October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Were you aware of that?
Okay, let’s dispense with all that cutesy pink, and talk frankly. I’m a “survivor.” I feel like cancer took up too many clock-cycles already; it’s not the all-consuming thing looming on my brain these days. But when women ask me, “How did you find it? How did you know?” I think back and realize it’s a story they need to know, because I didn’t find a lump in the shower, one morning. I didn’t find it through “breast self-examination.”
I’d tell the guys to stop reading right now – but did you know that men get breast cancer, too? Yep, humans are mammals and men have breasts. Man-boobs. Whatever you want to call them, guys, you have them – and they are at risk, too.
It was both more and less obvious than “finding a lump”: My youngest was fourteen, yet I started seeing milky droplets on my nipples in the shower. I found tiny, pinprick-sized spots of blood in my bra.
Was it painful? Did it hurt? Nope. Not really.
Did I take charge of my health and rush in to see a doctor, when all the little warning bells were clanging in my head? Hell no. I went full-blown ostrich mode and hoped that if I didn’t see cancer, it wouldn’t see me. I consciously and deliberately ignored it for weeks. No one wants to face up to signs of their own mortality.
But anyone who knows me knows that ultimately, I had to have answers – I had to know. So I made an appointment for the annual mammogram. And I was lucky, because although the doctor later called it an “aggressive” form of cancer, I did catch it very early and went into full-blown “kill it, kill it with fire!” mode.
When Angelina Jolie chose the same route, a few years later, I wished her critics could walk a mile in her shoes. I’ve had doctors – notably not cancer specialists – question my decisions. It’s none of their damned business. We are women who see a spider or a cockroach and beat it senseless with a jackhammer, then incinerate it with a flamethrower. We don’t play around.
And we can sleep well at night, knowing our breasts won’t be killing us.
If you see something that’s “not quite right,” go – talk to your doctor. They’ve seen it all, and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about, unless it’s confessing on your deathbed that you played the ostrich, stuck your head in the sand, and ignored the warning bells. Because you’re not an ostrich: You’re human.
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