Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Feel scared, feel embarrassed, but feel your boobies

So I wasn't sure whether or not it was a lump.

It's just hard to tell. But it was bothering me and not going away. I went to the midwives, who take the best care of even non-pregnant women such as myself.

"It's movable," she said, after examining the -- lump? Cyst? Other random thing? -- in Lefty (Yes, they have names.) Movable lumps are apparently better than non-movable ones, that is, not usually indicative of cancer.

"But let's get it checked out just in case," she said. Wrote me a script for the Breast Care Center. Which is housed in the Cancer Center, I learned when I made my appointment. Not exactly a confidence-booster, that. It really made me screech to a halt and realize:

"This lump could be breast cancer."

I waited a very long week and a half, then went in for both a mammogram and an ultrasound today. I had forced myself not to think about it until I was in the waiting room and then I saw a very ill-looking woman with thinning hair sitting across from me, and felt a small wave of panic.

It really could be cancer. I started thinking about my husband, my kids, my sisters and tried to focus on the TV, which was blaring what I thought was Young and the Restless but turned out to be As the World Turns. Someone was waking up from a coma. Good. Distracting.

Then the nurse called me in. First up: Mammogram. It's unpleasant. Like an apple press, only with your boobs shoved in there and smushed. From every conceivable direction. I started to cry not because it hurt but because there was no going back now; I couldn't put off and ignore it anymore because now machines and tests and other people were involved.

Then, not knowing the results of the mammogram, I was ushered into another waiting area. This is the part of the story that gets a little surreal.

The TV in this waiting area had on the awful afternoon installment of the Today Show, with Kathie Lee Gifford. I joined it just in time for their segment on Life After Breast Cancer: How to wear a bra after a mastectomy. Exercises for after a mastectomy. Nutrition to prevent breast cancer. Oh, did we mention October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Oh and also, one in 9 women will get breast cancer.

After about a thousand years, or so it seemed, they brought me in for the ultrasound. The tech spread the gel on me and moved the wand around. For about a year. Then:

"I don't see anything."

Whatever was bothering me is apparently a normal part of my left breast, and isn't showing up as anything bad on either the mammogram or the ultrasound.

The whole day was pretty scary. And it's embarrassing to be topless for that long in front of total strangers, even if they are nurses. But now, I know. I was braced for the worst, and still sort of can't believe I got a clean bill of health.

I know I'm lucky. I know there are a lot of women who won't get this kind of good news after their mammograms. I wish I had some sage advice or thoughtful perspective to offer. Just feel your boobies. Get a mammogram. Rule it out so you don't have to think about it. Or, catch it early. Anything. Just don't ignore it.


  1. Kim - this is great news, and great narrative journalism, too. Phew.

  2. I'm relieved to read the end of this and find that everything is OK. I have often heard that these processes are embarassing, but I don't think many men appreciate just how uncomfortable it is.

    In any event, treat yourself to something special soon. You deserve it, if for no other reason than for all the stress.


  3. Glad everything turned out well in the end. Very good news. An on the subject of breast cancer awareness, I'd love you to check out this 30 sec video -- http://www.ahamoment.com/vote/leigh -- about the 'aha moment' of the woman who launched the Feel Your Boobies t-shirt campaign. If you like it, vote for it (with one simple click), as the top vote-getters will be used as aha moment TV commercials next year. Voting ends Oct 31.

    Thanks for your consideration,