Breasts … Over Exposure … Radiation … Tattoos … Such is Life

Over Exposure

“Nice to meet you,” I have said numerous times over the last two and a half months. That goes along with the handshake … usually a coltish hand.

After maybe ten minutes, our meet and greets turn into people that I just met, women and men, palpating my breasts.

Of late, they have also checked out healing scars, too.

They are first dates that go a bit beyond the kiss.

There was no lump to feel. The gremlin was deep. It lurked behind tissue and set itself right in the mild duct.

As strange as it sounds, the picture in my mind was of breast-feeding my babies. That is what milk duct means to me. I had an infected one, once, and that hurt like heck … much worse than this cancer did.

When I think of milk ducts, iI see a baby nestled in my arms, its itty-bitty hands free and floating in the air, sometimes touching me and other times, acting like an orchestra conductor.

I hear the slurping sound and see breast milk leaking out the side of a little plunger mouth that is using its force to get nourishment.


But my mind always bounces back to the matter at hand, which is my breast.

I never quite know where to look when this person I just met, is looking at and feeling me. There are times whenI have looked at his or hew face. Are they having any kind of facial reaction that should alarm me? Will they find something? But most of the time, I look away. I might count tiles on the ceiling, for that nano-second when I feel vulnerable.


It happened, again, this past Monday. A radiologist. He apologized for cold fingers. I have noticed that the doctor’s touches are similar. They are like artists, using their stroking techniques, to apply the right pressure.

I make my nervous chatter. Sometimes, I want to make them laugh. Other times I want to make them think that I am smart and not just a 650year old with saggy breasts that have my mother’s genetic little red moles on them. It is all I can do to not say, “They didn’t use to fall to the side. They were perky. I was young, once. I am that same person, but in a body that is playing tricks on me.”


It isn’t just the breasts. It is the fallibility. The insecurity of being an age that in most circles, and on most insurance charts, is old.

I know I have made three of the four doctors laugh. One, I didn’t really try because I wasn’t sure if she would get me. The fourth? I went for the , let’s try to get him to think you are smart.

While lying on the CT table, getting marked up for radiation, as the radiologist, a very nice man, placed tape on the area that he wanted radiation to target, and I chatted.

He had seen that I was a writer, on their cheat sheet of information that they have to sum up a 65-year-old life in a few seconds.

As he apologized for the cold hands while applying tape, I said, “Ah, it is fine. I will write about it.”

He asked me what I wrote, and boiled down my twenty-plus years as a writer, down as much as I could, I mentioned writing my blog, “Life Without a Map.”

He asked what that was. And I told him where it came from.

The first time I went to Ireland by myself, I got homesick on the way over and wanted to go home. But after a good night’s sleep, I got in the car and started driving and I decided not to use a map. If I wanted to turn right, I would. If left looked more interesting, that is the way I’d go. And I have subscribed to that outlook and way of living, ever since.”

I think that did it. He thought that was cool and a great idea.

He left the large room with the huge white donut machine. The table moved me in and out. I closed my eyes and laughed and thought to myself, this is sort of like sex … in and out.

But there was no shaking it all about.

The man who did the CT scan, then got out his tattoo gizmo, and before you know it, I had received my first tattoo. Four blue dots. They would be used to line me up so those really intense sun means would go to the correct place.

I lay there, breasts exposed, arms over my head, grabbing a metal bar.

Exposure. Double exposure.

A few minutes later, I was dress and ready to go.

I am to return this coming Monday, the day after my 66th birthday,to begin daily radiation treatments. For four weeks, I will go and take my shirt off and expose myself to hands that heal and beams of energy that will work on eradicating any errrant gremlins that might be lurking.

The days of breastfeeding babies is long gone. Breastfeeding helped give my children life. Radiation, hopefully, will insure that my life will continue.

Let me be your sunbeam.



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