Breast Cancer Awareness Month: How A Breast Cancer Scare Helped Me To Love My Breasts; Video below.
I always thought that my breasts were “cool” but I had never been head over heels in love with them. They were nice enough but to me their biggest feat to date was being small enough that when I hit my 30s and my boobies dropped a little it wasn’t a big droop. I’m a large B cup or small C. Not minuscule compared to the general population but size is all relative.
I come from a family of bodacious buxom women with serious “bubbies”– as Guyanese women refer to their breasts– bubbies so large that breast reductions are common. My gorgeous sister and I are a genetic anomaly in this area. She can attribute her lovely petite size to growing up as a strong and athletic dancer. Me? Not so much.
I have other physical blessings and in my culture where being bootylicious is prized I did not feel as though I lacked favor. But still I never really thought of my boobs either way except that at some point I would probably pay to have them hoisted back to their 20-something bra-less glory days. Then I found a lump.
It started small, in the area of my right breast, kind of like a hard nickel. It seemed odd but not enough to call me to immediate attention. Breast tissue changes. Besides, I was heading out of town to give a talk at a university and then immediately after to another “important” career event. As a freelancer I don’t have health insurance so it’s not like I have a regular doctor on speed dial.
The summertime hit and like the NYC heat the hard nickel became a bright red and super painful golf ball almost overnight. Any slight movement caused horrific stabbing pain. Even getting dressed and sleeping hurt. I did research and practically ran to a clinic where they gave me my first mammogram. The doctors and attendants had no game face and were clearly concerned. Bad has become worse when medical personnel start to whisper around you.
The mammogram hurt like hell and all of the tears I had been holding back came flooding onto the clinic floor. In a weird twist of fate the mammography nurse turned out to be a very close friend of my uncle’s, and from the same village in Guyana as my family. She held me and told me that everything really would be ok. She explained that if it was breast cancer this would be early detection and I would be fine. Her daughter had been in the same situation.
This woman was a welcome angel as I was at the doctor’s office alone. I hadn’t told my friends or family because I didn’t have the strength to manage anyone else’s fears along with my own. At least not until I knew what I was dealing with. I am extremely empathic and it’s challenging for me not to deal with other people’s energy.
Tragic situations send me back to my people pleasing roots. I didn’t want to feel compelled to reassure everyone that I was ok. Especially because I was not. The fear and drama that we feel over a friend’s good or bad news is often more about our own fears and expectations. If I did have cancer then I wanted to deal with it flooded in my own positive energy of knowing I could beat it than the fearful worrying of those who love me.
To make a very long story very short, after two mammograms at two different facilities they couldn’t tell the extent of the situation. I am still slightly younger than baseline mammogram age and they determined that my breast tissue is still way too dense to be read that way. I had another mammogram, a sonogram and then a biopsy.
Thankfully after almost 10 weeks of testing, blaming myself for not going to a physician immediately, embarrassing examinations at a range of hospitals, and waiting I finally received results that the cysts were in a contained area and had no malignant cells. “No malignant cells,” the kind Indian doctor repeated. “You are a healthy girl.” Thank you, God.
I had surgery to remove the cysts, and as a part of my own emotional healing I have promised my loved ones that I will never go through any medical malady solo again. Wannabe superwomen need support too.
The cherry on top is that I have a new appreciation for my healthy and beautiful boobies– just as they are. Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Love and strength to all of the women, men and families out there fighting the fight.
Nothing feels as good as feeling healthy. The irony is that I had made a Feel Your Boobies breast cancer awareness video in the past. Please take my Safe Sex Pledge. And don’t forget to have a baseline cardiogram as well; Heart disease kills more women than cancer.
Most of all, feel up your glorious boobies. Breast self exams work. If anything feels new or strange go get checked immediately. To quote an ancient Seinfeld character, “My breasts are real [healthy] — and they’re spectacular.”
Five Breast Health Resources
1. Breast Examination Center of Harlem (212) 531-8000
2. Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (212) 639-2000
4. The Feel Your Boobies Foundation
5. Susan G. Komen for the Cure
6. Feel Your Boobies How to Do A Brest Exam Video I made 2 years ago.