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jenn goldman

Breast Cancer Awareness

Oh, I’m aware alright! It feels like I’ve donated my life to science. I would say ‘my body’ but they’re not interested in my body – just my boobs and my time. I can’t even count the number of people who have seen my naked breasts lately. On the bright side, I can easily brag that every single person who’s felt me up in the past six weeks has a doctorate degree. On the other hand, this fact still hasn’t made one lick of improvement in my relationship status.

I want to scream in frustration at the countless hours I’ve spent in numerous doctor’s visits. “I DO have a life, you know…and work!! I can’t drop everything at the drop of a hat every time you want a new image.”

But the rational side of me reminds me to be grateful. If it weren’t for the very keen eyes of the radiologist who read my mammogram scans I wouldn’t be preparing for breast cancer surgery. I wouldn’t even know that I have breast cancer. I keep reminding myself that she was incredibly perceptive and tenacious saying to me only, “It’s soooo subtle, but I just don’t like this spot here.”

It turns out “this spot here” had a twin and both turned out to be cancerous. Barely stage one. Nearly undetectable.

It was caught about as early as it could be, and I AM grateful. Most of the time.

The rest of the time, however, I’ve been fielding a minimum of three phone calls a day, to set up new medical appointments, to confirm currently scheduled appointments, and to chat with healthcare providers about additional procedures they think I should have. And let’s not forget all of the time I’ve spent having additional images; hours upon hours of mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, and X-rays…and sitting in waiting rooms waiting for said mammograms, ultrasounds, MRIs, and X-rays. Add in the hours of having three separate biopsies performed, and the appointments to consult about surgical options, and talk about the possibility of chemotherapy and radiation.

Oh, and I almost forgot! Time spent having a full genetics panel of blood work done. 

But wait, there’s more! Once everything seems to be in place, a plastic surgery component of my breast cancer surgery is introduced and now I’m spending time interviewing and being prodded and photographed by plastic surgeons. And these photos are actual photos! Seriously. A man walks into a room, asks you to undress from the waist up, and stands in front of you with a Nikon taking pics, from every angle, of your naked breasts. 

I feel like I’m online dating again! (Oh, crap! Mom, you’re not reading this, right?)

At this point, I’m thinking, “Wouldn’t it be easier if we just lopped the things off and I left them here for you to experiment on at will?”

Oh, wait. I’ve forgotten – that’s what we’re trying NOT to do! We’ve gotten far enough into the process to realize that I likely only need a lumpectomy and, with a little help from my Nikon-wielding new bestie, I should come out of this with a breast reduction and lift; keeping all of my own natural body – skin, nipples, nerves – minus a few cells (AKA dirty rotten bastards). 

I have relatives who have the BRCA gene mutation. Both were elected for double mastectomies and implant reconstruction. As soon as that first dirty rotten bastard was detected, that’s straight where my brain went. I didn’t see much point in discussing other tests or options – let’s just get this done…take them away, doc, they’re all yours!

I was so relieved when I learned that I don’t have the BRCA gene mutation that I sat in the patient room and cried. Not just relieved but breathing again. I hadn’t realized that I’d been holding my breath for a month, but it all came whooshing out of me the moment the doctor closed the door behind her.

And again, I realize that I am grateful. That one test result alone gives me options. Options I’d put completely out of my mind on day one as a waste of time to give a moment of consideration.

Time. It’s not lost on me that while I’m spending my time frustrated and annoyed with all the appointments, procedures, and communications, I could spend more time considering options, being grateful that our medical world has advanced to this point – allowing me options and a future, time being grateful for the number of wonderful people I have surrounding me – personally, professionally and in the healthcare field. I am not alone.

This weekend I am attending a breast cancer walk and awareness event. My next-door neighbor invited me to come with her. She is a 25-year survivor. She has invited me with the options to walk or don’t walk, donate or don’t donate, but come and be inspired by the people, by the stories, by the support.

I’ve been working really hard at keeping all of this to myself. I’m a really private person, I justify to myself. I just want to deal with it, get it out of the way, and be done with the whole thing.

The reality is that I’m at the very beginning of what will become a new leg of my life’s journey. I WILL deal with it but I won’t be done with it. I will take this with me every new step I take in this life. It won’t kill me, but it will change me – of that, I’m sure. I can see now that I am very grateful for all of the situations and people that have led me to where I am. I am grateful that I have the opportunity to survive this. And I am grateful that people who love me, and even those I barely know, are reaching out and helping to guide me through this. The process may take a while, but I won’t be alone one single step of it.

My time? Yes, I have time to give to all of this. It’s important. The time I’m giving to this process now is leading me to the best possible outcome. 

My breasts? Nope. Science will have to wait for those – I’m keeping them, future scars and all!

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