Tag Archives: Boob Job

Screwed, Blued, and…

TATTOOED!

It’s official. I now have my three tiny blue dots in place and next Monday I start my radiation treatments.* I’d like to say I was totally bad ass when they inked me, but I suspect yelling ‘Ow’ each time they poked me diminishes my street cred.

The weirdest thing about having breast cancer is how absolutely every appointment involves flashing my boobs at someone. Or several someones. Usually in a very chilly room. (Things get kind of pointy, is all I’m saying.)

Radiation, for those of you who don’t know, apparently requires the patient to lie flat, with your feet rubber-banded together, while being hugged by a personally-crafted, bean bag cosy, with your arms resting over your head, as if you were posing in the nude while draped on a fainting couch a la Rose and Jack in that famous scene from Titanic.**

“The last thing I need, is another picture of me looking like a porcelain doll.” The line nobody remembers because they are too busy waiting for the robe to drop.

I’m lucky, I’m not too terribly body conscious, so it isn’t such a big thing to flash the sisters at strangers. But it was pretty weird to do it Monday while contorted into the oddest angle and strapped with VR goggles and a snorkle and noseplugs. I kid you not. I stole the following image from a site describing Breath Holding as a method to avoid damage to the heart from radiation.

This doesn’t feel awkward at all…until your boobs are uncovered like a cold plate of sunny-side up eggs.

The technicians do their best to maintain a patient’s dignity, but when you’ve got to take pictures of boobs to arrange for the perfect angle to radiate while avoiding the heart, lungs, and chest wall, well, things are exposed. Floppy things. Things that look better by candle light…after everyone has had sufficient alcohol to limit visual acuity. I suspect offering to do shots with the staff beforehand would be frowned upon.

I’ll need 16 sessions, or about three-and-a-half weeks, for about 30 seconds of radiation exposure at a time. That’s it. After that, I’m done. And life, presumably, goes back to normal. (With the exception of taking Tamoxifen for five to ten years, but I digress.) I did try to ask a serious question or two about the levels of radiation I would be receiving, but got caught up trying to understand the unit of measure the technician kept using.

“We’ll be dosing you in a measure called ‘CentiGrays.'” Said the young man who was trying to simplify things so I’d understand, but failed to grasp how far he’d have to dumb it down.

“Centigrade? Like temperature?” I ask.

“No, CentiGrays…” He draws out the pronunciation but I don’t really get it until I go home and look it up. “It’s different from measuring natural sources of radiation like gamma rays or neutron radiation. It measures man-made radiation like that produced in a nuclear factory.”

“So, how many Chernobyls is that?” I attempt a joke, but he is very earnest about his job.

He explains some about the exposure for that day’s radiation in scanning me for the coming treatments as being equivalent to about 10 minutes of sunshine. The technician was very comfortable talking about all of these details while adjusting the equipment and getting things set up for the breathing test. He did pick up on my joke though and turned it into a teachable moment:

“Actually, a lot of what we know about treating cancer comes from the results of studies of people who survived nuclear disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima. We couldn’t test in ordinary research because, well, obviously you can’t deliberately radiate people to find out how they will be affected. But we could study the survivors to find out how exposure and absorption of radiation affected their outcomes.”

I thought about what he said as the machine, weirdly stained year’s earlier by an insulation material, churned. It produces a loud sound to accompany the whirling ring of metal that spins with dizzying concentric force. “This must be what it sounds like as you are sucked into a jet turbine!” I thought.

I lay as still as possible, eyes blinded by the blacked-out vr goggles; the table sucked me into the spinning vortex and my body was exposed to who-knows how many centigrays of radiation so that we could prepare me for the doses I would need to irradiate any missed cancer cells lurking in my breast. I took a weird comfort from the knowledge gained at the expense of people who survived nuclear fallout. Maybe someday, someone will benefit from the treatment of our current practices and eventually, cancer will be a thing that used to happen to people. Back in the olden days.

After the scans and the fun-fun tattooing, I asked the tech a final question. During our chats he’d confessed that he used to teach football while he was training to become a radiation specialist.

“Which is harder to do? Working with cancer patients or teaching boys football?”

After a moments thought, he said, “Working with kids, definitely. They found out I was working with breast cancer patients so they’d ask questions like, ‘Do you see boobs all day?’ They’d ask about that a lot!” His voice is equal parts amused and appalled.

As I was leaving, he handed me a package. “This is for you.”

I peak inside and am slightly flummoxed. There is a waffle weave robe looking like something from Star Wars’ central casting wardrobe.

“So, I’m becoming a Jedi Knight? Does this make me your Padawan?” I eye him, wondering if he will get the reference.

“Just call me Obi-Wan.” He says with a straight face. But then he grins and opens the door to let me out.

