Whenever you go to the gyno, they give you the speech: you need to do a self-breast-exam! Regularly! One week after your period...! Etc. The most persuasive aspect of this speech is the fact that they're manhandling your breasts as they say it -- you have to nod, or, think of the damage they'll do!
But this morning, midway through her speech, she suddenly said, "have you ever felt THIS before?" She put my hand on it. It must've been the button to stop my heart. "No...!" I said. "What's that...!?" I said. "It's a lump," she said. Then she told me to stop touching it, and she finished the exam.
Just TRY relaxing for the speculum under these conditions!
So the next thing I know, my routine gyno exam has turned into an emergency visit to the ultrasound technician.
Now they'd assured me at the gyno's that this technician was THE BEST. "She's really good," they said. "She'll be able to tell you right away whether it's serious or not." And so this is how it happens; one second you're fine, just going through the busy day and getting it all checked off: gyno visit, lunch with mom... the next you're wondering what the hell you'll do with your life if you've got cancer.
So I go to the ultrasound -- obviously this is a last-minute appointment, squeezing me in, so I have to wait a bit. All the other patients are pregnant women coming in to get these (really impressive!) 3-D ultrasounds of their incubating babies. I get looks in the waiting room: who IS this non-preggo, they wonder, and why does she look so distressed?
Oh, I was distressed.
And to make matters worse, the whole time I was there, the Maury Povich show was "revealing" paternity tests and screaming, HE IS THE DADDY!
I keep my tears at bay with lots of glancing at the ceiling, until finally this tall woman comes for me and takes me into the ultrasound room. "I'm going to start your exam," she says. "Then she's going to finish it." I say "okay," but I would've said okay to anything then. I was distressed, bewildered, worried, lost. She explains to me that she's an ultrasound student, 3 months from graduation. By now I've got my boob out. It's too late.
Now, I'd never had an ultrasound before, so I didn't know what it was supposed to be like. But I've already discovered that what this woman did to my boob was barbaric behavior unbefitting a ultrasound technician. She soaked me in goo. She pressed the wand against my breast until it grated against my rib-bones. Finally, I told her, "what you're doing hurts..." she laid off a little but not much. Then, after ten minutes of roaming all over my tit and muttering about how "hard" breasts are, she spots the lump (which I'd shown her, but she wanted to do her roaming thing) -- "oh, there it is! Look at it -- it's enormous! That's got to be some kind of tumor, or, well, I shouldn't say..."
Now, these rooms are set up for expectant mothers, so there's this tv right over my head, and I'm looking at this big black spot that she's so excited about. She tries to get different views from different angles. She types in labels and makes photos. She prints them out. I'm in terror.
Finally, she says she's going to go get her "teacher," and leaves me gooey-boob to the breeze in the dark room with the last lump photo still on the tv over my head.
I spent what felt like an eternity lying there, looking at the sonograms of babies on the wall, and trying NOT to look at my boob-lump on the tv: my head began to rattle with this terrible nonce poem about how they've got babies and I've got a LUMP. The time stamp on the photo said 11:08. I finally wiped off the goo and got up off the table at 11:35. I called my mother. I called Brian. Then, finally, I went outside.
"Oh!" the receptionist said. "We figured you were taking a nap in there!"
Now, tell me who snags a cat-nap with a goo-covered boob out on a hard table under a photo of their schrodinger's LUMP? Who, while waiting to find out whether they can go home and play or stay and become a hard case yawns wide and kits out?
At any rate, the well-reputed expert-cum-educator eventually made her way in. She checked out the lump in about 60 seconds without gooing me up or hurting me. "It's fluid," she said. "Cancer is solid. This is fluid, very close to the skin. A cyst."
Maybe a pimple.
That was it; I was done. After an hour and a half (that felt like 5 hours) of maybe about to have cancer and maybe about to be fine, I got a bite to eat with my mom and we re-registered her at FAU. I still feel dragged out from the experience, and bitter for being a practice dummy for an insensitive child in a white lab coat loosed on me when I was at my most fragile.
But damn am I happy it worked out like it did. And I'll be damned if I don't do those breast exams just like she said, and hit the doc's a little more often than every three years.
After all, I spent what felt like forever picturing (alternately) Brian losing me, me losing my left breast, everything I've left undone or put off to tomorrow being lost to time...
I also spent what felt like forever numbering my blessings: if I go tomorrow, I've lived a good life. I've loved, been loved. I've taken chances. I've snuggled in my comfort. I've hitchhiked across a whole country, and driven across a whole continent... by any measure it's been "enough," but I've gratitude yet for more.
I mean, death doesn't scare me, but, I'm too happy in this world to want to go anytime soon.
And that's a lot to get from (what I think is) a boob zit. :-)