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.


  1. Dear Marissa,
    You are a treasure to open your book of life, knowing this could be a difficult chapter to write- your courage is amazing. My thoughts are with you and only wish I could be at your side for support. Wonderful to read about your two angels- your nurse and your coffee Barista- now that is Life!! I have total confidence my Wonder Woman can withstand this barrage by the enemy. All the best. Alwasy PK

    1. Thank you, PK. I don't think of myself as anything more than a mom trying to make her way

  2. Marissa, know this above all things, you are loved beyond your wildest imagination and love will get you through this breastacular mudslide off the road. There are tow trucks, cranes and those people who love you to get your vehicle back on the road.

    1. So much on my plate. health; work. It's consuming.


Say what!?