completely overwhelming. But
I needed to explain myself. I needed something to explain why I had just spent a half-hour in the hotel stairwell crying my eyes out. So… when I went back in the room, because I’d run out of the room without my passport or my return ticket and HAD to go back in, because flying home like a cowardly shit wasn’t an option,
well, I had to say something. So I lied.
I said that I was upset over a recent mammogram and that they’d ‘found something’ and that when I got home I was going to have to go and have a biopsy done.
I know. I’m going to hell for that. Probably the hell where they send people who set fires to orphanages, the one where Donald Trump is
President of the United States the Demonic Overseer and makes everyone sing 80’s pop hits endlessly (looking at you there, Hall and Oates.) The Hell where they send people who lie to their families about really horrific things like breast cancer.
And when I got home, I waited a week and reported back to them that my biopsy came back clean and everything was ok.
So, I guess getting called back for a follow up a couple of weeks ago, after my first real mammogram, this shouldn’t have surprised me. It was a little Karmic Justice dished to me that they’d ‘found something’. I was assured that this was ‘normal’ and a lot of women have ‘dense tissues, scars, cysts, just lots of little things that we need to rule out from their mammograms, and its nothing to worry about.’
Except that it turned out to be something. Except that the second mammoscannogram , and the 20 minutes of ultrasound jelly being rubbed all over Shirley (and once again, I didn’t charge anyone not even $5 for that) and not even with the 3-D scans, all that couldn’t quite explain away all the odd things they had found on the original scan. Not quite all of them. Shirley may be trying to kill me. Probably for introducing her to the wonderful world of picasso-esque medical photography. They said its probably nothing. They said it’s ok to wait 6 months and see if there’s any changes to it. They said they see these kinds of things all the time.
Except it’s me. Its my boob, my Shirley. I don’t want to wait 6 months and see if its anything to worry about. All the pathological reassurance that I was showered with at the breast care department of the university hospital doesn’t take away the very real fear that I might be that one woman in a hundred thousand, in a million, who hits the cancer lottery.
And I don’t know what to tell my mother and my sister.
And I’m scared.
* Yes, my boobs are named Laverne and Shirley. I considered Mork and Mindy, but even I have standards.