I thought I'd post an update since you're all thinking about my breasts. Wait. You're not? Fine. Whatever. Remember how back in the day, people did not talk about things? Like breasts? Certain things, like mental health are still stigmatized but recent celebrity suicides have started conversations that I hope continue. I guess in some cultures, talking about breasts is probably still taboo but not in the culture of Smith, which is likely much to my poor wife's chagrin. I recently listened to Calypso by David Sedaris. If you're familiar with Sedaris, you probably know there isn't much that is off limits to his writing. Sedaris describes his long time boyfriend Hugh Hamrick as the opposite of Sedaris - reserved, buttoned up, and frequently mortified by just how outrageous Sedaris can be. So basically, I'm Sedaris and Andrea is Hamrick. I did, however, restrain from tossing my squeezy breast onto the floor today (Sedaris would have done nothing of the sort). In any case, I have begged Andrea to listen to the book. Also - did you know that booby trap spelled backwards spells party boob? You're welcome.
When I entered the Breast Care Center of Beth Israel today, 3 men were seated in the waiting room while a black and white western played on a TV. I would have wondered what year or decade it was had it not been for the guy balancing a Mac book on his knee. One of the first steps to getting a contrast mammogram is the IV. My veins weren’t having this. After 2 attempts, Nancy, the nurse practitioner, phoned for reinforcement. A woman name Joellen appeared on the scene and had no better luck than Nancy. I was running out of places to be stuck and so I (helpfully) suggested my foot. Instead, they summoned an Asian man named Jae. While we waited, I joked that I hadn’t anticipated the IV to be the most difficult part of the process. “Touché!” Joellen laughed. Jae expertly inserted the needle, “Done!” while the women gushed, “Jae does these all the time.” Clearly envious of Jae’s mad skills and a little embarrassed. Jae said he does one every 15-minutes. “Jae’s retiring soon - next month.” Joellen said. “Well. I’m glad he was here today.” I said. Before you’re fully dosed up with the contrast, they give you a small sample to make sure you don’t fall to the floor writhing about like a fish or have some other adverse reaction. “I don’t feel anything.” I said, apparently speaking too soon because my face felt a flush of heat that traveled to my crotch, and had me panicking, thinking, “Jesus. Did I PEE?!” I did not. Thankfully. But I wasn’t entirely certain until I was standing at the mammogram machine. I stared at it thinking it was funny that GE, a company my grandfather retired from long ago, made this hulking mass of a machine, undoubtedly long after he'd retired. So contrast MRI, more 3D MRI and then the waiting in the small room in the back, filled with half a dozen women clad in our pink wraps looking like a United Colors of Benetton ad. After a whole lot of waiting, which made me leap to the worst possible conclusion (never a big jump). In reality, they were waiting for an ultrasound to open up. For the ultrasound, I was on a bed, arm positioned overhead while considering what a bad combination it was to be nervous about a medical procedure and not wear deodorant which you are not supposed to do for a mammogram. I’m not a hippie, people! Although I did make the switch to natural deodorant 3 years ago when my right breast rebelled against me. Trust me when I tell you that all natural deodorants are not created equal. As I watched the tech scowl at the screen while administering the ultrasound, I remarked, “I don’t know how you guys find anything you’re looking for - it looks like the weather channel and maybe there’s a tropical storm?” “We have Doppler too!” The tech laughed. “It would probably help.” “I love my job!” The tech chirped. “Really?” I asked, dubious, imagining what it must be like to hover above un-deodorized armpits all day. And boobs. So. many. boobs. “Yeah! Anyone can find a gall bladder or a kidney. Give me a challenge!” “Well, Allison. Here I am.” The doctor entered to tell me what they found which, in layman speak translated to roughly, “I have no fucking idea. So you’ll need to come back for a biopsy. Two. We’ll do them the same day and the one is only done on Tuesday’s.” “Any questions?” “Yes. What word are you saying? What’s the 2nd biopsy you’re referring to?” I asked.
"Tomo. Tomography." The Doctor replied, but she looked at Allison as if she weren't sure. “It’s newer technology.” Allison volunteered.
"You won't be able to shower for a day or so following surgery. Or lift anything heavy. Or swim for a week." The doctor went on.
I immediately thought of Sedaris and how when he's ill, Hugh gives him a bell to ring. This seems like questionable judgement on Hugh's part as Sedaris rings the bell quite a lot. "I'll have a ginger ale." Sedaris croaks after ringing the bell. "Oh. We don't have ginger ale? You know who probably has ginger ale? The store..." I hope I get a bell.
Earlier, before the doctor entered the room, Allison remarked that she suspected a cyst was the likely offender. Before I left the breast care clinic, I got on their phone to book the biopsies (which are taking place on 6/26). The scheduler muttered, "Margaret Smith...oh hey! They're looking for you on the 5th floor! I'll let them know you're headed up." By that time, I was more than 2 hours late to my appointment with the nurse practitioner at the breast surgeon's office. Although I'd spoken with this nurse practitioner previously, I'd never met her and was shocked to discover she could have been my daughter had I'd ever got around to procreating. She too had a feel at the un-feel-able lurking in my left breast.
After the unfeeling is biopsied, it will take 5-7 days to get the results confirming what it is or is not.
Earlier in the day, I'd tapped "The..." into my phone to text my mom, Roberta, who's listed at "The Bertinator" in my cell. A name that's stuck and that she good naturedly uses when sending us mail. Instead of "The Bertinator" popping up, the name Jeanette Lehnert did. I stared at my phone, long, hard and unblinking before taking a picture of it because even I would later question, "Had that actually happened? There is no "the" in Jeanette. Or in "Lehnert." Maybe it was "the Private". In any case, it's never happened prior to today and then, there she was - the contact information of a friend who passed away from breast cancer on June 22nd, almost 7 years earlier. I slid the phone silently into my bag, grateful for the God wink.