Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Breast Lumps And You: A Horrible Journey of Discovery

I had just gotten finished miscarrying the hell out of my baby when I felt a lump in my right bewb.

I was feeling really sad, because I loved that baby, even though it was only the size of a blueberry when it abruptly left my body. If s/he were still alive, s/he would be the size of an X-box controller. Or maybe a bag of M&Ms. I don't know, but I should know, because the assholes at BabyCenter continue to send me e-mails about my imaginary fetus's development, despite the fact that I've opted out of their e-mails THREE TIMES.

Are you reading this, BabyCenter? You people suck so hard.

Anyway. My little embryo died. It was horrible. But that's another story.

So about a week after the D&C I was doing what real-ass niggaz do when they're really sad: reading Harry Potter. And I shifted on the couch and accidentally applied pressure to my bewb and felt a lump.

So I freaked out. Because I'm a hypochondriac.

I called the doctor and the nurse said to wait three weeks to see if it went away. I marked the day on the calendar. Three weeks away was my birthday. It would also have been the day I entered my second trimester. And I was like, uh, wow. Thanks, life.

I spent the next three weeks obsessively feeling the lump and googling all different kinds of breast cancer and obsessing and being really scared. I imagined what it would be like to be dying in a hospital bed. I worried about my family. What would they do? Their lives would be scarred by tragedy. They'd have to watch me die before my time. I felt an inexplicable urge to call them and apologize, just in case.

My birthday came and went. I waited another week for good measure, but the lump was still there. So I went to the doctor. He said it felt like nothing dangerous, but I should have a mammogram.

When you have a mammogram, you put on a robe and you sit in a room with a lot of old ladies with long, flat titties filling their identical robes. You read magazines with Julia Roberts on the cover. Then you go in a room and a delightful young woman in turquoise scrubs flattens your boob like a pancake in a machine that costs more than your home.

"This will fucking hurt."

Then you go back to said home and wait for results. And then, if you're me, they call you and say there's a "suspicious" spot on your mammogram and you need a biopsy.

There are three parts to a biopsy:

1. Waiting an entire hour in the exam room because they've scheduled 422 people for procedures at the exact same time as yours.

2. Lying on a table that was bought from Guantanamo Bay at a surplus sale because using it on prisoners would be too mean. The table involves a hole through which your tit hangs in what I'm sure is a very sexy manner. The table is harder than the kind of diamonds rappers rap about, and it was designed so that the edge of the tit hole digs directly into your ribs. They clamp your boob into a boob-clamping device, very tightly. You cannot move or they will miss the tiny area. You get to lie there for 30 minutes. Congratulations.

3. The doctor gives you a shot in your bewb. It hurts. Then he gives you another shot deeper into your bewb. It hurts more. Then you are numb. Mostly. You can still feel the light slamming as a computer-guided contraption jabs a needle into the deepest part of your tit to extract the "suspicious" part.

If you are me, you are too proud to evince any pain, discomfort or even consternation about medical procedures, so you talk to the kind-hearted young women in scrubs about The Lord of the Rings. They are trained, you see, to distract you from the fact that you are lying on a hard table with your boob hanging through a hole and clamped to a device that is jabbing a needle through it.

When they turned on the "soothing music" that was supposed to help me get through the procedure, I quickly recognized that it was the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, and I knew Jesus was with me. He is so rad like that. The turquoise girls, meanwhile, realized I was a nerd, and proceeded to talk to me about nerdy things while I got jabbed.

What happens next is: you get exactly one suture in your ta-ta, a bandage, an ice pack, another mammogram (yes, they flatten your boob after they stab it), and instructions to take Tylenol.

Then you wait four days. You almost go completely fucking insane during those four days. And finally you can't take it anymore and you call and leave a message for the nurse and then she calls you back and says you don't have cancer.

It turns out the lump was nothing, and the little spots behind it which they biopsied were something called fatty tissue necrosis, which sounds like a Nine Inch Nails song, and is a common result of breast reduction surgery. Which I have had.

About eight seconds after she told me I didn't have cancer, I hung up on the nurse and sobbed. Then I skipped up and down the hallway while sobbing. Then I texted and/or called everyone I know.

I felt invincible for several days. I still kinda feel it. There's no guarantee that I won't die tomorrow, but when you have a brush with death - or what feels like one to your crazy hypochondriac mind - the narrow escape makes you nothing short of euphoric.

I now know all sorts of facts about breast cancer. Did you know 80% of lumps are benign? That's right: 4 out of 5 biopsies are negative. I also know my own personal risk for breast cancer based on my genetic profile and medical history is -1%. Neato!

Cancer is real ass shit. I don't mean to make light of it. But as a person who deals with health anxiety, I spend a lot of time contemplating my own death. Which is lame. And I need to stop. It's a daily struggle. But we all have our assorted crosses to bear.

The thing is, every single thing you feel on your body, from a tingle in your uvula (that is not dirty; it just sounds dirty) to a lump in your boob could be something that will kill you, or something that is 100% harmless. So if you go around assuming the worst, your life will be consumed by worry and you'll never enjoy anything. (Ask me how I know this.)

At least I've had a mammogram, though. That's pretty cool, to get that out of the way at 34. I asked the nurse if I could have a copy of it to frame on my wall and she said, "Sure!" She didn't seem the least bit surprised. I think that would be a rad thing to put in a front entryway: "Here's Jamie at baseball camp. Here's Mindy on Santa's lap. And here's the inside of my titty."

Sorry I made you think about mortality and shit. To make up for it, this:

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