Thursday, January 27, 2011

Picturing Perfect Breasts

The site of mammogram #2
The universe has clearly been messing with me. In a month when I've been focusing on dealing with my changing body, I received a wake up call that put the issue in perspective.

Last week I went to get my annual mammogram, which is always a little stressful, because my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago (she has been cancer free since then.) To compensate for the worry, I book my mammogram at the center at Nordstrom so I can treat myself to a little shopping afterward.

Anyway, my mammogram was routine, or so I thought, until I received the test results online the next day, which included this ominous news.

In the left breast, question is raised of a focal asymmetry in the far
posterior central breast as seen on the MLO image only. This is seen
overlying the pectoralis muscle and could relate to overlap of normal

Questioned asymmetry in the central left breast, as above. Additional
imaging, which may include ultrasound, is recommended.

My doctor confirmed that the "asymmetry" in my left breast required follow up, but she didn't seem to be very concerned. I made the appointment at Evanston Hospital and vowed to only think positive thoughts.

My breasts are definitely not as full or perky as they once were - but for the next six days I began to think about them in a whole new way. I studied them in the mirror, all whole and natural and smooth and unscathed. "You're perfect," I told them, "I will never insult you again."

I dressed them up, wearing my nicest, frilliest bras - the zebra print, the red lace one. They deserved it! I closed my eyes and visualized my boobs as filled with golden light.  I focused on my left breast, trying to feel it from the inside out. "Asymetrical, humph" I grumbled, "You're just a little bigger." I planned a fun weekend- we got Bulls tickets, I had a massage.

But six days turned out to be a long time to stay positive. Dark thoughts would flit across my mind. I knew all too well from my mom's experience what breast cancer treatment would mean. It was rough and it was scary and it was damn inconvenient. I have plans! I'm in a show, we're going on vacation, I have work!

Not to mention the fear of that death thing. And my children growing up without a mother. And the stress it would place on my poor husband. And - argh! Back to the golden light-filled tits. I was sure nothing was wrong!

"I'm scared." I confided to my husband.

"I know," he said. "But get the test and we'll take it from there."

Without saying a word, he rearranged his schedule so he could work from home. Just in case.

Yesterday, At the breast health center at the hospital, the nice technologist showed me my films and pointed out a small dark spot.

"Here's what we're going to take another look at," she said. "It could be nothing, but we want to be sure."

She took a few new shots of my flattened left breast and took them off to the radiologist.

"The doctor wants to proceed to the ultrasound, but isn't that concerned."

Despite no one being very concerned, my heart pounded like a jackhammer and sweat dripped from my deodorant free armpits. I anxiously scanned the doctor's face while she scanned my chest.

"Do you see anything?"

She turned off the machine and looked at me.

"Nothing." she said. "You're fine. It's just a blood vessel. Come back in a year."

Oh the relief! I wanted to burst into song.

In the changing room I texted my husband, my mother and two friends, "I'm fine!" Of course I was; I knew it all along.

But I did learn a couple things from the experience.

  • First, medical tests suck, even when no one is all that "concerned."
  • Second, I have a new perspective about my minor health issues. Hot flashes, declining vision, vitamin D deficiency? Shoot, honey, those are the natural, piddly consequences of living to middle age. Get over yourself and stop whining.
  • Third, my body is freaking awesome, and I am going to fully appreciate it. 
And now, my breasts, my blood vessels and I are off to have a great day.


Kelley L. said...

I'm so glad to hear that it was a false alarm! My mom is also an 11 year breast cancer survivor, so I can relate to the panic.

Compliments to your writing as well, you had me laughing out loud, especially with "golden light-filled tits."

Thank you for sharing your personal and insightful experience!

Caitlin Kelly said...

I have my mammo coming up on -- when else -- Valentine's Day. I hope the girls love me back with a clear report. Like you, my mom is a breast cancer survivor, which always makes that day a scary one.

Back in 2002, I was found to have cysts we had to keep an eye on but they went away. Scary stuff.

Marjie Killeen said...

Kelley, Caitlin - We're so fortunate that our mothers are now cancer free. Here's to the girls and wishing you the best on Valentine's Day, Caitlin.