In honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Boobs: A Narrative.

When I was sixteen, my older sister Filippa took me aside to inform me that my mother had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. That’s how things work in my family—my mother was too Catholic, I guess, to talk about things like breasts and sex and menstruation, so she left all of that to my sister. It was Filippa who took me to the department store to buy my first bra, and who dragged me kicking and screaming to buy tampons. And it was Filippa who sat on my bed with me while I cried, terrified that my mother was going to die.

She was lucky, my mom, because she was so diligent about having annual mammograms, and with excision and radiation, her chances of survival were 96%. She was lucky, too, in that she didn’t need to worry about losing a breast. I remember, shortly after her diagnosis, finding some pamphlets that the doctor gave her—pamphlets which showed pictures of mastectomies and special bra inserts. Mostly, I remember this feeling of almost overwhelming dread; if my mother has breast cancer, so will I.

This summer, I found I lump in my right breast. I stood in my shower until the water turned frigid, paralyzed, convinced that my twelve-year reprieve from thinking about breast cancer had come to an end.

My gynecologist is a wonderful woman named Cynthia. I can count on her to make a pelvic exam, if not comfortable, then at least not-mortifying. And she always has the greatest shoes. Cynthia sent me to the local hospital for an ultrasound to determine if the lump was malignant. This was one of the more surreal moments of my life. I was in a waiting room, wearing this strange toga-like contraption meant to simultaneously cover my breasts and allow for their easy access, and I was the only woman there under 50. All of the ladies in the waiting room were quite nice—they looked at me curiously, as if to ascertain why a woman in her late-20s was in the mammography center, and then, having determined that whatever brought me there must be pretty terrible, assured me that “mammograms aren’t really as bad as they say, dear. You’ll be fine.”

The radiologist was a sweet, middle-aged woman. She seemed almost apologetic about touching my breasts in the cold room, and had me apply the ultrasound lubricant myself. There is nothing quite so uncomfortable, I’ve found, as smearing KY Jelly on your tits while a smiling doctor looks on.

Eventually, my gynecologist, radiologist, primary care physician and oncologist all agreed—it’s not cancer. Yet. It’s a fibroadenoma, and it looks like this:

Kind of looks like the man in the moon, doesn’t it?

I’m having surgery on Monday to have it taken out. A biopsy and excision, it’s called, which sounds really scary. Maybe I should go back to those kind ladies in the waiting room, and they can tell me that it’s not really as bad as everyone says it is, dear. I’ll be fine.

annamaria at 3:12 PM

3 spoke


at Monday, October 10, 2005 11:32:00 PM Blogger Dane meets Simone said...

Damn girl...

Keep us posted!

at Wednesday, October 12, 2005 12:23:00 PM Blogger Kurt said...

I'm saying a prayer for you - mostly for peace of mind and calm. Even if you don't think it'll help ;)
Hey, check out this NPR station in Philly. They are counting down their version of the top 885 albums (88.5 FM) of all-time. Right now they are playing The Pretenders and I forgot how much I liked this album.
Also, I was sorry to hear about Delphi's bankruptcy and I thought of you. I hope that isn't making too much stress for you.

at Wednesday, October 12, 2005 6:11:00 PM Blogger annamaria said...

Actually, Kurt, I'm a big believer in the power of positive thinking, so your prayers are welcome and appreciated. Even if don't necessarily believe there's someone up there listening to them! :)

That list of the top 885 songs is fascinating! Particularly the bit at the bottom where all the different artists list their top ten. Who new that Gang of Four's Hugo Burnham is a CCR fan??

The Delphi bankruptcy hasn't affected us yet, and frankly, at this point, I'd look forward to a layoff, as it seems that's the only way I'll get out of working in the automotive industry!


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