Last year, my husband and I participated in a Walk for the Cure. There was no particular reason, other than his office decided to walk as a group for a great cause. I had no first-hand experience with breast cancer and fortunately, I didn't know anyone afflicted by the disease.
Two months ago, ironically while visiting a friend with cancer, I discovered a large lump in my left breast. The kind you could easily pass off as something that would go away in a few days because it was just that huge. I assumed by the end of the weekend, it would be gone. Surely I had bumped into something, or had a bug bite.
Three days later, it was still there. And there were more, though none as large as what I began referring to as "my third breast."
As soon as I returned home, I called my doctor, who told me to come in that very afternoon. When she felt the lump, I saw her face register concern, though her demeanor remained calm. She referred me for a mammogram and an ultrasound - stat.
The mammogram was a breeze, but the ultrasound was horrid, and seemed to last forever. The cold instrument uncomfortably roaming across my nipple and all over my breast made me want to vomit. The technician isn't allowed to offer opinions, but I was desperately attempting to pry the tight lines open and read between them. To no avail.
When I wiped the gooey gunk off my breast and got dressed, I knew that there was nothing to do but wait. Wait, and evaluate my life. Wait, and prepare myself for bad news. Wait, and prepare myself for good news. Wait, and plan how I would break the bad news to my family and friends. Wait, and plan my line of attack.
Knowledge is power, so I took to the internet to educate myself on breast cancer, even though I had no idea if I actually had breast cancer. Bad mistake. There's so much information out there, which is a good thing, but when you have no idea what is actually wrong with you, you can quickly drive yourself insane pouring over the discussion forums, trying to find something that resembles your situation so you can self-diagnose, reading the prognosis for various stages of breast cancer, etc. So, I finally stepped away from the keyboard and tried to be patient until I knew more.
I knew something was wrong, or at least abnormal. I just didn't know to what degree, so I said to myself, "If I have breast cancer, I will kick its @ss, and if I don't win the battle, well, I've had a pretty good life." One day, I had myself convinced that my time on this earth would end sooner than I had wanted and the next day I convinced myself that this was not what it appeared to be and all would be well. Oddly, no matter the day, I wasn't scared, and I wasn't depressed. Although I had a preference, I was calmly resigned to either fate. My prime concern was how a diagnosis would affect my family and friends.
Several days later, I found myself in yet another sterile room having my left breast punctured, drained and carved like a Thanksgiving turkey. A procedure that was supposed to take 20 minutes took almost two hours, but when all was said and done, I left with the standard issue two breasts, thankful to have shed the unwanted third breast. Victoria's Secret does not carry three-sling braziers....
I'm lucky. I'm going to be just fine, so no concern is necessary. But I wanted to address this episode for a few reasons. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Until this episode, I had blown off the all-important mammogram and had rarely performed self exams. I must have mammograms every six months for now, but even if that weren't the case, I assure you, I would willingly have my mammogram each year. For those of you who have put it off, or if you've felt something odd in or around your breasts (check your armpits, too), make an appointment today!
I've been at odds with my husband in the past regarding bad news (read: deployments). Namely, he likes to wait until the last possible moment to deliver the bad news. I like to prepare and be in the know, so his method of delivery hasn't sat well with me in the past. I waited many days before saying anything to my husband about what was happening. Thankfully, I was traveling some of the time because you can only hide something so obvious a limited number of ways. My line of thought was that there was no need to worry him unless and until I knew something. I was trying to protect him and give him as many good days as possible. I think that's what my husband hopes to accomplish when he delays that dreaded deployment talk. No doubt I'll get upset next time he does it, and no doubt he will do it again, but now I have a better understanding of why.
With Breast Cancer, early detection is so important. Life is hectic for all of us, no matter our situations; kids, careers, school, volunteer work. All of the above. It's easy to get wrapped up in our daily obligations to others and put our healthcare on the back burner, treating it as a luxury rather than a necessity. That's not good for us, or for the people who love and depend on us. There IS something to be said for a preemptive strike....
Monday night I caught some of the Patriots/Dolphins game and I noted the pink gloves worn by the players. I smiled at the big, tough guys wearing pink. But it makes sense. After all, boobies are important to men, too.