I laugh as I leave. This more than anything else I’ve heard today relaxes me. I know I am in good hands. The force is strong with this one.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*I DO NOT NEED CHEMO! Woo Hooo! Whoop it up folks. No chemo. No nausea. No weight loss… (Hmm, well, you can’t have everything.) It’s only a shame that I cut all my hair off before finding out I didn’t need chemo. Funny that. Still, I’m rocking the pixie cut happy to avoid the chemo dragon.

**No, not the “I’m the king of the world” scene…no, not the sweaty-steamy-hand-flattens-against-the-car-window scene…the naked on a couch “I believe you are blushing, Mr. Big Artiste” scene. Believe it or not, I had to watch the YouTube link twice to find a memorable line. Apparently they didn’t waste time creating dialogue when they knew nobody would be paying attention to what was being said.

Boob Job

I’m finally getting around to taking care of a small matter of imbalance. It seems I’ve been a bit lopsided lately. Leaning a bit to the left, if you will. Turns out there’s a reason for that! With the news the doctor gave me, I’ve decided to go ahead and have some work done.

I don’t have all the details yet, but I wanted to keep you abreast of the situation; I’m having a little corrective surgery. Before you panic and start picturing me as a centerfold model in the next AARP circular. It’s nothing that drastic. I’ve just reached an age where the fun-fun mammograms I’ve been having routinely for decades have finally paid off. They found something worth looking for.

To be honest, I’ve been waiting for something to happen for a while. Bad news comes in threes, and after the tree killed our roof two summers ago, and last year we experienced the dubious pleasures of salmonella and the criminal justice system for minor children, I had the feeling the Bad Sh*t Happens Universe wasn’t finished with me. The trilogy was yet to be completed.*

I go through a few more medicinal hoops, ring a few more lab test bells, and the doctors schedule me for surgery in a few weeks. Now all I have to do is tell everyone I know the good news.

In a manner that suits my personality…

I want to have a last hurrah before picking my son back up from camp. I send out a hurried request for a Girls’ Night Out. Friends join me at Noto’s Restaurant on the beach. It’s insanely busy and loud, but has a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan. We chat about everything–which includes someone introducing me to a term I’ve never heard of before. The friend mimes pulling an imaginary peanut M&M from her generous cleavage, saying, “Hashtag: Boob Snack,” and pretends to nosh on it. This seems like a great segue for my announcement.

I order a desert appropriate to the occasion. While handing out our choices, the helpful waiter, Chris, makes the mistake of asking, “So, what’s the big reveal?”

Bodacious Babe Drops the Bombe on the Beach!

In the spotlight, holding up my mounds of ice cream with cherries, I blurt. “I have breast cancer!”

In the appalled silence that follows, the waiter escapes, and I hurry to explain. “It’s really, really small! It’s so small that finding it was very lucky.”

It’s like a micro-tumor. Only about 5-6 millimeters. And today I learned that it is moderately slow growing and is responsive to hormone therapy. I got a grade of Stage 1-A. Or as that doctor put it,”If you have to get breast cancer, this was the best kind to get.”**

Hugs are given and I feel warm and fuzzy, especially after the waiter comes back to tell us he comped me my ice cream! A friend says we should go out more often…and I agree, adding, “We can take turns being the person with cancer to snag a free desserts! Hashtag: Boob Snack!”

We leave the place cackling like mad women and tromp to the nearby beach to take selfies in the sunset. It was the best end to a day a girl can have, surrounded by loving, laughing ladies.

That’s the news, everybody. I go under the knife on August 20th. And while I appreciate thoughts and prayers, I’m even more appreciative of thoughtfulness and practical help. Which leads me to my second bit of news.

Before any of this happened, I signed up to take part in something called GISH, an acronym for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt (the World has Ever Known) which starts JULY 27th. I’ve never done it before and, from what I understand, I will be performing acts of charity while dressed entirely in cheese, or some other wild suggestion, created by a team of very disturbed/imaginative people.

This brings me to you…my adoring friends, my extended family, and wacky Chicago fan club! (Please note the use of the Oxford Comma per your request, K, J, and MJ!) I hope I may call on you all in my hour of need. If I require someone to go out, dressed like sasquatch in a tutu, to serenade strangers on a street corner while playing a stringed bass (the fish, not the instrument) I am totally playing the ‘C’ card and asking for help. It’s either that, or you get to mow my lawn for me. You decide. But, I’m totally milking this cancer thing for all it’s worth. Consider yourself warned.

Tomorrow I get the kid back from camp. So, if I miss your kind words, know that I will look forward to reading them once life gets back to normal. For a given value of normal equal to infinity plus or minus the deviation of the norm over pie.***

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*The third movie is always the one where the hero wins in the end, right? So, it’s all good.

** Unless one could be diagnosed with unnaturally young and perky boobs after 50? It could happen. Right?

***This is not a typo. MMmmmm…PIE!