I had a breast biopsy last week. I go through this a lot because my mammos turn up lots of little thingies in my breasts that always need to be checked out. They’ve always been benign, so I figured this was just more of the same. After the mammogram, the nurse had told me the radiologist wanted to see me. I sat in front of the screen that showed the blurry inner workings of my breasts as he pointed out a speck among many, speaking in fast techy-talk that mostly went over my head. But I did grasp, “a little different than the others; wasn’t there last time; has a branching aspect to it; strongly recommend a biopsy.”
The biopsy hurt my neck more than anything else, because of the position I had to lie in for so long. But I left in good spirits, having had a wonderful nurse see me through the mini-ordeal, and was armed with post-biopsy instructions. I was just glad it wouldn’t interfere with my plans to visit my long-distance boyfriend for Valentines week-end.
We had a great time together as usual, teasing each other, loving and laughing, and it didn’t hurt that he gave me a beautiful set of rose-red cultured pearls for Valentine’s day. But underneath the happiness was a vague unease. What if this time it wasn’t just more of the same? What about that “branching aspect?” What if all this happiness of mine was about to go “poof?” What if… But I kept the what-if’s under control and told myself I’d cross that bridge when I came to it, if indeed there was a bridge to be crossed.
I got the call today. A cold, gray, rainy day. I knew as soon as the nurse said, “We don’t usually give results over the phone, but since you’re out of town…” For some reason, I didn’t feel too freaked-out as she explained the diagnosis. “Very early. Contained. Very treatable.” Next step an MRI, then an appointment with the oncologist. She was in control. Her voice was caring but steady. The cancer was contained and my emotions were contained.
Until I went to tell my boyfriend. Then I could feel the fear that I’d fought to conceal. I was scared, not panicky scared, but I could feel the “what-if” worming its way into my precarious calmess. Cancer.
“I got the biopsy results,” I said as he sat working at his computer.
“And?” he answered, turning around.
“The nurse said I have an in-situ ductal carcinoma in the very early stages.”
“What’s in-situ?” he asked.
“It’s contained; it hasn’t spread outside the duct walls,” I answered, giving him a smiley little kiss.
In just a few seconds he was cracking some inane jokes. His way of cheering me up. “I probably shouldn’t joke about this,” he said, then proceeded to say something else so outrageous I had to laugh. Then he went online to research in-situ carcinoma.
“Look at this,” he said. “You’re a Stage Zero. It’s not even cancer; just pre-cancerous according to this. No worse than a polyp.”
I was glad to hear “Stage Zero,” which the nurse hadn’t mentioned. I knew he was trying to make us both feel better by downplaying things.
“You doing okay?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said, “but I have to process it. “ “What’s to process?” he wanted to know. “It’s Stage Zero. No worse than a polyp,” he repeated.” Then he cracked a few more corny jokes before turning back to his computer. I laughed again in spite of myself, then mozied off by myself to “process.”
As I paid attention to my feelings, I discovered I felt not-so-sexy. Like damaged goods. I had cancer, no matter how small. How could I be the vibrant, sexy woman I felt like around him now? I was a little ashamed somehow. I felt a funk setting in. I spent some time alone, sorting things out. When I came out the other end I’d decided the most important thing right now was to nurture myself. I wanted a long, hot shower to perk me up.
He joined me in the shower, washing my hair and holding me close as the water poured over us. My right breast had a big yellowish bruise from the biopsy with a little puncture wound in the middle. He cupped it gently and kissed it.
The rest is censored, but the funk was driven way-far-away as I laid in his arms after the shower. I felt safe, cared for. His love and his jokes couldn’t protect me from whatever was to come, but it would be a nest for me to rest in when I needed it. When he wasn’t with me, I could return to the “nest” in my mind.
And I’d call on my friends, who’d also contribute to the nest –little pieces of fluff and tinsel to soften and brighten it.