After a few weeks of processing through the “what ifs” associated with having a lump in my breast, I am relieved to know that my MRI was negative. NEGATIVE. I don’t have cancer. It would have been a truly cruel twist to have discovered a malignant mass in my breast but I dealt with the possibilities like all differential diagnosis. I am not a ‘Chicken Little’ nor am I an ostrich. I simply make the list. These are the possibilities of what ‘could be’. And if it is THIS, then THESE are the potential choices. I ran through the varying options. I considered everything. If it’s nothing: cool. If it’s something? You breakdown the problem and plot out contingencies. And I have a lot of contingencies. I have two sons. I have a business. I don’t earn an income if I don’t work. I have a disability policy if I am ill and I had to verify the process by which I trigger that policy. I had to consider what I might accept as treatment options. This made me really think about my body and what about it I like. We take so much for granted, often not truly noticing facets about our own physiques that we appreciate.
I was a flat chested tom boy way into high school. Only after having two kids, nursing and honestly….gaining a bit of excess weight….did I ‘develop’. And now, I like My Girls. I pamper them. I buy nice lingerie that flatter them. And I spent a few weeks considering the idea of their removal. Removal. That is a fucked up idea. It rattled me.
I’ve had this stoic conversation with patients many times in discussing their abnormal results and treatment options. Suddenly, sitting on the patient side of the equation, the stoicism isn’t so easy. There is an emotional quotient associated with the consideration of medical treatment, especially if the treatment requires the loss of one’s body parts.
I’ve always been a bit odd in this regard. I have a small box with all my baby teeth. I have my sons’ baby teeth. When my wisdom teeth were surgically removed, I woke from anesthesia asking for my teeth. I was quite pissed that they are chiseled out in fragments and discarded. My (ex) husband’s consolation was to buy me diamond earrings. This was an extravagant kindness but didn’t satisfy my wish to have “all my parts back”. What makes a woman a woman? Her shape? Her breasts? Her face? Her movements? Her menstrual cycle? Her hormones? Her genetics? Her state of mind? Femininity varies for each woman. What I believe makes me feminine is unique to me.
For now, My Girls and I are safe. The MRI was a clean sweep. The palpable lump is an invisible nothing. And I am wiser today for having a few weeks to reconcile my feelings about how I might proceed if I were to have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I am thankful for technology. I am thankful for answers. I am also far more empathetic towards my patients’ and the decisions they face when given bad news.