They are Breasts … A Cancer Tale

They are called boobs, tits, knockers, the girls, ta-tas, bazooms and bazongas.

They simply are breasts.

They are measured in letters and numbers. There are itty bitty titties and pendulous grapefruits. Some rise in defiance of gravity, some swing under armpits and other nipples talk to the waist.

They have been worshipped and adored by men, (mostly), since the beginning of time and memorial.

Woman go through surgery and have foreign objects imbedded in themselves to make their breasts bigger. There are those who have surgery to make their breasts smaller.

There are women who believe the size of their breasts, their perkiness, are their Crown Jewels, something to be displayed.

For those who have loved nursing babies, their breasts not only provide nutrients for their child, but to have a baby at your breast, slurping away, making little sounds, gazing into your eyes, while you hold its tiny fingers, is one of the warmest times of life.

In our society, breasts equal sex. Breasts are items to ogle, fondle and be groped, with and without invitation.

Women have many different relationships with their breasts. There are those whose self-image is based on their breasts and others who put them in a bra and rarely think of them.

I was small breasted until I had kids and nursed them and then gained weight. I didn’t think the top of me matched the bottom, in size. I saw girls my age with large breasts and wondered what kid of genetic joke had been played on me that I didn’t have breasts that bounce.

That was the same mind that was embarrassed about her big feet, and zits and big nose and wide hips.

None of any of the above mattered when I walked across an enclosed bridge, into a building that had Levine Cancer Center, above the door.

Yes, I have been to Cancer rectories. I went with Nick through his cancer, surgery, chemo, radiation … the whole deal. I worked on an NCAA basketball tournament bracket while waiting for a doctor.

I visited my mom when she was in the hospital being treated for leukemia. I went with one sister-in-law to her doctor’s appointment, after her breast cancer had returned. I missed her funeral because I had to conduct a writing workshop that couldn’t be cancelled.

I was with my other sister-in0law when she died from cancer. Not breast cancer. When death is the result, does the kind really matter?

But to walk under that sign, like it is a rainbow, knowing that the “patient” is me, well, let’s just say, “What the heck is this?”

I am the caregiver. That is my role. Patient? Un, no thank you.

This has been a long week. The waiting. The reading, the stories that I have heard and read, all meant to help. But hearing those stories makes one’s mind work … sorting out information that might pertain to you, or not.

So, you listen and compartmentalize and talk to yourself and figure out who you will be able to talk to this about as you go forward.

All that is and was fine, doable. But its the other parts of life that you know you don’t manage well because they are emotional and you can’t control, but they control you, and stress boils and you cannot be in the mental place that you want to, and need to, be.

So you just want that day to come. You want to find what track your train is going to take and blow your horn and say, “All aboard the cancer fight express.”

I didn’t have to wait. From the moment I signed it, it was a well-orchestrated visit. For an hour prior, I practiced saying the doctor’s name. It is really hard to pronounce. So, for this purpose, and to protect her privacy, I will call her “Dr. H”.

The other day, I received a call form a woman who wold be my go-to person for this experience … wort of like a white-water rafting guide. She would help me navigate Cancerland, which is what I termed it when I wrote about Nick’s cancer.

I wrote about his walk through cancer for the Cleveland Plain Dealer magazine. The number of letters that I received, from people sharing their stories, was incredible.

There hasn’t been a time when I thought that I would be writing mine.

I shall call this woman, Miss M. Her voice was lovely, calming and steady. I couldon’t believe what she would do. She would coordinate between the doctors, be there for my surgery and do anything she could to find answers to my questions. And, she gave me a phone number where I didn’t have to go through a menu.

One after another, different people came into the room. I normally go to my doctor appointments by myself. But this time, I took Nick. Four ears are better than two.

Each person was wonderful, kind, professional and on the ball.

I was most interested in meeting the surgeon. What would I think? Would I like her, feel comfortable with her? Would I have faith in her abilities?

Yes. The answer to each of those questions was, yes.

I had done my homework. I knew what she was talking about, at least most of it. It really helped for her to have a drawing that she did that showed what was going on. Cancer cells are the ultimate bully.

Dr. H had a male resident with her. Both she and the resident examined my breast. Nick sat in a chair, while Dr. H did one breast and the resident did the other. One had cold hands and one had warm hands.

“Gosh, I am with Matt Lauer,” I said.

I couldn’t resist.

Here is a badge I will yap about.

“You are the poster child for early detection,” Dr. H, said.

But I almost, wasn’t, as I really didn’t want to go to the appointment that day, and Nick told me to, “Just go.”

Same as I had said to him when he went for a colonoscopy.

Team work.

Dr. H. Went over procedures, options, statistics, addressed some of the unknowns. As much as gets can say one thing, until you go in and cut it out, and do more testing, you don’t know for sure. Cancer is like that. It can be very contrary.

By the time I left the office, I had a genetic testing appointment scheduled, one with a radiologist, and a surgery date. I will also be seeing an oncologist.

When I met Dr. H, we shook hands.Before she left the room, she gave me a hug.

I received another hug from Miss M.

Miss M, also have me my party gifts. Early in the morning, as I awoke, I thought, after you get breast surgery, isn’t it going to be uncomfortable riding home in the car with a seatbelt strapped across your breast?

Voila, in the party gift bag, which, of course, had pink handles in the shape of the breast cancer symbol, was a cute little pillow, for just that occasion. There was also a big book about breast cancer, some home, Kleenex and an Emory board.

It didn’t escape constant thinking that I was so fortunate to be sitting in that office, hearing the news that I heard. Some women don’t hear such benign news in Cancerland.

Both NIck and I felt great after the appointment. If we didn’t know it was all about cancer, we would have considered a great way to meet people.

Of course, we celebrated the visit. The reckoning. And

T that we have good, talented, smart, compassionate, people, on our team. WE ended up at a new joint. On the way to the Midnight Diner, we passed a place called, “Art’s Bar B Q”.

“Want to try that?” I said.


And there we went. As part of this new adventure, we tried a new restaurant.

It was great. The pulled pork was very tasty, as was the mac and cheese. Nick enjoyed his barbecued chicken.

No one that I know wants cancer. I know that I always feared it. But like so many other things in life, certain things just happen. One cell gets angry, decides to be a bully, and bingo, you get to visit Cancerland.

And if I have to visit Cancerland, they better get ready for me. The lightbulb plans to be a force to be reckoned with.


I almost forgot. There were pink footies in the party bag. Woohoo!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Mary Palliser Barton says:

    Please know that my heart and prayers and smile are with you. Breast cancer is a known entity for my mom and two older sisters. Will I be next? Sharing your journey brings new light and hope to my unknown. Be strong and know that I am here.


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