June 29, 2011
In the summer of 2009, for some quirky unknown reason, I’m kind of embarrassed to confess I started taking photos of my breasts. I suspect it had something to do with being bored, needing to rebel from the constraints of my life at that time (taking care of two elderly parents), and needing badly to exercise some creative muscles but not having the energy for any big projects. Whatever the reason, I took my digital camera, held it away from my body at various angles, and clicked the shutter. Then, two years later, mammograms and ultrasounds show I have some “suspicious abnormalities” in my breasts. I think at a subconscious level, I wanted to remember how my breasts looked when they were healthy and unscarred.
Being human, when I got that news I very quickly went through the possibilities of what could happen. Worst case scenario, of course, is I could have cancer and die. Of course that’s a thought that enters my head; I’m human and we seem to be wired that way, don’t we? It doesn’t matter how spiritual we are or how full of faith, there seems to be an innate fear of death in our culture and I guess at some point or another, most of us have to face that fear. But truthfully, I didn’t believe that was my fate at the time. I’m pretty sure there was a lot more I was supposed to do on the planet before I left. So I ruled that option out. I thought, well, I could get cancer, but I decided I wasn’t going to die for a while. I chose to have some say in this matter and I chose to believe it wasn’t my time.
So the next most pressing thought was, ‘Will I lose my breasts?’ For some reason, this was a more sobering thought to me. If I were going to be alive, I would really like to keep my breasts. I was rather attached to them. (No pun intended.) I was fond of them. And I knew a few other people who were as well! (You know who you are!)
So I guess this is why I began the odd hobby of photographing my breasts. Perhaps subconsciously I knew that I would want a record of how they used to look.
Today marks the 45th day since I first discovered a suspicious dark-colored discharge from my left nipple. Well actually, if I’m honest, it’s probably more like the 52nd day, because after I first noticed it I promptly tucked the incident back into the corners of my subconscious. I really did NOT want to deal with that piece of information at that time.
However, I eventually got on the stick. I realized that no, it was not my imagination, and no, it was not a one-time only phenomenon. I immediately called my primary doctor first thing in the morning. Then began a rapid succession of mammograms, ultrasounds, visits to a consulting surgeon, visits to a second surgeon for another opinion, etc. But as of yet, no biopsy. Sadly, it seems to have to do with finances and insurance (or rather, the lack thereof.)
Here is one thing I can’t seem to forget. How many millions of women in this country have mammograms that suggest a possible “abnormality?” How many millions of women have to go through this maelstrom of emotions – the fear, the uncertainty, the worry, the “what ifs?” I ask myself: is there anything that I can do to share information, offer suggestions and insights based upon my experience, and, most of all perhaps, educate about breast cancer prevention?
The answer is yes. I can write this blog.
And there you have it. This is the first in a series of “conversations” about the experiences, the emotions, and the many and varied things I am learning – about the medical world, about preventive healthcare, about the ebb and flow of emotions, about finding a support network, and about the spiritual lessons that can come with this experience if we’re open to them.
And to those of you out there who may be worried about your own breasts, or the breasts of someone you love, or me, may I say: Read on, folks. There is much to learn.
For now, I am trusting that everything is happening for a reason. I am trying to allow my feelings to surface, while not getting overly bogged down with the nonproductive ones. I truly do know that ultimately everything will be fine, no matter what the diagnosis turns out to be.
All is well. (And I may freak out a bit from time to time.)
Peace to you.