Monday, May 12, 2014

Rocky Road for Thelma & Louise

If you've been following this blog since forever ago then you'll know that on a whim I nicknamed my breasts Thelma and Louise. It was a joke during a conversation I had with a guy online back in the late 90s. It started by laughing at the weird things men name their junk. Thelma and Louise seemed far more appropriate than Laverne and Shirley.

With that out of the way, please understand that I have never been shy discussing my boobalas. It is like ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the room.  Usually, the discussion revolves around the impossibility of finding a bra that truly suits me (hence the secondary title of this blog) and the difficulty in wearing pretty much any shirt, sweater, jacket, etc...

Today, the Girls need to have a serious talk with all of you.

When I was 19 a lump was found in my left breast. Immediately, my gynecologist was notified, he examined me and sent me to a general surgeon the same day. Within a week the lump was subjected to a needle biopsy which came back benign. Over the course of many years the lump went away.

In March 2014 I was lying in bed on my right side. With the need to scratch my armpit (shut up), I raised my left arm and commenced scratching. My heart nearly stopped when I grazed a lump. It isn't in my pit, but located where the enticing side boob begins. It's the spot where my underwire presses on the tissue. After soothing myself with positive prayer, I fell asleep but didn't forget about it.

The next morning in the shower I further examined my breasts. I questioned how a lump could have gone unnoticed because it is so obviously there when I cleanse the area. How did it just show up overnight? Were my monthly self-exams not thorough enough?

Instead of reacting as I had nearly 30 years ago, I pushed it to the back of my mind. For three weeks denial took control. Then, one day while talking with my friend Justin, I blurted it out. How it came up in conversation I cannot recall. It just did and he inquired when it was getting checked out. It was then the excuses started to run the gamut. Denial, again, took the front seat. It wasn't for another couple of weeks while on the phone with my sister that I mentioned it. Short of calling me stupid -- she phrased it much more lovingly -- she insisted I call my doctor when we got off the phone. I did. They were closed. Another week passed. I called again. They were closed for a holiday!

In a slightly humorous status update on Facebook the remark was made that it sucked having a boob lump and the doctor's office always seemed closed and since I was displeased with my gynecologist, inquiry was posed if anyone have a recommendation. My niece, a nurse, messaged me. She had recently changed Ob/Gyn. She gave me the number. I called. Within a week I was at the office being examined.

Fast forward to today. Two weeks after the examination.

Mammogram. Easy peasy. A tad uncomfortable, but nothing to cry about. My breasts felt like paninis. The technician was kind and listened to me nervously ramble. She escorted me back to the little room. She told me not to get dressed in case the radiologist wanted to move me to ultrasound. Ten or fifteen minutes later she returned to tell me that the ultrasound tech would be coming to get me shortly. Within a minute, a petite technician took me to another room. With instruction to lie on my back I joked about my breasts sliding into my armpits. Humor is the best medicine. Well, for me it is a nervous tick. Either laugh or watch me cry.

The ultrasound. Ouch. A great deal of time was spent rooting around my right breast. It was certainly a 7 on the discomfort rating -- 10 being the worst. Imagine burying your knuckles into bread dough. That is what she was doing with the ultrasound wand. I thought, "If there is a lump she just disintegrated it." About 10 or 40 minutes later she completed that side. It was grueling. The time dragged. On to the left.

Holy shitake!!! That ghastly wand was being mashed directly into the lump. It hurt. Lamaze breathing enacted. My eyes welled up. She asked if I was ok then added that she doesn't realize how hard she's pushing to get the image. Yeah. She was fairly new, I would later learn. Ow! It seemed to be eons by the time she stopped.  That was an 11.

Once the ultrasound goo was wiped off I was once again advised to not get dressed. The radiologist would review the images and come in to discuss his findings. After 45 minutes and a couple apologies for making me wait, he came in. Within moments I was told he saw a couple curious lumps on the right breast and, of course, the left. While my head was spinning I struggled to stay focused on what the next step would be. "Blah blah lump yada yada biopsy. yakety smakety breast nurse will be in to talk to you." and he was gone. Before I go on, I know now that a second set of ears is required for these visits.

I fought tears as I put my clothes back on in the lavatory. Upon exiting, the nurse had come in the outer room. I sat down. She was instantly compassionate. She described what the biopsy would entail. It's like the one I had at 19. She said she'd be with me. Not just at the biopsy but through each step. She gave me her number and invited me to call her whenever I wanted to.

Again, I broke down and cried. I talked about my fears and frustration for not acting more swiftly. I shared that I am a single mom and my son needs me. She embraced me. Tears flowed again. She understood how it is hard to stop the mind from jumping to the worst case scenarios. "Don't worry about what you didn't do. You're here now. We'll get through this no matter what."

Because my wait to speak to the radiologist was long they gave me a coupon for a free treat at the cafe'. It seems a little unusual, but who am I to turn down a free latte or iced coffee?

