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My Quivering Bosom

Did you make an appointment yet?

Geez, people!! If one more person asks me that I’m gonna bust! And a CERTIFIED reminder letter? Really???

Okay, I’ll admit it. I told them I was not going to get a biopsy just because they saw something that “could eventually turn into cancer” on my mammogram. Just to get them off my case, I agreed to come back in 6 months for another screening to see if the suspicious micro-calcifications were still there.

Being the procrastinator I am, 6 months, 7 months, 8 months came and went. A year later I had everyone who’s ever prodded any of my genetically female parts banging on my door. So one day I took off my shirt and examined my left boob, still appearing as incongruous an appendage on me as ever, and asked it “Are we okay?” Aside from being a little achy like it had been a year ago, all was still status quo. The right boob whispered jealously to me, “Pay no attention to her. She’s a total whiner.”

It’s not that I had any fear about going back for a follow-up. Even when the matronly tech at that first screening came out into the waiting room and put her arm around me explaining that “there’s nothing to be alarmed about but the pathologist would like you to have a biopsy,” I was only slightly fazed.


The words biopsy and alarm are about as separate as church and state! My inclination was to laugh, maybe nervously, maybe sardonically, thinking that these ridiculous breasts that I never wanted in the first place, that I used to tie down with a skinny piece of string when I was the only girl playing Little League in 6th grade, that have never served their intended purpose of nurturing life into the world, could possibly turn on me. “Use ’em or lose ’em!”, the saying goes. Fine. Take ’em. It’s not like I’m using them.

So with great bravado and an attitude of nothing to lose but something I never wanted anyway, I finally made the follow-up appointment and with all the dignity of a cow locked in a stanchion having its teats manipulated to release their stored milk, I subjected my “whiner” to the plexiglass press, first this way, then that way, then yet another two ways. I felt like yelling at the tech, “Don’t bother telling me to hold my breath again — I’ve been holding it since I got in here!!” Nothing quite like smashing an already tender boobie on purpose to inspire a permanent gasp and wince.

I glanced over at the computer printout where I saw what looked ironically like the Milky Way right where I had been feeling the pain. The five little stars they’d seen previously were obscured by clouds of white. Uh-oh, I thought… that can’t be good. She sent me back to the waiting room to give the pathologist time to look at the results. Not two minutes later, the escort lady came out and beckoned me over to the dressing room. I took a deep breath into my no longer confined chest and thought, isn’t it bad when the jury comes back with the verdict right away?

“You’re good to go. We’ll see you again in a year.”

WHAT ????

Last year you were ready to cut me open “just in case” and now you’re saying it was nothing??? What kind of place IS this???

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve known several women who have had breast cancer detected early and have made full recoveries. But I’ve also heard it said that our bodies develop cancers throughout our lives but our immune systems correct them when we are younger and healthier. Last year, the conventional recommendation that all women over age 40 should have mammograms done annually was changed to age 50, partly for this reason.

So I’m on the fence. At 46, I’m somewhere in between and probably shouldn’t be playing rouellette with my health, especially considering that my parents endowed me with an average life expectancy of 54 years and the fact that those of us who don’t use ’em are at higher risk for losing ’em. But I am also of the opinion that just because it is medically possible to detect diseases early, doesn’t necessarily mean we should try. By golly, if one were to do exploratory surgery on any of us throughout our lives, we probably wouldn’t make it past 30 without finding SOMEthing suspicious.

Yes, I realize I’ll catch a lot of flack for this attitude but I’m growing weary of having almost every woman I know return from an exam eliciting “suspicious results” with a look of terror on her face, only to have a biopsy find out it was nothing after all. Meanwhile, studies have shown that the poking and prodding may actually play a part in future problems.

Blessings to those of you who have received treatment and recovered due to early detection. I don’t want to take anything away from your courageous journey. But when I see football players wearing pink in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (does anyone else find it hinky that they have such an investment in saving the tatas?), or am enticed to buy potato chips (which encourage overall health HOW??)  packaged in a pink bag, or any number of other goods and services that are cashing in on my mammary health, I have to wonder if we haven’t turned some ethical corner in the race to save women from their ticking time-boobs. I mean time-BOMBS !!

  1. November 10, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    You are funny Ellen. I need a weekend with you sometime. I think wine would come out my nose though. So camera could not be arms distance away. That would be the only condition.

  2. Mama Nance
    November 10, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Ha Ha! You said “time-boobs” !

  3. Larry
    November 10, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    Okay, totally mystical world for a guy (although I have my own set of medical probings to endure 😦 However, I did bust out laughing at the comment about the NFL players wearing pink. As a guy and the father of a baseball player, my favorite breast cancer awareness T-shirt was the one with two strategically placed baseballs and the tag line “Help Save 2nd Base.” I just giggled all day after seeing that one ;^)

    I’m just glad they gave you a clean bill of health. We all want to see you set a longevity record for your family.

  4. rachel
    November 10, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Ellen, truly enjoyed the blog. Love your writing style. I will be walking the 3 Day for the Cure (aka the 60 mile boobie walk) in San Diego in 8 days. I’m sure I will hear lots of ta-ta stories and will get lots of advice to get mine checked out. I’m not a fan of the mammygrammy. Have had it done twice since I turned 40, I too am 46, and the first time I was advised to “reschedule”… with grave looks given and “meaningful” head bobs… second picture and all was well with my boobs. hmmmmmm.

    Glad your pics came back clean. Keep on doing those home exams… cheap and easy thrill. 🙂 and here’s to good boobie health everywhere.

    BTW LARRY… men can also get breast cancer… however, women cannot get prostate cancer… go figure! ;->

  5. November 11, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Good luck on your walk, Rachel! I know a few women who have done it and they say it was the most amazing thing they’ve ever done. Wear a good bra!

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