Upon leaving the outpatient office, I made a bee-line to the cafe'. The young man working behind the counter, Aaron, greeted me pleasantly. Immediately, I felt engaged. Not being one who typically speaks with strangers, this barista and I chattered away. He fixed me an iced caramel macchiato. During the preparation we talked about coffee and the best brews. We both agreed Starbucks is wildly overrated and kind of yucky on its own. His creation was delightfully refreshing. I congratulated him on making me an iced coffee that tasted like espresso with a touch of cream, sugar and caramel. So many iced coffees taste like sugared milk with barely a hint of java. Before parting company I complimented him on his people skills and our conversation had hit the spot, as well as, the delicious coffee. He shared that he understands never knowing the circumstances people are at the hospital and he hopes to make a difference in their experience. I assured him he'd positively impacted mine. We shook hands and I left.

The wind had been knocked out of me. I sat in my car texting my sister, friends, my niece the nurse. Within that time my son texted me to let me know he'd finished his algebra final at the college. On the drive there I thought about how to present him with the findings. I do not keep things from him. He took in the information. Mancub doesn't usually react immediately to such things. He allows the information to mull in his mind. Later on we'll talk more in depth as necessary.

So, if you dare to come along on this breastacular adventure, I will be documenting it here. Feel free to share my posts with someone who might need a nudge to get a mammogram. It is my goal to be a positive influence no matter what direction this path takes me.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mama Mary

Oh dear me! This week has been a smack in the head emotionally. Mother's Day is often such a struggle for me. On one hand, I am ecstatic to have a son who loves and respects me. He fills me with so much pride. On the other hand, losing my own mother in 1981causes me such emotional turmoil from time to time. Not often, but when it strikes it strikes hard.

The other day on Facebook I shared that my final memory of my mother was that in the hospital where she spent her last days. She was ravaged with cancer and in dire pain even with pain medication. Toward the very end I wasn't permitted to visit her. However, the time I was allowed in her room she had pushed me away after I hugged her because I was hurting her. It isn't the memory I want to hold on to, but it is there. As her last child, the youngest of eight, there's no doubt she had her reasons. My siblings have assured me, while it wasn't what I wanted, it is what our mother felt was best for me ... or her. It can't be changed now, but I can control those memories I choose to focus on. Typically, I do. It is just this year the scar seemed to be torn open. Recent circumstances refreshed that ancient wound.

So, how do I turn this around?

Mary C. Rapier loved to sing. She sang beautifully and filled our home with song. The song that has stuck in my head was this little diddy:

And this one:

Neither of these are probably what you were expecting. Mom sang in a barbershop choir, too. I'll be damned if I can remember one of those songs at the moment, though.

My mother taught me many things. Self preservation, for one. Survival on a nearly non-existent budget is another. I learned how to sew out of necessity. While I don't want to live without a lot of things, because of her survival skills I know that we can.

She bestowed upon me the knowledge that a house doesn't have to be spotless to be clean or healthy. Hand-me-downs are totally acceptable and should be appreciated (My entire home is furnished with such items but you wouldn't know that except that I told you.)

Mary C. instilled in us not only respect for ourselves, but respect for others. She was a human rights activist and feminist without advertising it. Having the label wasn't required. She lived by the very rules she preached -- without being preachy.

Once, I overheard her telling a friend a pearl of wisdom and it has been engrained in my DNA since. "A woman should be able to dress how ever she chooses and not be attacked or raped." That statement was made by my mother in the 70s. Another thing I remember hearing was her talking to one of my brothers about being mindful of how they treat girls. "Think of how you want your sisters to be treated. That is how you treat other women."

I didn't have a lot of years with my mom, but she has left her legacy with me. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Mom didn't love being photographed.
This was taken at my 8th Grade Graduation 1979
I have few photos of us together. I cherish this even if my glasses are huge.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

My Son

As Mother's Day 2014 quickly approaches, it occurred to me that I haven't blogged in a very long time.

My son aka Mancub, is nearly 20 years old. Just the fact that I still refer to him on the blog as Mancub tells you that I'm still quite protective. When I stop quickly in the car I still fling my right arm in front of his chest. You know, the original safety restraint.

Every year he gives me the same thing on Mother's Day. Nothing. If I remind him what day it is, he'll wish me a happy Mother's Day and go on about his business of playing video games or sorting through his YuGiOH! cards.

Wait. Before your eyes get lodged in your skull from rolling them, let me clarify that I'm not complaining.

Every single day of the year my kid celebrates me. As I said earlier, he's nearly 20 years old. One of the first things he does when he sees me after waking is gives me a hug. He wants to. Whenever I leave for work, or he gets out of the car to go to classes at the college he declares that he loves me. He says it in public!  Within minutes of me coming in the door after work he always asks, "How was your day?" He genuinely wants to know.

Mancub works diligently to do well in college. He spends hours working on essays, projects, etc...

He asks for very little. He can sense when I'm stressed out. He does the dishes without asking. Dinner is often made for me. He'll refill my glass with ice water or wine if the occasion calls for it. Without a grumble or groan he simply does it.

There've been many times when I wasn't sure how we'd make it from paycheck to paycheck. Now that he is older I share with him some of strains we face financially. To that he will embrace me and say, "we always find a way." And he is right.

When tomorrow comes and I don't post pictures of the gifts that have been given to me, just know it is because gratitude, compassion, thoughtfulness and respect just can't be photographed. They are being lived.

Happy Mother's day!